Social media is useful in building and mobilising community, raising awareness (and even money!) about the issues you feel passionate about and getting the attention that helps to amplify your efforts. Here are a few tips from our experience with CODE RED:
1. Show, don’t just tell.
Facebook has moved to a pay-to-promote system on its pages. The only people who actually get your posts in their feed are the ones who interact with your page a lot by clicking like, share or leaving a comment. Posts of videos and photos get more shares so use your facebook page to show off all the stuff you do offline.
Also, blog posts with a photo or image get more views than those without.
2. Connect with like minds.
Join WOMANTRA, like Walking Into Walls and CODE RED for gender justice! on facebook, sign on to the CatchAFyah Caribbean Feminist Network, share images of your activist work on the CatchAfyah Flickr group. There are lots of Caribbean social justice organisations online. Connect with them and build relationships by supporting their work (and in turn you’ll get lots of support for yours). Link to their blog posts in your own. They’ll appreciate the love and you’ll build your network effortlessly.
3. Use more than one platform.
You can’t just use facebook. Facebook is seeking to monetise every aspect of the experience and you simply can’t afford to pay to promote each post. It’s pretty easy to sync your twitter, facebook, tumblr, youtube and wordpress accounts so do so! Use only those platforms that you can manage and that are relevant but don’t leave it all to facebook.
4. Know your networks.
For Caribbean people facebook is by far the most widely used. Twitter is perhaps a close second with national and regional networks of Caribbean people. Twitter is also proving more useful for discussions than facebook pages though facebook groups are useful discussion spaces too. Use the #catchafyah hashtag to connect with the Caribbean feminist twitterati and lookout for our popular tweetchats. Tumblr users tend to be younger (teens/early 20s). Air Me Now is successfully using youtube for their oomanist live show. Knowing your networks helps you to decide what to use and how to use them.
5. Relationships! Relationships! Relationships!
Someone leaves you a comment? Reply. You ask a question? Dive into the discussion too. Don’t be afraid to show your personality. One Caribbean feminist activist once told me that she would post about a range of issues affecting women and no one would respond. One post about feeling like eating doubles and an avalanche of responses. The “social” in social media is all about human connection.
6. Just do it.
You can’t get it wrong. Well, you can sometimes. But you’re only human. The point is, that with social media, as with life, most things are figureoutable. You’ll learn a little CSS and HTML by trial and error. Don’t be afraid to try. And use google. Or call upon that network you’ve been building. And apologise gracefully and unequivocally when you make a mistake.
7. Be ethical. Always.
I once copied & pasted a news headline about an incident of violence against women (VAW). The minute I clicked enter I recognised how sensationalist and exploitative the headline was. The post, however, spread like wildfire on fb and twitter with major international VAW campaigns retweeting me (even months after the initial post). While this shows that sensationalism sells. You’re an activist, not a tabloid reporter. Don’t compromise your values. We want our posts to go viral and reach the mainstream but if we compromise our ethics we compromise our integrity.
8. Either the Caribbean is a Nation or it’s nothing
Daniel Miller and Don Slater noted in The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach, based on fieldwork in Trinidad, that representing the nation is an important part of Caribbean people’s online activity. It’s easy to get a sense of this from the names people choose for themselves which point to them being Trini, Baje, Guyanese, Jamaican etc. In the early CODE RED days I definitely had a sense that Caribbean people had a preference for social media spaces and initiatives which were identified with a specific country. To this day folks who should know better still want to break up Caribbean cyberspace along national boundaries. It’s like they can’t deal with the transnational, inter- and outernational nature Caribbean cyberspace. But that’s the way it is. There is a regional community of activists out there waiting to welcome you. Connect what’s happening locally to what’s going on in the rest of the region.
9. Take a break when you need to
Some like to think of what goes on online as frivolous. It ain’t. It’s work. It takes time. The better you get at it, demands increase. I’ve had people email me to complain when the CODE RED facebook page is not updated with the speed they expect. When you need to unplug do so. Without apology. It helps to have a team. Inviting submissions to your blog is one way of building a team if you don’t have one in-house.
10. Contact Us
Our team has not only been using social media for activism for a long time, some of us have facilitated social media training, conducted research on Caribbean people’s online activities and I’m currently working on research on Caribbean cyberfeminisms. We’d love to help! Email redforgender [at] gmail [dot] com.
What are the Caribbean activist social media spaces that we should know about? What have been your successes and challenges? How do you link your work on the ground with online communities? What other lessons have you learnt that you can share? Tell us in the comments!