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How to Use Twitter to Effect Social Change

How can you change the world with the social-networking and microblogging site Twitter? One hundred forty characters at a time. For more information please visit: "":


  • Step 1: Be authentic and trustworthy Be authentic. Even when posting updates on behalf of your movement or organization, always tweet as you, a real person who is passionate about your cause. Tweets that sound like commercials or marketing jargon will turn off followers.
  • TIP: Earn and keep followers' trust by making sure your posts are accurate and honest.
  • Step 2: Be accessible Update your feed frequently to spread awareness and create a growing body of engaged advocates and volunteers. Share your reaction to relevant news, ask followers for their thoughts, post links, and retweet, or repost other people's tweets. Create conversations and establish relationships with your followers by responding to their posts with @messages.
  • Step 3: Create hashtags Organize your tweets by using hashtags, a way to identify tweets related to a certain topic. Designate a word or phrase related to your movement by prefacing it with the hash, or pound (#), symbol. Other users can then easily search for posts on that topic, and use the same hashtag when they're discussing it, helping to spread your message further.
  • TIP: Don't overuse hashtags, or you risk diluting the usefulness of your updates and coming off as spam.
  • Step 4: Follow hashtags Track hashtags related to your cause, either by searching on Twitter or by using an application that lets you manage several topics and users at once, like TweetDeck. Not only will this keep you up-to-date on what people are saying or linking to, it will help you find new like-minded people to follow, who may in turn follow you.
  • Step 5: Disseminate and mobilize When news develops around your cause or an event, alert your followers in real-time -- and issue a call to action. Sending out the time and location for a meeting or protest can be an effective way to mobilize a large number of people on short notice.
  • TIP: To create global solidarity, ask followers to change their location to your city, or change their profile picture to your logo.
  • Step 6: Be a watchdog Make the most of Twitter's real-time advantage. When news breaks, updates from on-the-scene citizen reporters can provide valuable information to others in the area, and can document for the outside world a more complete, nuanced picture of what's really happening on the ground.
  • TIP: Because Twitter can be accessed via GPRS technology on a cell phone, you can sometimes still post updates even if your government cuts off mobile phone service.
  • Step 7: Attract a global audience Tweet in multiple languages. If your native tongue is one that most foreign media won't understand, your cause will need updates that target a global audience. Also consider translating and retweeting as many trustworthy posts as you can to provide easy, immediate access to more voices than just your own. It takes many streams to form a mighty river.
  • FACT: When young people in Moldova believed Communists had rigged an election in April 2009, the hashtag #pman, short for the name of the capital city's largest square, was spontaneously created to mobilize a flash mob there.

You Will Need

  • A Twitter account
  • Followers
  • Trustworthiness
  • Multilingual capabilities

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