Webby for Good is a collaborative program formed by The Webby Awards and WP Engine to showcase Webby-recognized projects built to change the world.
After the 2016 election, many people were only seeing content from like-minded individuals in their social feeds. The KIND Foundation exists to foster kinder, more empathetic communities, so instead of just talking about the problem, we created a solution: Pop Your Bubble, a tool that let people add new world views to their social feeds. The secret was our “anti-algorithm”—rather than showing users more of what they already liked, we matched them with people who were most different from them. By connecting strangers based on their differences, we started new conversations, creating tangible change across the country.
The 2016 U.S. election showcased that, though we thought social media was connecting us, it was actually driving us further apart. While there was talk of building a physical wall, it was becoming more and more apparent that Americans already had digital walls between them. We created Pop Your Bubble to give people a way to break down those walls with the push of a button. After much cultural discussion around the ways algorithms were shaping our worlds, the world was ready to change their feeds forever.
We knew we had a great idea because it scared everyone in the room. When our internal and client team asked ourselves if we would press the Pop Your Bubble button, the answer was often "no"—we didn't want to subject ourselves to people who we knew "were wrong." But in our hearts, we knew that driving the wedge between us and people with different perspectives wasn't the answer. In fact, the answer was the opposite—the kindest thing anyone could do in 2017 was to actually listen. Popping our bubbles would take bravery, but that was exactly why we needed to do it.
We built a lot of this project on faith, not knowing for certain whether the people would hesitate to pop their bubbles, be excited about doing it, or maybe even not know they were in a bubble at all. Ultimately, we learned that most people didn't know there was a problem, and if they did know there was one, they had no idea how to fix it. By giving them a solution, we both brought awareness to the problem itself, and offered people a way to create real change.
This project was entirely centered around affecting real-world change and making people connect with one another. Within the first two weeks alone, users established over 40,000 new relationships, furthering the KIND Foundation’s mission to connect people from all walks of life, one conversation at a time. Pop Your Bubble also gathered more than 140 million earned media impressions, including coverage from The Washington Post, Fast Company, CNN, and more, but the connection metric was much closer to our hearts.
We kicked the project off with a social experiment, wherein we asked 10 people to pop their bubbles. The first person to test the experience was shocked to find out he was in a bubble—and he was especially nervous to actually pop it. His ultimate conclusion summed up our project’s goals: “I have fear to pop my bubble, but I have more fear not to.”
To accurately address the problem of social media bubbles and echo chambers, we had to go where our audience already was—Facebook. We created an app that integrated directly with the platform, making the user experience a seamless one. Our custom “anti-algorithm” was designed to analyze users’ Facebook profiles (age, location, likes, shares, etc.) to find strangers that were the most different from them, and make it easy to follow those people on Facebook. After popping, the user’s Facebook feeds would be populated with thoughts, opinions, and daily life updates dramatically different than the ones they were used to seeing. The Internet would never be the same.
In order to make sure that popping your bubble sufficiently changed your news feed, we had to make sure you were connecting with real people. That meant convincing those real people to make their profiles public and followable. We knew we were asking something big—encouraging people to open up their feeds and let people with different perspectives comment and interact—so we developed a long user experience chain to help walk people through the process. Our hand-holding touch points included social posts, direct mail, and even outreach on an individual level.
This project was inspirational in that it proved digital technology can be used to solve a uniquely human problem. As social networks become the platforms through which we build relationships with one another, brands who recognize the shift can create a truly meaningful impact.
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About the Corporate Social Responsibility Campaigns category
Digital campaigns showcasing a company's commitment to encouraging community growth and development, and to activities and programs that benefit the environment, consumers, employees, and the public.