How To Use Social Media To Be An Effective Ally

Sabreen Ahsan

This article was first published on Medium on Jun 1, 2020

As a social media marketing agency, we at PIYA Media are passionate about using social media to make a real positive social impact.

With the current widespread backlash — both justified and necessary — following the murder of African American Minnesotan, George Floyd by policeman Derek Chauvin, we believe that it is more necessary than ever to be mindful of how we use social media, and that we choose to use it to be effective allies to the Black community.

We have compiled a list of steps that we can all take to do just that. If you have any other points that you would add to this list, please let us know across all social media, @piyamedia:

Research, Reflect, then Respond

It is crucial that we research the facts surrounding an issue, before we start to comment on it.

Due to the way that the social media algorithms on Facebook and Instagram are designed, we are only shown content that is similar to the posts and content that we already engage with.

This means that we often end up in an echo chamber of our own opinions, unaware of our own privileges, and this makes it easy for us to never read or learn beyond our own environment. That’s why we have to get intentional and learn for ourselves, rather than rely on Facebook friends to provide us with facts.

To learn more about the scale of anti-Black institutional racism, @attorneycrump, @thegreatunlearn, and @laylafsaad are great places to start.

Be Mindful of what you share on social media

Even if you have the best intentions of raising awareness, please don’t share videos or images of Black people being killed or assaulted to make your point. Not only can these visuals be extremely triggering for those closer to the issue, but it also further dehumanises Black people, by taking away their right to privacy. Just think: would you want a video of you or a loved one in pain to be circulated online?

No Platform is Too Small

Whether on your business page or your personal account, you can find a way to use your voice to amplify and support those directly affected. Use their words as guidance (remember to always give credit!) and help this information to reach NEW audiences, so that wider awareness may lead to real change. Even if you reach and inform one new person, this is an important start.

Use What You Know

Not all of us are confident speakers or writers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t raise awareness. A great way to begin is to use your own specialism as a starting point for your discussions. Here at PIYA Media, we “get” social media, so that’s where we began. If you are a lawyer, use your ability to understand legal jargon to explain why police brutality is actually illegal — yet rarely punished. If you are a doctor, use your understanding of the human body to explain why George Floyd’s death was not merely an accident. If you are a hairdresser, explain to your audience the history of discrimination against black hairstyles.

If you’re stuck on what you may be able to start with, leave us a comment or send us a DM, and we’ll help you identify your special strength!

After Speech Comes Action

Speaking up is important, but taking action is what truly makes a difference. Here’s where your research comes in again: make sure you provide clear and verified (by the families of the victims) links to petitions, fundraisers, or events — these are how we can ACTIVELY help, beyond social media.

Examples of verified links to petitions and fundraisers are Justice For Big Floyd, and The Botham Jean Foundation

Optimise Your Social Media

On Instagram, clearly signpost your links — either in your bio, your description (on IGTV) or as a Swipe Up link on stories (if you have more than 10k followers.) Remember that posts reach more of your audience than stories.

If using your Facebook page, be aware that your posts will reach more people if you leave the link in the comments, rather than sharing the link as the main post. Also remember that posts with an image or video have more of a chance of being seen than text-only posts.

If using Twitter, use threads to expand your point, but make sure that the first tweet in the thread is attention grabbing enough to keep people reading. Also make sure that each tweet makes a point on its own, even in a thread. Remember to include a clear link, using url shortening websites such as bitly or shorturl to create an easy, short link that will fit within your character limit.

Final Thoughts

PIYA Media was founded to harness the influence of social media to support and lift Brands of Colour, both creative and commercial. But more importantly, we exist to support and lift the People of Colour behind those brands.

We live in an era in which the Internet has democratised our access to the public — more than in any other era of protest — and we need to use this to amplify the voices of our Black friends, neighbours, colleagues, and beyond.

Ultimately, it is not enough to be non-racist; now, more than ever, it is clear that we have to be actively anti-racist.

Have we missed any points? Let us know on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter.