Go back to school with a stab vest – viral content used for awareness

Posted on September 6, 2019


We recently wrote about a blog post that went viral, receiving over 100,000 shares across Facebook to date. The post was a satirical news story about a Nokia 3310 still having 70% battery after being left switched on for 20 years, playing on the fact that today’s smartphones have really poor batteries.

It was evidently believable as it was reported by countless news agencies as being true, even prompting hoax alert websites to debunk the story.

However, detractors of viral content will argue that it’s not something that can be used for business, or for a serious purpose. Something like the Nokia story is just a bit of fun, and could never serve any real business use.

Not so. This week another piece of content has been going viral on social media, specifically targeting the UK audience and the fact that, this week, many children go back to school. Amid all of the usually posts of children being forced to stand up against a door in their uniforms and have their photo taken was an advert for a ‘stab vest’ for children to wear.

Naturally this was shocking. Someone has made a stab vest and targeted it at school children? How awful that someone would do this, worse still that our society is such that this is even necessary. It generated reams of comments from people outraged that this was a thing, increasing the reach of the post and the engagements in received.

Only it’s not a thing. It’s a hoax. It’s a hoax with a very genuine and sincere message. The post was created by the charity The Children’s Society. They mocked up the product of the stab vest, and added it to their website as though it were real. It has its own product image and product description, and it was shared around social media as though it were real.

Its point (if you pardon the pun) was to demonstrate how children genuinely fear being stabbed, and they fear other forms of violent crime. Some of our children, who should right now be going back to school in a safe environment where they can learn so they can better their futures, are instead preoccupied about whether they’re going to be the victims of knife crime.

The ‘product page’, rather than selling the stab vest, is requesting donations for the charity. Donations range from £12-£50, with the option of adding your own custom amount. The charity has used ‘fake news’, the creation of a ‘fake product’ to create a real buzz online about the very real issue of children living in fear of violent crime so that people make a donation to the charity.

This is one way that fake news can be used for a commercial purpose, a very legitimate and noble commercial purpose. Well played The Children’s Society, and whoever came up with this genius piece of content for internet marketing.

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 20 years’ experience in these fields.
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