Social media has played an essential part of our lives, this year more than ever. It has enabled us to keep in touch with friends and family, and support each other from afar through unpredictable times. However, it is not just individuals who have used the power of online social platforms to reign in a helping hand. The last few weeks have seen the rise of the social media campaign #adoptashop, created by author, historian and local Dubliner Tim Carey.
I have decided to adopt three shops/cafes that I think Dublin would be much the worse place if it was without them. And that is the serious risk at the moment. So every week or two I am going to go to town and buy something in at least one of them. #Adoptashop #Dublin pic.twitter.com/0mFq6QHudd
— tim carey (@tim_carey1) September 3, 2020
Lockdown has taken a significant toll on several industries this year, retail being no exception. Unfortunately, those hit hardest have been the independent, local shops, whose business has suffered from the lack of footfall in cities. This hashtag, therefore, resonated with many people on twitter, who followed up with their own chosen adopted shops.
My first #AdoptAShop is #Deveneys in #Dundrum. This small, independent business is run with passion by the brilliant @RuthDeveney. The experience of a local shop filled with love is special – let’s not lose it. #LoveLocal pic.twitter.com/vsRoRi3quA
— Grace Tallon (@grace_tallon) September 18, 2020
— Emily Knight Gibbon (@EmGibbon) September 19, 2020
— Luke C (@LukeColeman89) September 18, 2020
In this instance, social media has proved to be an incredible tool for spreading awareness of an issue and idea. Similar campaign Just a Card, based in the UK, has further demonstrated the effectiveness of using such platforms to help independent retailers. It was started five years ago, with the very simple message – that even a small purchase from an independent shop makes a huge difference. Whether that be a coffee, pin, pen, pencil, or even a card.
‘It’s all about supporting the arts, supporting independent shops, supporting originality, and it doesn’t exclude anyone… it’s about that real sense of community’.
That’s Michael Fram, co-owner of independent shop The Leaping Hare Gallery & Framers, and long-standing volunteer for Just A Card. He’s the person behind the thousands of shop stickers, posters and pins the campaign has posted to its supporters over the years. For Michael, the campaign works so well because it raises the idea of supporting independent retailers in a positive way.
It’s ‘not a guilt trip, it’s more of a conscious pricker, a lot like Adopt a Shop actually!’
He says he’s seen this in action himself. Seen how the campaign’s posters have caught the attention of customers, who have liked what they’ve read, and bought a small something. It sort of acts as a friendly reminder of just how much difference even a small purchase can make for small, local, independent shops. As he puts it, Just a Card ‘really does put the social in social media’.
As well as using the platform to promote the campaign, it’s aims, and the ideas it stands for, Michael tells how founder Sarah Hamilton has found another advantage to using the site; it creates community. Their socials, for him, are ‘about engagement, it’s about picking businesses up when they’re down as well… just letting people enjoy everybody else’s success… as well as commemorate with the ones who had to close their business, or whose sales have slumped because of Covid’.
This support has been essential, now more than ever, for independent retailers. Which is something that Michael sees in all the discussions and conversations on each Instagram post. It is this, amongst other factors, that makes social media ‘the most important part’ of the Just a Card campaign.
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Though, as is often the case with social media, Sarah has come across some difficulties with the campaign’s Instagram presence and following. ‘There’s always going to be negativity’, Michael said, certainly with having just under 70,000 followers. He explains how sometimes shopkeepers can end up blaming the campaign for not solving their issues, for not retweeting them, or liking their posts. With such a large number of followers, this is simply impossible. Especially given that most of those behind the campaign are volunteers, and business owners themselves!
This is a prime example of where social media campaigns inevitably fall short – they are great at spreading ideas and messages. But ultimately, often cannot go much further. They essentially rely, and aim to, influence in order to enact more concrete change.
That all said, having passionate followers, willing to engage in real time, is an incredibly powerful tool. Recently, Just A Card held a crowd funder, which raised more than double its goal. It was ‘very humbling’, for Michael, and ‘shows what the campaign means to people’.
All in all, if Adopt a Shop can stir up and maintain anything near the momentum and following that Just A Card has achieved, it will be yet another example of the power of social media campaigning. Though never without it’s issues, social platforms have proved themselves to be a hugely powerful tool for promoting independent shops. Both through large scale, national campaigns, and small retailers just having their own little corner of Instagram to display and share their craft, and interact with customers.