Impressions on the Social Age

Facebook & Twitter Activism

Posted in Reading Response by Trace on May 19, 2010

Activism is an interesting monster. I once dated a girl who joined protest lines because she thought herself an activist. She believed in the protester’s message, but was also looking to join in! Does joining up as you’re walking make you an activist or something else?

Today we read about the activism using Facebook, Twitter and messaging for a specific group on USENET. From the readings (Facebook here and Twitter here) we discovered that activism using social networks is complex, but can e successful if done properly. The lessons focus on activism using social networking, specifically those launched via a social network.

Regarding Facebook, activists may become frustrated due to the limitations of the individual platforms, but many of the strategies concerning the worlds largest social network are also standard communication strategies. Being organized and strategizing a clear, concise message will go far even without a half million followers.

Twitter,is extremely useful for quick responses and notifications. Often news hits Twitter before the major news organizations and therefore is an excellent tool for organizing, rallying and sharing information quickly. Hashtags (#) are key when using Twitter for activism purposes. Make sure if you don’t have one, you make one. When making a hashtag, don’t be too common nor too crazy, and think strategically about the future. If there may be multiple years of the Save the Mayonnaise rally, then perhaps its best to use #SaveMayo2010?

Either way, Twitter is an easy way to interact with lots of people simply and easily, so make sure not to follow random people who you never want to see again, but also don’t be too stingy. When I update Twitter (and Facebook) on my phone I use HootSuite’s iPhone app and on my desktop I do the same with HootSuite‘s desktop app. I highly recommend them both as it is web-based so changes you make at home, or at work are reflected on your phone and everywhere else.

The general limitations of Facebook’s look and feel can become a concern for many activists; as can the inability to send email to more than a few thousand followers at a time. Part of Facebook’s success is its control over information, and hard-limitations on contacting and changing the layout of pages helps keep information streamlined and consistent. Due to these limitations, if you are an activist and want to create a Facebook activism group, recognize there will be limitations, and also create a static web presence. Spread your message to Facebook and use the real world to spread the organization to other activist organizations. In the case of the low barriers to participation, you don’t want your Facebook group to become a mass of supporters without a focus, or you may end up with thousands of walk-up protesters.

As an aside to this weeks main learning points, I read Kliem’s paper concerning USENET’s Aryan/White Supremacist forums. The essay was disturbing and as strategic communication goes, academically consistent. Read it here and be surprised, any organization can use the power of communication to achieve their goals, even ones others may find unsavory.

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