There is no doubt that 2020 has been a year of change. Amid a global pandemic, various civil and human rights movements (most prominently Black Lives Matter) mobilized and reached larger audiences. Now, more than ever, people share their opinions and frustrations over social media in the hope of raising awareness and using their voices for positive change. Some of us, however, struggle to find the appropriate words or message. I often feel stressed over whether I say too much or too little on social media. But by implementing a few common-sense strategies before posting, I now craft more thoughtful, confident, and respectful messages. Thorough research, thinking about the intended audience, carefully composing the message, and proofreading at the end will help create a social media post that is not only well-crafted, but well-informed and powerful.
Do Your Research!
As with any school assignment, know the facts before you sit down to write. Misunderstanding the gravity of the topic or situation will reduce your credibility and might be offensive. Look up current events, catch up on the history behind the movement, and familiarize yourself with the goals of an organization. Reading literature on a specific topic like racism also allows for more in-depth understanding. Check out the WRC’s list of literary recommendations and our Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
Additionally, research what an opposing organization might say as you prepare to address an audience. Using evidence from their argument in a new way might especially sway them toward your perspective. By informing yourself of all aspects of an issue, you’ll strengthen your argument and write with more depth and nuance.
Think about the Intended Audience
Are you posting on Instagram to followers who understand the topic well? Are you posting on Facebook to friends who might not be in the loop? Are you responding to someone who has opposing views? To write the most effective post possible, think about who will read this post. Beginning with a detailed history of the movement might make sense if your followers have not taken the time to research it themselves. Be prepared for the possibility that the audience will include someone who disagrees with you. This summer, in fact, I helped a friend respond to a follower’s Instagram story that undermined recent anti-racism movements. People in disagreement may see your response as a personal attack. Even if that is how you feel like acting, explain how their arguments contradict the facts, or how your argument is more inclusive. Make an effort to bring them into the conversation, rather than starting a name-calling match. This will make others more open to talking with you while maintaining the strength and influence of your post.
Craft the Message
The main step, crafting the message, should be done with thought and attention. Use your research and understanding to bring up facts and opinions that demonstrate the importance of your argument. In addition, your language choices are especially important when addressing controversies. Words hold power in their denotations (primary meanings) and their connotations (positive and negative associations), so take care to use language that is not only correct and widely accepted, but also inclusive and sensitive to historical meanings.
Take your stance with clarity and directness, but be sure to know where you stand within the debate. If you have no personal experience but want to speak out in favor of a movement, just make sure your post doesn’t come off as performative or forced. Demonstrate that you not only support a movement but also have an interest in learning more or changing your behavior.
Social media posts are often paired with pictures or videos. Choose these wisely. There are abundant images on the internet depicting protests or other events that portray the significance of your topic. Images add depth to your post and catch your followers’ eye as they are scrolling through their feed. Just remember that not all images are in the public domain. The W&M Libraries offer some easy-to-use advice for finding copyright-friendly resources for media projects.
Before Posting, Re-Read
Before posting, ask yourself some questions. Is this the message I want to convey? How will these words positively (or negatively) affect someone’s view of the movement? If your words match your intention, post! If not, maybe have a trusted peer or family member help you out. Whenever possible, avoid confusion about your claims. Stand up for these arguments proudly and confidently.
With all of these tips in mind, go forth and craft your thoughtful, well-informed, influential social media post and enter into the conversation about significant moral topics of our day. After all, the world needs more people who take the time to stop, research, and, most importantly, speak out on the complexities of these issues if we are to move forward.