By Peer Tehleel Manzoor
Technology is accelerating the rate at which ideas, relationships, and information are shared. As such, Social Media is a Revolutionizing communication and access to information on both a national and global scale. Mass distribution and the ability to effortlessly share information has influenced many facets of modern life, changing the way we think about, connect to, and engage with social justice and activism.
How Social Media and Activism Work Together
People have discovered new ways to communicate and collaborate through social media. Features such as feeds, profiles, and groups on social platforms provide global access to organizations that can promote and increase visibility by sharing and networking. Modern Communication students study these virtual platforms, and can even pursue careers creating and distributing digital content. The power of social media can amplify voices, instantaneously spread information, and increase collaboration across diverse groups of people.Here are some movements and trends that have caught hold in the national and global conversation in part due to their presence across social media.
How Social Media Can Promote Social Justice
The use of social media to uplift voices and stories, create awareness, and build and strengthen relationships creates a space for organizations, activists, and citizens to demand justice.
Coordinating Community Responses. As discovered with movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, social media has the opportunity to create online spaces where people come together and find support. Instances such as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street showcase the global effect that can take place through the sharing of ideas online, such as massive gatherings that create unity for a cause. Platforming Lived Experiences many social justice causes work to build equity for minorities and underrepresented individuals and groups within society. The stories and struggles of minorities often aren’t well known or publicized, but social media can provide a platform to amplify and share them with potentially millions of people across the globe. This exposure helps share lived experiences about racial violence, sexual harassment, and other forms of oppression directly from the underrepresented.
Promoting and Planning Events
As seen with Occupy Wall Street, the Arab Spring, and the Black Lives Matter movement, social media can create public awareness around issues in the name of social justice. The ability to reach a larger audience by sharing information empowers communities to organize in the real world around a cause. Political activist group Moveon Plans and organizes swift responses to real-world proceedings in “Rapid-Response Events.” MoveOn hosts immediately available information that can set in motion a series of protests with unified demands by the next day following an event or sequence of political happenings.
Sharing Pictures and Videos
Social media can also be used as a tool not only to organize large-scale protests, but also to document them. Nearly every social movement in the modern world is documented through social media, and news outlets frequently scan sites like Twitter to find new information or evocative imagery of current events.
One highly publicized example is the Jammu & Kashmir Protest in which protesters have used social media to share pictures and videos of events as they occur, battling for a public and global opinion on the pro-democracy movement.
Though social media provides the opportunity for the voice of an individual to be amplified, in many cases, this voice can still be lost in the noise of the internet. It takes a community utilizing the share feature to gain traction for a post, allowing it to spread to a much wider audience. This process of signal boosting occurs when fellow social media users share a single message. When done well, signal boosting can cause content to go viral.
Utilize the College Population
Young people use social media more often than their older generations, and the trend of use is statistically unchanged since 2018, according to research from Pew Research Center. The breakdown of platform usage shows that Facebook is the most widely used platform across demographic groups, with roughly 70% of adults saying they use the platform, but that Instagram and Snapchat have an especially strong following among young adults. The research further shows that roughly three-quarters of Facebook users visit the site daily, while 80% of young adults are using Snapchat and Instagram not only daily, but multiple times a day.
With the available attention of college-aged students, and the desire of students for “perspective-taking” in the higher education experience , college campuses are fertile ground for targeted audiences of social justice causes and movements.
There are many ways to utilize social media to network, facilitate awareness, and build conversations online, but it is also important to be aware that colleges and employers are also observing online personas. Participants should always be aware of etiquette and professionalism, which can also lend credibility to a conversation or movement.
Best Social Media Strategies for Nonprofits
For nonprofits and social justice organizers alike, social media can be a powerful resource for sharing a narrative, sharing information, or building a conversation around an issue. Getting in touch with and building an audience can benefit the organization’s mission.
A social media fundraising campaign typically works to utilize the diversity of the audience and focus attention on one focused goal. This works to earn smaller donations from a wider pool, improving awareness, which can lead to more donations. Utilizing a call-to-action can augment fundraising efforts. Social media provides a platform to elevate charitable donations and the community, to share stories and connect with donors.
Fundraising through social media is best done with a strategic plan that implements not only a goal, but also a strategy on how to get there, valuing the importance of improving awareness and organically growing an audience. Creating a funnel from awareness, engagement, and finally to conversions is a media strategy that will ensure that views are converting into donations. With the expansion of technology into design and media, having someone on the team with a Bachelor’s degree in digital media may be the key to designing a campaign: blending technology and design into an aesthetic that will increase the opportunity for shares and mass communication.
Partnering with Influencers
Partnering with a social media influencer who has enough followers to influence public opinion, can greatly boost a message. An individual with a larger audience taking a stance on an issue or promoting a cause may help reach target donor demographics to boost public awareness and perception of a nonprofit.
Producing an event can build community engagement around a topic, such as protests and rallies, fundraising events, educational or informative events, or used clothing drives. Promoting an event through social media provides the opportunity to capture the attention of, and invite all followers — as well as the potential to reach out to each follower’s audience. Utilizing Facebook as a platform to market the event can also help in preparation by providing an estimate of the number of those who are attending.
Sharing stories does more than provide information; it also has the opportunity to showcase situations of great need or successes in the movement. Making space for a narrative to be told can let the audience know that there is still work to be done — but also that it is making a difference. In addition to raising awareness, these stories may encourage continued support of the ongoing efforts of the nonprofit or campaign.
For nonprofits and social justice campaigns, utilizing social media can spread awareness of the mission, needs, and sometimes even the existence of an issue. Social media can create a platform for sharing stories, narratives, and photos, providing facts and data in a consumable way, which engages an audience by helping them understand. The work to create awareness helps to build a community around an issue. Social media and networking can be done with focus and dedication, but with the rate at which technology and communication continue to evolve, the help of a professional who has a degree in strategic communication or expert knowledge can drastically improve meeting tangible goals of growth and awareness for a campaign or nonprofit.
Peer Tehleel Manzoor is a Cyber Security Researcher at Virtual Testing Foundation , can be reached at email@example.com