Social Media for Social Movements: Lessons Learned from #GoogleWalkout

A teal background with the words “Social Media for Social Movements: Lessons Learned from #GoogleWalkout” in white.

#GoogleWalkout went viral, trending around the world and still being covered by international media one year later. On the day of the walkout, we reached 3.2 million impressions just on @GoogleWalkout’s tweets alone.

With that in mind, here are the social media guidelines that have helped make #GoogleWalkout a success. There are 11 guidelines, all keeping with three main “golden rules.” If you take just three things away from this guide, make it these tips:

A teal image saying “3 social media for social movements golden rules: Show & tell, keep up momentum, and remain accessible.”
A teal image saying “3 social media for social movements golden rules: Show & tell, keep up momentum, and remain accessible.”
Three social media for social movements golden rules: Show and tell, keep up momentum, and remain accessible.

We’ll dive into those three a bit later, but let’s get started!

Choose a memorable handle, hashtag, and icon/banner.

If what you’re organizing around can’t be succinctly summed up, go the @EthicalGooglers route and declare what you stand for. A bonus: that sort of handle can be reused if you end up needing to organize around additional, more separate issues.

A common pitfall: organizers will occasionally try to use their own personal Twitter accounts to centralize a movement. We struggle to think of a situation where this is a better strategy than creating a new account, especially if your personal account doesn’t already have a very large following. Ego is where movements go to die — don’t play into it! This is bigger than you now.

Your icon and banner, though less important, go a long way in giving your movement a polished look. Settle on a few colors and stick to them. If your icon has text, make sure it’s sparse and large enough to read. For this reason, using an entire flyer as an icon isn’t a good move, though you’re often able to pull one image from it. Photopea.com is a great online version of Photoshop, and it’s free.

Formulate messaging and stay on it.

Often, your demands are your messaging. If you’re bringing something to light, ie as a whistleblower, a quick summary of that content is your messaging.

All you need is Twitter — usually.

Use a social media manager to handle multiple accounts and schedule posts. Be mindful of timing.

We use Hootsuite as our social media manager, as it’s relatively simple and allows for lots of flexibility. There’s a free plan and a paid plan. The free plan lets you have up to 30 scheduled Tweets at a time, which should be enough! If you’re running a specific timeboxed campaign, however (see #WalkoutYearInReview — 48 tweets in 12 hours!) you may want to go for the free 30 day trial of the unlimited paid plan. If you ultimately don’t have use for the paid plan beyond the 30 days, don’t forget to cancel before they charge you, as it’s not cheap.

Keep up momentum. Start a drumbeat.

If your action lends itself to this sort of tactic at all, take advantage of it.

There’s a time and a place for different outlets.

Every post should have a purpose.

Show don’t tell — well, don’t just tell.

Photos create an emotional appeal, an air of relatability. They often spark emotions in people more than just written words.

Some multimedia ideas:

  • Are you making signs? Document the sign making process.
  • Are people physically gathering somewhere? Take photos showing the size of the crowd.
  • Is someone making a speech? Video and post clips — even better, post a transcript as additional tweets in the thread.
  • Is your action individually distributed, ie people logging out of an app at a specific time? Post a photo of the logout screen. Encourage people to post signs (it can just be a piece of paper with a sentence in Sharpie) in your hashtag, then retweet them. For a lower risk option, in case people are afraid to attach their account to the action, let people know they can DM you their signs and you’ll post them yourself.

An important caveat on all of this is to make sure you’re utilizing accessibility best practices.

Make sure your content is accessible.

On Twitter, this looks like:

  1. Adding alt-text to your images (check out this simple guide).
  2. Never posting a screenshot of text without posting the same content as text. Sighted people often feel posting a screenshot is a great way to get around Twitter’s 280 character limit, not realizing they’re cutting off people who use screen readers (typically those who are low vision or blind) from their message.
  3. Making sure your graphics meet the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) color contrast standard. As you are making your graphics, utilize WebAIM’s contrast checker to be sure your color choices won’t make your content inaccessible to those with low vision, low contrast vision, or color vision deficiency.

Reach out to more established accounts for support, and keep your DMs open.

You’ll also want to keep your DMs open, as press will be looking to get in touch with you.

Pick and choose which reporters you speak to, and go into an interview with a goal.

Never go into an interview without a specific goal in mind, and know you don’t need to respond to every DM you get — not by a long shot.

Don’t feed the trolls.

We look forward to working with you in the future — remember, our DMs are open! When we fight together, we win together, and we’re by your side.

#GoogleWalkout 11/1 11:10am to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace that doesn’t work for everyone. Views ≠ Google.