Tweeting a Social Movement: Black Lives Matter and its use of Twitter to Share Information, Build Community, and Promote Action
Public relations research has gradually incorporated the study of advocacy organizations. However, little research has focused on social movements in particular. Through a content analysis of all public tweets sent by Black Lives Matter (BLM) over a four-year period, this study examined the message strategies used on Twitter by the social movement as a means to share information, build community, and promote action. Consistent with research on other types of organizations, informational messages proved to be the most common. The study also analyzed the influence that these strategies had on audience engagement in terms of replies and retweets. Findings suggest that community building messages garner the most retweets but no significant differences were found in terms of replies.
Auger, G. (2013). Fostering democracy through social media: Evaluating diametrically opposed nonprofit advocacy organizations' use of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Public Relations Review, 39, 369-376. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2013.07.013
Bortree, D. S., & Seltzer, T. (2009) Dialogic strategies and outcomes: An analysis of environmental advocacy groups’ Facebook profiles. Public Relations Review, 35, 317- 319. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2009.05.002
Carney, N. (2016). All lives matter, but so does race: Black Lives Matter and the evolving role of social media. Humanity & Society, 40(2), 180-199. doi:10.1177/0160597616643868
Carty, V. (2015). Social movements and new technology. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Castells, M. (2015). Networks of outrage and hope: Social movements in the internet age, 2nd Ed. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Ciszek, E. L. (2015). Bridging the gap: Mapping the relationship between activism and public relations. Public Relations Review, 41, 447-455. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2015.05.016
Day, E. (2015, July 19). #BlackLivesMatter: The birth of a new civil rights movement. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/19/blacklivesmatter-birth-civil-rights-movement
Deetz, K. (2015). The threads: Reflections on #BlackLivesMatter and 21st century racial dynamics. African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter, 15(1) 30-33.
DeLuca, K. & Brunner, E. (2017). Activism in the wake of the event of China: Abandoning the domesticated rituals of democracy to explore the dangers of wild public screens. In C. Foust, A. Pason, & K. Rogness (Eds.), What democracy looks like: The rhetoric of social movements and counterpublics (pp. 225-245). Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press.
Diani, M. (1992). The concept of social movement. The Sociological Review, 40, 1–25. doi:10.1111/j.1467-954X.1992.tb02943.x
Dozier, D. M., & Lauzen, M. M. (2000). Liberating the intellectual domain from the practice: Public relations, activism, and the role of the scholar. Journal of Public Relations Research, 12(1), 3-22. doi:10.1207/S1532754XJPRR1201_2
Edgett, R. (2002). Toward an ethical framework for advocacy in public relations. Journal of Public Relations Research, 14(1), 1-26. doi:10.1207/S1532754XJPRR1401_1
Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS Statistics, 4th Ed. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
Garza, A. (2016). A herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. In J. Hobson (Ed.). Are all the women still white?: Rethinking race, expanding feminisms (pp. 25-28). Albany, NY: Suny Press.
Grunig, L. A. (1992). Activism: How it limits the effectiveness of organizations and how excellent public relations departments respond. In J. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence and public relations and communications management (pp. 483-502). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Guo, C., & Saxton, G. D. (2014). Tweeting social change: How social media are changing nonprofit advocacy. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 43(1), 57-79. doi:10.1177/0899764012471585
Hamilton, J. (2016). The role of social media in social movements: The case of Black Lives Matter (Master’s Thesis, Texas Christian University). Retrieved from https://repository.tcu.edu/bitstream/handle/116099117/11405/Hamilton__Jordan-Honors_Project.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Huang, Y. C., Lin, Y. P., & Saxton G. D. (2016). Give me a like: How HIV/AIDS nonprofit organizations can engage their audience on Facebook. AIDS Education and Prevention, 28, 539-556. doi:10.1521/aeap.2016.28.6.539
Holtzhausen, D. (2007). Activism. In E. L. Toth (Ed.), The future of excellence in public relations and communication management (pp. 357-380). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Hon, L. (2015). Digital social advocacy in the Justice for Trayvon Campaign. Journal of Public Relations Research, 27(4), 299-321.doi:10.1080/1062726X.2015.1027771
Horn, J. (2013). Gender and social movements: Overview. Retrieved from the BRIDGE Gender and Social Movements website: http://socialmovements.bridge.ids.ac.uk/start-here/overview-report-and-brief-bulletin
Lamme M. O. & Russell, K. M. (2010). Removing the spin. Toward a new theory of public relations history. Journalism and Communication Monographs, 11(4), 281-362.
Lee, A. R. (1997). Exploration of the sources of student activism: The case of South Korea. International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 9(1), 48-65. doi:10.1093/ijpor/9.1.48
Lee, M., Kim, H., & Kim, O. (2015). Why do people retweet a tweet?: Altruistic, egotistic, and reciprocity motivations for retweeting. Psychologia; an International Journal of Psychology in the Orient, 58(4), 189–201. doi:10.2117/psysoc.2015.189
Lovejoy, K., & Saxton, G. D. (2012). Information, community, and action: How nonprofit organizations use social media. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 17(3), 337-353. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2012.01576.x
Lucas, S. E. (1980). Coming to terms with movement studies. Central States Speech Journal, 31(4) 255-266.
Neiger, B., Thackeray, R., Burton, S., Thackeray, C., & Reese, J. (2013). Use of twitter among local health departments: An analysis of information sharing, engagement, and action. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 15(8), e177. doi:10.2196/jmir.2775
Obar, J. A., Zube, P., & Lampe, C. (2012). Advocacy 2.0: An analysis of how advocacy groups in the United States perceive and use social media as tools for facilitating civic engagement and collective action. Journal of Information Policy, 2(1), 1-25. doi:10.5325/jinfopoli.2.2012.0001
Reber, B. H. (2013). Advocacy. In R. L. Heath (Ed.), Encyclopedia of public relations, 2nd Ed (pp. 14-15). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
Rheingold, H. (1999, February 2). Electronic democracy toolkit. Retrieved from https://people.well.com/user/hlr/electrondemoc.html
Saxton, G. D., & Waters, R. D. (2014). What do stakeholders like on Facebook? Examining public reactions to nonprofit organizations' informational, promotional, and community-building messages. Journal of Public Relations Research, 26(3), 280-299. doi:10.1080/1062726X.2014.908721
Seo, H., Kim, J. Y., & Yang, S.-U. (2009). Global activism and new media: A study of transnational NGOs’ online public relations. Public Relations Review, 35, 123-126. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2009.02.002
Smelser, N. J., Killian, L. M., & Turner, R. H. (n.d.). Social movement. In Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/social-movement
Smith, B. (2010). Socially distributing public relations: Twitter, Haiti and interactivity in social media. Public Relations Review, 36, 329-335. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2010.08.005
Smith, M. F. & Ferguson, D. P. (2001). Activism. In R. L. Heath (Ed.), SAGE handbook of public relations (pp. 291-300). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
So, J., Prestin, A., Lee, L., Wang, Y., Yen, J., & Chou, W. S. (2016). What do people like to "share" about obesity? A content analysis of frequent retweets about obesity on Twitter. Health Communication, 31(2), 193-206. doi:10.1080/10410236.2014.940675
Stewart, C. J., Smith, C. A., & Denton, R. E. (2012). Persuasion and social movements. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
Taylor, M. & Das, S. (2010). Public relations in advocacy: Stem cell research organizations’ use of the internet in resource mobilization. Public Relations Journal, 4(4), 1-22.
Thackeray, R., Neiger, B., Burton, S., & Thackeray, C. (2013). Analysis of the purpose of statehealth departments' tweets: Information sharing, engagement, and action. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 15(11), e255. doi:10.2196/jmir.3002
Tilly, C. & Wood, L. J. (2013). Social movements 1768-2012. New York, NY: Paradigm Publishers.
Toledano, M. (2016). Advocating for reconciliation: Public relations, activism, advocacy and dialogue. Public Relations Inquiry, 5(3), 277-294. doi:10.1177/2046147X16666595
Touraine, A. (2002). The importance of social movements. Social Movement Studies, 1(1), 89-95.
University of California, Santa Barbara. (n.d.). Social movements, revolutions, and social change. Retrieved from http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/research/social-movements-revolutions-social-change
Wortham, J. (2016). Black tweets matter: How the tumultuous, hilarious, wide-ranging chat party on Twitter changed the face of activism in America. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/black-tweets-matter-180960117/
Authors publishing their work in the Journal of Public Interest Communications retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY NC) that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. By agreeing to these terms, the author(s) grant and assign the following rights to the Publisher:
- The irrevocable, royalty-free right to publish, reproduce, publicly display, publicly perform, and distribute the Work in perpetuity throughout the world in all means of expression by any method or media now known or hereafter discovered, including electronic format.
- The irrevocable, royalty-free right to use the Author’s name and likeness in association with the Work in published form and in advertising and promotional materials, and
- The irrevocable, royalty-free right to license others to do any or all of the above.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website).