Twitter and Truth: Social Media for Social Movements

Stacy Anderson / Leadership / 2 years ago

At Twitter Flight 2015, the company’s Developer Conference, newly reappointed CEO Jack Dorsey reinforced a commitment to transparency and open dialogue. From Business Insider, “Twitter stands for freedom of expression,” Dorsey declared. “Twitter stands for speaking truth to power.” From notable social movements as to #OccupyCentral and #HeforShe, Twitter, the originator of the hashtag, continues to congregate and spark conversations around important social issues of racism, sexism and political violence around the world.

Going beyond the simplistic service of messaging to social activism shows an important shift not only in the technology space, but in how society regards and uses these open platforms as a launchpad for mobilizing change.

Let’s review two recent and notable social movements on Twitter – #ILookLikeAnEngineer and #BringBackOurGirls.

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#ILookLikeAnEngineer

#ILookLikeAnEngineer – What started as a recruitment ad by a tech company quickly sparked a Twitter conversation to break down gender stereotypes in tech industries. First gaining traction in San Francisco, the hashtag has led to a flood of participation of women and men redefining the traditional mold of ‘what an engineer should look like.’

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#BBOG #BringBackOurGirls

#BringBackOurGirls demonstrates the power of social media and influencers to shine the spotlight on a social issue, perhaps far removed from many people. The harrowing kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls brought individuals and nations together in a common voice of global solidarity. Individuals of influence in positions ranging from politics to entertainment across the globe came together in driving awareness of this crisis.

Successful Social Movements

What does this mean for your brand?

We can frame the learnings of social movements as their ability to change minds (and the success of this to properly build a community or share meaningful stories). Greg Satell explains three essential attributes for a successful movement in his HBR article, and how brands need to take note. These are:

  1. Successful movements start by attacking perceptions. What are the mainstream widespread problems that your brand is addressing? How can you frame, or reframe, your brand in ways that connect to people’s current perceptions but in new ways?
  2. Successful movements build connections through personal contact, rather than bursting on the scene all at once. What are the series of initiatives, events or touch points you can have with your audience in the lead up to an important milestone? How can you build connections inside and outside your core audience?
  3. Successful movements connect to the mainstream. How can your brand achieve mainstream support by positioning its new idea, product or service in a relatable, scalable and non-alienating way? Here, as Satell describes, movements (or brands) gain traction when they attract new members.

The changing context and intent of social media is evolving to meet the needs of our emerging social and environmental crises. Only by committing to a truly open, transparent system can these media, like Twitter, maintain and grow their relevancy in an increasingly interconnected and collaborative world.

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