will be tweeted
WRITTEN BY TWINOMUGISA PIUS
The Revolution of Dignity across North Africa and the Middle East - especially the Egyptian protests of 2011, mainstreamed the conversation on social media as a revolutionary tool. A few years later, hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo galvanized millions globally against white supremacy and sexual abuse. Hashtags are especially affiliated with the Twitter platform, which boasts a unique ability to host and influence trending conversations on timely topics.
Recently in my own country, Ugandan Twitter users invaded and hijacked the corporatized hashtag #VisitUganda and were able to force the postponement of the Viacom Africa Music Awards indefinitely. This got me curious about the best principles for tweeting for social change and political struggle. Here are four observations I made:
1. STAY ACTIVE
You need to give Twitter enough time. Twitter won’t work well for those who are too busy to use it. The Twittersphere is morphing every minute.
Choose your niche and find people who are engaged in your niche - follow them. Tweet and retweet within this niche, using trending hashtags. Tag big accounts in your niche.
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Tweeting a thought on trending matters within your niche once every 30 minutes is a great start. If you want to do it in real time, you can set a reminder on your phone every 30 minutes for the first week of tweeting to remind you to stay active.
If that’s too disruptive to your routine, you can alternatively block out time to schedule your entire day’s tweets with a tool like Buffer. Your tweets will go out, as scheduled, even when you are not online. I don’t recommend scheduling tweets more than 24 hours in advance, since the terrain shifts fast.For those that are good at computers, Tweepi can be another great alternative tool to use. This tracks relevant tweets and uses artificial intelligence to tweet it on your behalf. You only have to find hashtags and accounts associated with your campaign and let tweepi do the rest for you.
2. FIND YOUR CAMPAIGN COMMUNITY
Following Twitter users in your niche is a good start, but reaching out to them to introduce yourself and the goals you have is even better. While a number of them may not respond, some may see your vision and offer a helping hand to propel your campaign. It’s not a heavy lift, after all, to retweet or use a hashtag, but you want to make sure the content you are creating is on par with the caliber of content they usually create and retweet before reaching out. Feel free to offer them a few resources - such as graphics and hashtags - so your asks are clear and they don’t have to do much legwork themselves.
3. DON’T FORGET YOUR HASHTAG
The ongoing #FarmersProtest in India arguably mobilized more participants than any protest in human history. The hashtag helped bring farmers and those in solidarity with them to the streets. Agricultural unions are now in direct negotiations with the state on reforms.
Hashtags act both to unify a campaign and provide the most current updates and information on that campaign. A shorter hashtag is usually advised over a longer one.
4. RECLAIM A HASHTAG
Hashtag reclaiming went mainstream when gay Americans hijacked the white supremacists’ #ProudBoys hashtag after Donald Trump’s debate blunders in October. The tactic is essentially a digital equivalent of flooding an opponent’s rally with his dissidents, carrying messages that turn his own against him.
In February 2021, Ugandans achieved great success hijacking the hashtag #VisitUganda that was being used to promote Viacom’s Africa Music Awards, slated to take place in the country’s capital Kampala. Ugandans felt it wasn’t the right time to host such a show in the country where their own musicians were in prison and the popular musician-turned-opposition-politician, Bobi Wine, was being persecuted by the ruling regime. Jeffrey Smith, an award-winning American journalist and founder of Vanguard Africa, also helped push out the hashtag. As this momentum snowballed, the organizers of the show had no choice but to postpone it indefinitely.
Hijacking a hashtag will propel your message across those in that niche. If the hashtag is portraying the good deeds of the government, hijacking it means those following it will be able to notice the news you want them to see.
These principles are not exhaustive, and with our ever-changing social media terrain, they may soon be outdated. Those using Twitter as a primary platform for digital campaigning should always remain especially attentive to new tips and tactics for tweeting.
TWINOMUGISA PIUS is a youth Activist from Uganda.