Tips and Tricks #4

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Activist Essentials, photo by Vadim Sherbakov.

Listening.

Listening is honestly going to be not only the most important part of any successful campaign for social change that uses online digital tools, but also the biggest timesuck.

No lie, it’s like 80% of the gig.  And if you’re anything like me, bighearted, fiery and passionate, the problems you’ll be spending 80% of your time reading about will probably really impact upon how you feel about the world.  These last couple weeks reading about Black Lives Matter, equality, people suffering from debilitating diseases… Safe to say it’s been hard at times.  And it’s really hard for me to believe that these things haven’t changed the more time we spend listening, so just be prepared for all of the feels.

What makes listening easier though?  Emotionally, not much is there to support you except having really good conversations with people talking about the same issues… But in terms of social media tools, this is the cool part, there are HEAPS of sites, people, tools already created to help you get the most out of these platforms.

The internet really is pretty phenomenal, and with a campaign for social change it is one of your best friends.

If you’re using Twitter, I can’t recommend HootSuite, My Top Tweet, and Sprout Social enough.  HootSuite is a dashboard for you to essentially see every page of Twitter you want to monitor all at once.  You can dedicate a section to whatever #hashtag you’d like to watch play out, and this is honestly a great way to get in touch with people who care about your topic.

My Top Tweet allows you to see the most liked, retweeted tweets from people’s handles, and is therefore great at allowing you to see what hashtag networks from your identified hubs get seen by loads of people.

Sprout Social is a tool that helps you measure your Twitter engagement.  I won’t go into them all in depth but logging on is enough to give you reason to stay.

Handy thing about Facebook pages is that they’ve built most if not all the analytics you could want right into their Insights page.  It gives you reach, engagement, page visits, likes, and the list goes on.  One thing I’ve noticed about listening on Facebook though is that searching for hashtags and people don’t necessarily give you the goods when it comes to how they preferentially deliver search results to you.  So for this one, make sure you already know your hubs and you spend significant time on their pages to read comments and share their info.

Once you’ve listened to what the rest of the internet has to say, deeply consider what the internet around you says with regards to your content.  The things that have the most views and engagement, the posts that have generated the engagement you’re looking for, the times of day people spend looking at your data, etc. and then adjust your strategy accordingly.  If you believe it to be content-based engagement, keep pumping that kind of content out! It’s not difficult, but it does require a lot of focus, energy and time.

Happy listening all!

Links to other cool listening tools:
1. Google AdWords
2. AllInTitle
3. Market Samurai
4. Google Alerts

#BlackLivesMatter: Case Study

So our last Tips and Tricks post was all about Telling Your Story, and in it I mentioned the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

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Kobe Bryant wearing his I Can’t Breathe tee in warm up, by Elena Duggan.

Before we get started, there are a few things I want to mention.  I need to identify and position myself truthfully and accurately with regards to this movement by stating that I am a white cis female Australian and therefore cannot possibly feel or experience the things that people fighting for this movement are going through.  I say this so that if any of my language could possibly be construed any way other than my intention, please know that my intent will never be to hurt.  I would call myself an ally except that I have seen numerous people online say that do not think allies either can really exist or should have their opinion heard in any way that subordinates that of someone experiencing the same situation as someone who identifies as black.

Another thing I want to address is that this blog in particular is dedicated to analysis of different acts of activism, and what’s involved in making successful or not successful online activist campaigns for social change.  #BlackLivesMatter is representative of centuries of race relations and anguish and murder, systemic racism that proliferates all industries including those that think they are more open like Hollywood, and more recently the despicable, horrifying and tragic events involving people like Michael Brown in Ferguson and Terrence Crutcher and the Charlotte riots… How could any singular blog post tackle or even attempt to negotiate these incredibly deep and highly emotional concepts?  I don’t think it can, what I do think though is that talking about these problems is the first step in effecting positive social change.

And that right there, is the crux of what this blog is all about.  Story telling, and how important it is.

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Tyga, by Elena Duggan.

What we all need to understand is that all problems we have as a group of people have been created entirely by us.  Therefore the only way these issues can be corrected is through people.  How do you get someone to change a belief, attitude, behaviour?  Get them to care.  Get them to care about their own future, the future their children will have.  Get them to care about the people they love, get them to care about their country.  You need to appeal to their senses of justice, morality, fairness, humanity.  If you know anything about advertising, you know that the story is what will sell your product.  Watch any Apple ad

Another thing I need to state is that while I’m talking about #BlackLivesMatter as a campaign for social change and I’m using words like success, I am well aware that this campaign will be in progress as long as necessary for systemic change to be in place.  #BlackLivesMatter is not something that’s over.  It’s not finished and everything is perfect.  I’m talking about it because it is very much something we should be talking about every single day.  Everyone.  In the whole planet.  No matter where you belong or where you call home.

The thing that draws me to talking about it is actually because of how powerful it is as a movement.  It is one of the most discussed topics on all social media platforms.  Millions of people are contributing.  Thankfully we live in a time where social media and smart phones exist.  Crimes like the ones we are seeing in videos uploaded to these platforms used to be hidden away in the shadows and not discussed.  I remember the way my stomach dropped as a kid when I saw the Rodney King footage.  I remember it so viscerally because it’s the way I feel on the verge of physical illness with each new image and hashtag dedicated to another black person killed in the streets.

These videos are stories.

And they are hard to watch, but even harder to ignore.

Stories are important to get people onside, but they are equally important in the education of the people reading them.  The messages encoded translate as important because of how much a story makes us care.  And we remember those messages.  We share those messages.

For a better description of this, you must watch or read Jesse Williams’ speech at the BET Awards this year.

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Jesse Williams at the BET Awards, by Elena Duggan.

And if you’re sitting there reading this thinking this doesn’t all apply to you, you’re wrong.  If you need convincing just have a look at the mass outpouring of solidarity expressed in recent protests held in Melbourne and Sydney.

Or if you think you can watch and love Beyoncé’s Lemonade for just the musical content, you’re wrong.  She’s telling you the stories of millions of lived experiences, you just need to listen.

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Beyoncé, Lenny Kravitz, Queen Latifah, Kevin Hart, Janelle Monáe, Chris Rock, Jennifer Hudson, Pharrell, Alicia Keys and Rihanna talk about 23 Ways you could be killed if you are black in America, by Elena Duggan.

Takeaways:

  1. Even when it’s the hardest thing to do, tell your story.
  2. Even when it’s the hardest thing to watch, watch the videos shared.
  3. Even when it’s the hardest thing to say, call out racism.
  4. Even when it’s the hardest thing to own, own and acknowledge your own prejudices and do your best to change them by educating yourself.
  5. Even when it’s the hardest thing to believe, believe that change is possible.

Tips and Tricks #3

This Tips and Tricks post perfectly aligns with the case study I’ll be posting later this week on #BlackLivesMatter.  That, and this, will be given our current circumstances quite difficult topics.  As much as possible, as this is a blog about online activism we will try to separate our academic theorising from the politic and emotion surrounding this topic. To preface, this is not because we don’t think those are important, it’s actually because we think the politics and emotions involved are so important, challenging and necessary to discuss that this is just simply not the right forum for it.  I’d need thousands of words, thousands of open hearts and ears, and a ridiculous amount of strength.

So what we’re focusing on here in Tips and Tricks, is making sure you tell your story.

With any campaign for social change, you need people.  You need them on your side, you need them invested, and you need them to care.  How do you do that?  Well picture you’re in school or university and you attend lectures every week on the same topic.  Do you remember the exact words your lecturer used to explain something they are telling you is incredibly important? Maybe, but probably not.  Do you want to share that with anyone you care about that isn’t also taking the course?  Almost definitely not.

What are the things you do remember?  What are the things you want to tell those you love? See here for a whole chapter on how this works.

Stories.  You want to tell your family a funny joke, something witty, incredulous, fascinating, unbelievable… Something that sticks.  Anything that stuck with you.  Think about telling ghost stories around a camp fire.  Somehow those stories we tell we can remember word for word, and we LOVE telling them.

This doesn’t mean you campaign needs to be full of funny stories, jokes or fear, but it does mean that it needs to have something that will make your audience care.  Think about all the social problems out there and what you might want to change.  Nothing funny or entertaining about that.  In fact most problems are truly heart wrenching and tragic.  Just like the stories being told in the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

These aren’t stories we want to share, these aren’t stories any of us want to hear, but these stories are real, true and necessary.  And the people in these stories deserve the whole world to know the pain and suffering that is happening.  People care about stories.  So find them.  Chase them.  Tell them.  Make them memorable.

 

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Case Study

This week we’re thinking about how perceived #slacktivist movements go viral, get thousands of people involved, and then get criticised.

I’m sure you’re all aware of the ALS #IceBucketChallenge.  If not, you literally must have been on a digital cleanse or under a rock for like a year.  For those that need a refresher, the viral movement was all about raising awareness and gathering donations from those who participated.  Think #WorldsGreatestShave where people get sponsorship for performing an act like shaving their head or getting a bucket of ice thrown over their head, videoing it and uploading it to their social media platforms in this case.

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Kim Kardashian gets soaked by Ellen Degeneres, by Elena Duggan.

If you look this movement up, you’re not only going to get a lot of YouTube videos of the world’s most famous celebrities getting dunked in their most creative ways possible, but you’re also going to see hundred of articles from pop journalists and academics alike heavily criticising those that participated.

They have their reasons.  They state that many of those that participated either never donated and participated only to be seen engaging, or ended up spending more on the buckets of ice or expending time and effort on the action rather than research on the issue.  This is real.  I see their points, and I agree with them that this is endlessly frustrating, especially for those that suffer with motor neurone disease who at points during this campaign’s virality it could have seemed unhelpful.

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Rita Ora contributing to #IceBucketChallenge, by Elena Duggan.

But the coolest thing about this is, that despite all the negative criticism and the negative world-view type of reporting we’ve seen on this, news came out in the last couple months that all the proceeds of the #IceBucketChallenge actually contributed to the funding of a new scientific breakthrough.

The money from donations helped fund the biggest and most widespread study of samples previously collected, that allowed the discovery of a common gene found among ALS sufferers.

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Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, Rob RiggleHoratio SanzSteve Higgins soak themselves on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, by Elena Duggan.

A relatively short case study, because there’s really not much else we need to say.  This is proof that movements that start online can contribute in multiple ways to offline change.

Takeaways:

  1. You need a phenomenal strategy.
  2. Your strategy needs to be accessible.
  3. Know your objectives.  If donation is one of those, it needs to play a big role in your strategy.
  4. Make engagement fun.  You only get people interested if their role is fun!
  5. Once your campaign has created change, you need to publish and emphasise what your contributors helped with!  Follow up is key.

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ALS Ice Bucket ready for dunking, by Elena Duggan.

A Small Break in Tradition

Exciting stuff guys!

This blog post was not scheduled ahead of time and is additional but its because I’ve found new information that has been awesome to read and I want to draw your attention to it!

First of all, I want you to consider the concept of physical activism and think about the bodily experience of protest.

I read this incredible post and not only did it echo my sentiments on the usefulness of online activism but it also really opened my eyes to an entirely different perspective on bodily experiences with regards to getting involved in change.  Criticism of ‘slacktivism’ comes from those who are able-bodied with negative world views as Heather said.

Secondly, as I’ve stated previously ‘slacktivism’ is not an answer to, or coverall method of activism… And even the sites that I’ve referenced in previous blogs are not necessarily able to fix or change everything they aim to even with all their resources.  This article has genuinely influenced my opinion on online activism’s place in the world of social change.  We will always need to adapt and adopt change.  Hell it’s what we’re all fighting for anyway so we need to be aware that the things we once did that worked, may not work again.  Take virality and consider the fact that some famous YouTubers will always be successful, but that most are one-hit-wonders.

The same goes for social innovation.  It’s not called social innovation for no reason.  Let’s focus on the innovation part.

Let’s innovate.

I’m so keen to hear what’s worked for you on any project big or small.  Hit me up.

 

street-corner-smallThe New Street Corner, Photo by Gabriel Beaudry.

Tips and Tricks #2

For this tips and tricks, our activated almonds in their slacktivewear (yes I’m still trying to make this happen, like ‘fetch’ only cooler) are going to run you through some of the wonderful activist work you can actually complete from the comfort of your couch whilst wearing your fluffiest robe and patting your dog!

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Luckily for us, the internet has already come up with so many ways we can contribute to activist causes online.  There are even sites dedicated to helping with not only their chosen causes but to any and all causes its members suggest, or they want to bring to our attention.  See Indiegogo, Change.org, Upworthy, and Take Part.

One of the most successful sites for activism is called Avaaz.  Avaaz has managed to connect more than 10 million people to 46 million causes online.  How?  It’s EASY.  If you log on, you have access to thousands of actions and causes already in progress and you can sign their petitions, contribute to letter-writing campaigns, and be a part of the facilitation of group organisation.  You can even start your own campaign.  In fact most of the causes Avaaz takes up have been members’ suggestions.  And even cooler on their part is that their funding and donations comes wholly from these members.  More than $20 million has already been collected, with each donation having a cap of $5000.

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Activism from where you’d rather be, photo by Nick Turner.

If you aren’t sure you want to start something on your own, we know the task can be daunting, you can use any of these already well-established hubs to join movements, suggest movements and grab info on movements that interest you.

If you are super keen, study what these sites do.  And then replicate it!  All you need is an internet connection, an issue that’s ignited your passion, and a few minutes out of the time you’ve already mentally designated to chillin’ online.

 

 

Matt McGorry: Case Study

So if you’ve been living under a rock, or somehow just circumnavigating the Netflix globe and haven’t managed to come across Orange is the New Black or #OITNB as we call it, then you’ll have probably missed breakout star Matt McGorry in his role of prison guard Bennett.  You can also catch him in How to Get Away with Murder.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-4-18-26-pmMatt McGorry as Bennett in #OITNB, by Elena Duggan.

I’ve warned you, that this page would be at times political.  This is one of those times.  I want to make it clear however that while I have my own opinions, the purpose of this case study is to look at this actor’s contributions in the world of activism.  Overall the opinion most important to this blogging space is that we should all believe that any level of activism contributes something good to any movement.  EVEN the negative stuff.  That stuff is the fuel for conversation to continue.  Dialogue is the only way change can start, and sharing stories is key here.  So keep that in mind when I discuss the ways McGorry has been both praised and hated on by media and activists alike.

McGorry posts to his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts a wide variety of content.  He promotes new shows and movies he’s in, he posts photos of him with castmates… But most importantly he posts links to campaigns for social innovation, tweets whenever he attends a physical meeting of those within a movement, uses hashtags to demonstrate his solidarity and alignment with a cause, and engages in discussion with his followers about all manner of political topics and his involvement with them.

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Laverne Cox with Matt McGorry accepting her Television Industry Advocacy Award, by by Elena Duggan.

First things first, this is brave.  It takes a lot of courage to speak our minds.  It takes even more thoughtfulness and consideration to not only have an opinion and share it but also to be able to back up what you’re saying, and admit where you’ve been wrong.  Is he perfect? No.  He’s told us that himself.  Should media news outlets be lauding him as they do? Well, that’s up for debate.  One side of that argument is that continuing to give praise to white men who do good things over shining lights on those marginalised and subordinated within the movement itself perpetuates that which McGorry and other activists are trying to challenge.  A convoluted way of saying that privileged white males are not really allowed to define themselves as feminists, but rather allies, and that them receiving praise continues the system of patriarchy.  This last part, I totally agree with. Where’s all the praise for the ultra brave women who fight this every day?  Well, I can tell you, it almost doesn’t exist. No one thinks it’s cool to be a feminist. And we all know the ways people have perceived this movement.

The other thing that’s interesting is that he doesn’t just post or know about one topic.  He posts about feminism, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, domestic violence… the list goes on.  Critics would say that he contributes primarily to the #slacktivism side of each of these campaigns.  But that’s wrong.  He is posting as a part of the activist strategy that suits his life best.  He goes to #BlackLivesMatter chapter meetings, he donates to these organisations… and then he posts about these events on his social media.

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Matt McGorry with Francesca Ramsey, ridiculously busy activist, by Elena Duggan.

Let’s take a particular moment of his online activism into consideration.  In 2015, he posted the definition of feminism to his accounts stating that he ashamedly only just discovered the true meaning of the word and the movement.  Then this year for International Women’s Day, McGorry designed a shirt that all proceeds from would go to NARAL in support of women’s reproductive rights.

And then, he got absolutely slammed by Feminist blogs for it.  Wow, it was vicious.  I would definitely recommend reading this and this though because they both are incredibly poignant for highlighting the struggle women face every day with this.  I feel these things too.  And some things that have been said by all sorts of people that claim themselves Feminists like McGorry leave me with equally conflicting emotional responses.

But I will never condone criticising someone for their attempt to develop their understanding and contributions to fixing something so wrong with societal systemic prejudice.  Especially with regards to feminism.  This is something incredibly difficult to overcome… We’ve been trying for decades.  And hey, look, it still exists.  Should we not be embracing any individual who fights against patriarchy?  Just because the way they fight is different, or maybe could be interpreted as adjacent or oppositional in contrast to some of the core tenets in the fight for women’s freedom, this doesn’t give us the right to say they shouldn’t speak their feelings.  I don’t understand anyone who fights for a more inclusive and equal society by labelling other peoples’ contributions to a similar if not the same fight unwanted, incorrect and stupid.

We are all on paths towards education, change and meaningful contribution to our world.  Fundamentally, he’s hoping to spark dialogue about something truly wrong that he along with many others has a problem with.  All of these arguments could be applied by people of all the movements he supports.  And they are all good arguments.  To be successful in creating change we need to be hypercritical that the steps we take are all in the right direction, I just think there are much better ways to criticise, discuss and create dialogue.

While feminism is about removing patriarchy and male power, rather than the fight for gender equality, this doesn’t mean the fight can or should only be won be women willing to stand up.  I would not feel content within myself to achieve any type of feminist state where all and any gender identities are not given equal power.  Getting away from patriarchy should not be seen as a binary.  Again, my opinion.  I am equally as free as you are to express it.

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Matt, by Elena Duggan.

But what does all of this teach us?

Here are your takeaways from studying Matt McGorry:

  1. Be prepared that once you take a stance, you will cop both love and hate in equal measures.  Either way you MUST question both.
  2. To be an influencer, it’s not enough to know the bare minimum about your content.
  3. Dialogue is all important.
  4. Listen.
  5. Make growth and progress your constant goal.  This should actually be a takeaway on how to live your life as well, but in this case, you need to make sure you are focussed on learning, evolving and being open to the rest of the world.