Bangladesh launched an online campaign to raise awareness against the global pandemic coronavirus that has already claimed the lives of 39 people in Bangladesh.
Al Fahad Bari, a Bangladeshi Instagram influencer of considerable renown, on March 30 posted a picture on his Instagram account holding a placard.
"Let's do a superhero work - Stay Home & Stay Safe".
The photo was accompanied by a caption that stressed the importance of maintaining social distance and hygiene, and staying home in order to flatten the curve.
This was part of an initiative titled Social Leader Council, consisting of Bangladeshi Instagram influencers who have the capability of bringing forth positive changes in society.
Besides Bari, many other community based Instagram influencers such as Mayeesha Tasneem, Ishrat Zaheen Ahmed, among others, are part of this initiative.
The initiative came after Rob Perry, the chief executive officer or US-based influencer marketing agency Xomad, visited Bangladesh in January, before the pandemic hit the nation, to work out a deal with the Bangladeshi government.
Following the deal, Bangladesh launched an online campaign to raise awareness against the global pandemic coronavirus that has already claimed the lives of 39 people in Bangladesh, and 114,251 around the world so far.
Instagram is one of the leading platforms around the world for raising awareness on issues such as awareness against animal cruelty, food and water wastage, ethical shopping and global political and environmental crises, to name a few.
How it started
During the visit, Perry pitched to Bangladesh's ICT Division to create a council of 500 Instagram influencers and it was launched in early April with 200 influencers, funded by National Bank Limited.
The main focus of that initiative was to use the council to hold open discussions on a range of topics such as health, education, technology and the environment. However, with the outbreak of the global pandemic in Bangladesh, both the ICT Division and Xomad shifted their focus on raising awareness about coronavirus.
Approximately 54 percent of the population in Bangladesh is under the age of 34, making the younger generation the council's target Instagram users.
Both the Bangladeshi government and Xomad want to utilize the council to reach more youngsters to raise awareness among the masses on the importance of maintaining social distance in order to curb the spread of the deadly virus.
Speaking about the project with The Business Standard, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, the state minister of ICT Division, said, "We teamed up with Xomad to reach out to the young generation on important national issues. We chose Instagram as the project's platform since the youngsters use this app heavily."
The team was able to spread the message in more than 300 small towns and to over 15 million people through the influencers in Bangladesh.
"Experience from this project will help us engage the young generation in national issues in the future and hopefully their activities will reflect on our policy making. Such initiatives will be helpful to achieve these targets." he added.
The state minister also said that this platform will be used to raise awareness about a variety of social issues such as violence against women, the environment and anti-drugs campaigns in the future.
What do the influencers think about the project?
In a conversation with this correspondent, one of the influencers in the council, Bari, said, "As a social media influencer I feel like I have responsibilities towards our society and the nation. As this pandemic is causing real harm to the people of our country and the world, I am trying my best to spread positivity and awareness among others."
Bari's awareness post on his Instagram account also has the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Instagram account tagged which contains helpful information on staying safe from coronavirus.
"After posting pictures about covid-19 awareness, people are commenting on my posts and directly messaging me to let me know that they are doing everything they can to stay indoors and keep themselves and their family members cheerful," Bari added.
He further said, "I am personally an animal-loving person and I have pets of my own. When I got to know that I need to create content on covid-19 awareness, the first thing I had in my mind was to take a picture with my pet. Animals are also a part of our family and we need to make sure that they are safe."
Through social media, Bari is raising awareness and sharing his thoughts on staying home and staying safe. "I go live from my account to interact with my followers - telling them to stay away from rumours. I try to hold conversations with them and entertain them by singing, drawing, and mostly by talking. I also share cooking and fitness tips with them so they can stay healthy regardless of the situation," Bari remarked.
Upon being asked about the response to the campaign and how he prepares his posts, Bari explained, "This is a really tough situation and us influencers are trying our best to stand behind every person in our Instagram family and urging them to spread awareness and positivity among their followers. I'm personally having great responses from my followers, and this keeps me motivated."
Bari hopes that social media leaders will come through with their posts and make people aware about the importance of maintaining social distance and hygiene in these trying times to help flatten the curve.