Social Media Actions can be powerful tools to increase the reach and impact of your campaigns. More than ever, organizers are moving towards online organizing as a way to spread the message of their campaigns. Digital events have the inherent benifit of reaching folks that want to get involved but may not be able to attend events in person. With shelter in place orders brought about by the COVID-19 global pandemic, we are seeing more and more people engage in social media actions. Mobilize, the online volunteer platform, noted in this article that prior to COVID-19, about 20% of all events on their platform were virtual. That rapidly shifted to nearly 100% by mid-March of 2020. The message is clear: If you want to engage your base, go digital! In this post we're going to give you an overview of how you can do just that on social media!
What is a Social Media Action?
Social media actions are virtual events where organizers and their partners and base post together on social media over a short span to trend their hashtag, or at least give their message the best chance of going viral. These actions take advantage of social media algorithms that favor recent and highly engaging content. Twitter and Facebook are the most common platforms for coordinating social media actions. The decision for which platform to coordinate an action on entirely depends on the audience you want to reach, and where they are predominantly active. Even within one platform there are multiple flavors of actions. Common forms of actions on Twitter include: Twitter Town Halls, Twitter Zaps, and Twitterstorms.
Twitter Townhalls are exactly what they sound like. They are live Twitter events where folks can ask questions and engage with experts. Conversations are tagged with a predetermined hashtag so folks can track and follow along with the conversation. In some cases, Twitter Townhalls can happen in parallel with an another live event such as a webinar, panel, or press conference. Twitter Town Halls are a great way to show your base that you aim to connect with them directly in places outside the walls of your office or video calls.
Twitter Zaps are Twitter equivalents of Phone and Fax zaps. "Zaps" are a direct and public way of holding elected officials accountable. Twitter Zaps often cite previous tweets or video/image documentation to pressure officials to stay to true to previous commitments.
A Twitterstorm is a Twitter action meant to amplify a particular issue and engage/move the mainstream on it. Successful Twitterstorms can lead to mainstream press covereage giving the issue an even wider reach. The goal of Twitterstorm like Twitter Zaps and Townhalls is to trend (at least locally) and gain wider attention, and ultimately change the mainstream narrative on the issue.
What do these three types of actions have in common? Each of these leverage Twitter’s algorithm to trend a specific issue. Same is true for actions across other social media platforms. Making a hashtag trend can elevate an issue and put pressure on an elected officials to make a time sensitive decision and shift popular narratives. Trending hashtags have also been used to get people activated around a specific issue, encouraging them to sign a petition, or rally in person at a live event.