April of 2014. 200 Nigerian schoolgirls are tragically kidnapped by Boko Haram . The #BringBackOurGirls campaign is born. An image of a sober faced Michelle Obama holding up a “#BringBackOurGirls” placard becomes iconic. Washington Times describes Obama’s picture as the catalyst for transforming a trending hashtag into a “social-media supernova.”
The virality of the #BringBackOurGirls picture appeared a PR success.
Yet for many, the Obama’s hashtag left a sour taste.
Why? USA’s First Lady was beseeching for someone to #BringBackOurGirls. Who had the capability to #BringBackOurGirls? The video below states that would be the USA. With Obama reiterating her concern for the kidnapped girls online, she gave off the impression that a hashtag could solve a crisis. Well, Boko Haram did find that amusing.
Perhaps social media has caused a new-age “illusion” to manifest for PR practitioners. An illusion that numbers of online mentions alone can determine campaign success .
A year later the #BringBackOurGirls campaign has been viewed futile.
The girls have never returned.