After the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in 2013, America was placed at a critical, yet very clear crossroad: to address the social climate of the country, or to ignore it.
Fast forward to one year later, and the country was turned on its side once again with the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. But this time, a movement began to unfold by way of social media through the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. What started as just a few voices chiming in on Twitter expressing their sentiments about injustices in our criminal justice system and society as a whole turned into a highly structured social movement, and moreover a social media event.
Black Lives Matter has seldom been viewed from the lens of being social media event/campaign. However, the movement has had a clear mode of objectives, strategies and outcomes that have moved the message from the personal social media accounts of few, into the homes of millions.
As defined in the biography of the official Twitter page for Black Lives Matter, the campaign stands for the following:
The official Facebook page for Black Lives Matter goes into even further detail on the event’s purpose:
#BlackLivesMatter is an online forum intended to build connections between Black people and our allies to fight anti-Black racism, to spark dialogue amongst Black people, and to facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement.
The objectives of Black Lives Matter are also rooted in data that reveal extreme disparities in the incarceration rates, income and treatment of people of color in society.
Black Lives Matter has been able to garner genuine interest and consistent attention on social media by constant dialogue surrounding the agendas set by leaders of the movement.
493,134 tweets using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter were generated over the 30 day period from August 29- September 28. The hashtag also garners nearly 700 tweets each hour.
This social media event most plays out during times of breaking news stories that call for a response from Black Lives Matter supporters. For instance, on September 2, Black Lives Matter tweets peeked at approximately 35,000 tweets in one day, the most during the time from August 29- September 28. September 2 also happened to be the day the day that South Carolina governor Nikki Haley made remarks during an address to the National Press Club that the Black Lives Matter movement is a distraction from true progress to racial equality.
Black Lives Matter has also resulted in transforming from a social media event into structured rhetoric around the goals and objectives of the movement. A Black Lives Matter course is now offered at Dartmouth University for a further discussion of the event beyond its online implications.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
Support From Popular Twitter Personalities: A large part of Black Lives Matter being a successful social media event lies not only in what users are tweeting about, but which users are tweeting about the event. Over the past year that Black Lives Matter has garnered national attention and momentum, key leaders have emerged in creating a path for others to follow. Deray McKesson, Johnetta Elzie, and Black Lives Matter founders Parisse Cullors, Opal Tometti and Alicia Garza.
I love my blackness. And yours.
— deray mckesson (@deray) September 28, 2015
— ShordeeDooWhop (@Nettaaaaaaaa) September 27, 2015
— patrisse cullors (@osope) August 7, 2015
Continuation of the Social Media Event into New, Fresh Topics
Black Lives Matter has maintained its momentum and strength as a social media event through the expansion of the campaign to cover other topics essential to the movement. Having other hashtags associated with the movement has helped to establish Black Lives Matter as a multi dimensional campaign, not limited to one specific set of beliefs, criteria, ideals or standards.
Other hashtags such as #BlackGirlMagic, #CampaignZero, #WeCantBreathe, #SayHerName and #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen for instance all come together to create the one cohesive event that is Black Lives Matter.
Although the movement has been criticized for its ability to create solidified legislative changes, it has kept its relevance for so long in the media for its ability to constantly evolve. But not staying stagnant with one permanent message, it has been able to cover a multiplicity of topics and important news events by bringing in new themes and ideas.
But even with the creation of new trends, the general public is still able to refer back to one cohesive idea to sum up all of the rhetoric used in the event: Black Lives Matter.
Above all, the strength of Black Lives Matter sits in the movement’s ability to incorporate all voices into the discussion. Whether ideas are similar or not, having a social justice movement unfold over social media as a campaign and event allows millions of people from around the world to join in on the conversation at any time of the day and at any moment.
Even with distinct leaders of the movement, Black Lives Matter has branded itself as being for the people and of the people.