What makes a social media campaign successful?

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

It is with a heavy heart that most of us go to social media now. Every post seems to be somehow related to the black lives matter movement, and rightly so. This was a much-needed wake-up call to America, and more importantly, to Black America. Now more than ever, it is easy to see the blatant disregard for black lives and the suspension of black rights and only black rights in critical situations. In the past few days, I have seen black people arrested, tased, beaten up, shot, murdered, and so much more for actions that do not have the same consequences for anyone else. Enough is enough.

It is very easy to be caught up in our emotions, but we should be using them as fuel for the cause. There are many links to donate to the movement, and I have put a few resources at the bottom of this page as well. Posting and donating is not enough though.

Many other countries have used social media to raise awareness and bring about real positive change. The Arab Spring and recently, the Sudanese movement, are historical examples of how social media has lit a fire under the most powerful people in ways that little else could. What can the Black Lives Matter movement learn from these movements? Where did they go wrong? Where did they go right? According to Erica Chenoweth, a Professor in Human Rights and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School, there are 4 key features of any successful campaign.

1. Successful campaigns tend to elicit mass and diverse participation that is sustainable. This means it’s not just one ethnic or racial group, age cohort, or any one demographic for a short period of time. Therefore, as an individual, it is important to spread awareness, promote inclusion, and encourage everyone to engage in this movement whether through protesting, speaking up, or donating. It is important to keep the momentum going to make sure real change happens.

2. Successful movements also require defections from the key supporters of the status quo. In the Arab Spring uprisings and recently in Sudan, the military just refused to support the dictators’ orders. In America, the same should be done by the police who are the enforcers of the status quo. It is undoubtedly a very difficult time to be a policeman or policewoman with a conscience right now. The mandate to protect and serve includes businesses and property as well as black lives and livelihoods. It is time to choose which is more important, and the Black Lives Movement should make a significant effort to include the police in the movement and remind them of their duty. They are not all bad, and it is about time they started being on the right side of history.

3. Successful campaigns are diverse in other ways as well. They don’t just rely on protests or demonstrations. New techniques like mass noncooperation or stay-at-home strikes should be incorporated to properly incentivize the people in power. The #blackouttuesday hashtag was used to post a black box in support of BLM, and millions used the hashtag to show their support and commitment. Other than showing support though, this does not have a real impact on the key stakeholders of the movement. T.I called for all POC to launch a nationwide store boycott using the hashtag, #blackoutday2020 in protest of the killings. “Together, we have 3.9 trillion in economic spending power. That’s 10,684,931,506.80 it’s going to cost per day next time a person of color gets shot!!!” This form of disruptive people power manages to go around repression and increase disruption and should be utilized further.

4. Last, but not least: discipline. There should be the organizational ability, commitment, and resilience to stick through the challenges that come through mounting a protest against the most powerful country in the world. This movement should not be the hot topic of the day or week. We, as black people, should continue the conversation beyond these protests until our goals of complete and total equality and equity are met.

Links to various resources:

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