First, a brief introduction: The goal of the Advocacy Through Social Media series is to discuss how social activists can take advantage of online media tools, such as, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Kickstarter, and more.
Examples of online resources being used to affect social change are abundant: unfair charges against a transgender high school student were dropped following a 2013 petition on change.org, Facebook played a role in the Arab Spring, and the Twitter hashtag #BringOurGirlsBack is being used currently to raise international awareness of the outrageous kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian school girls. Above all, however, it is key to remember that it is not just technology that prompts social change, but the activists utilizing it.
There are several main advantages to using social networking as a tool for activism – social media can help you to reach a broader audience, to globalize your cause, to easily communicate with a large range of people, and to help those people mobilize. It can connect you with other activists, and allow you to share information with ease. Of course, when choosing a site to employ as a method of activism, your individual cause and target audience should be taken into consideration.
Today, we’re going to focus on the specific advantages that facebook.com offers. Facebook is by far one of the most popular online social networking sites. It is ranked on compete.com as the third most trafficked website, following google.com and yahoo.com. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet Report, as of September 2013 (in America), 71% of online adults are on Facebook. Besides this, there are three main benefits to using Facebook: the Page, Group, and Event creation options.
According to Facebook, Pages “look similar to personal timelines [also known as your individual profile page], but they offer unique tools for connecting people to a topic they care about, like a business, brand, organization or celebrity.” Creating a Page would probably work best if you have a non-profit or other specific organization that your cause is affiliated with. Having a Page allows users of Facebook to “like” your Page specifically in order to receive notifications about any update you might post on your Page. A Page can have an unlimited number of followers. For example, the Facebook page for The Official 16 Days Against Gender Violence campaign has received over 50,000 likes.
Groups can also be created on Facebook. According to how private or public you want your Group to be, your Group can be secret (exclusively for members), closed (where only members can see the posts, but anyone can see who’s a member), or open to the public (where everyone can see who’s a member, as well as posts, but only members can post). One such public Group, Marriage Equality New York, a Facebook Group with over 4,000 members, connects marriage equality activists on a state and nation-wide level.
In comparison, the Event creation option can be used to organize events and occasions important to your cause. You can set a specific time and place for an Event and, depending on the privacy settings, open the Event to the public or keep it exclusive to a select few. Those invited can RSVP on the Event page, as well as post comments that other people participating in the Event can see and respond to. This works well as an option for both mobilizing large groups of people. Normally, Event pages disappear once the date of the event has passed, but there have been many successful gatherings scheduled using Facebook in previous years.
Whether it’s through education, awareness, or outreach, social media can help to mobilize a cause and to build a base of supporters. We’re in an age where a Facebook Page about the singer Shakira has over 90,000,000 likes – if our global community has been given such a powerful means of communication, shouldn’t we use it for social change? So, good luck in your online activism, and hopefully this helps to further your cause!