This summary is provided by the IPR Digital Media Research Center.
As social movement organizations continue to leverage social media platforms to reach salient publics, understanding the role of hashtags has become a prominent area of activism research. Social movement organizations use hashtags to co-create meaning surrounding various social justice issues by connecting people across the world and organizing to facilitate discussion and promote social change.
Specifically, this study filled a research gap by examining hashtag activism via a case study on the #MeToo movement through the lens of feminist activism. The #MeToo movement was originally created to provide victims of sexual violence with a community of people with similar experiences and a way to raise awareness and inspire social change. This study examined how social movement organizations use hashtags to co-create meaning with salient publics, how they frame relevant issues within the #MeToo movement on Twitter, and whether the presence of hashtags enhances the likelihood of a message to be retweeted.
A case study of the #MeToo movement was conducted to analyze how meanings were co-created by social movement organizations and audiences.
— Both social movement organizations and audiences co-created words, meaning, and hashtag frames to achieve their shared goals.
— Social movement organizations and audiences co-created the salience of issues in the online discussion by using words such as “women,” “sexual harassment,” “survivor,” “movement,” and “story.”
— The tweets created by both social movement organizations and social media users typically diagnosed the causes of oppressive social structures constraining women’s rights, suggested actions to take, and appreciated celebrities’ leadership in the movement.
— The use of multiple hashtags does not always lead to more retweets.
Implications for Practice
— Social media platforms are an effective way for social movement organizations to quickly spread information and facilitate social change on a global scale.
— Social movement organizations can use hashtags to cover a wide range of narratives surrounding an issue by encouraging people to speak out, empowering the public.
— Social movement organizations should focus on strategically employing fewer hashtags that are contextually relevant rather than using multiple hashtags. In other words, authentic hashtags are more effective than the frequency of hashtags.
Xiong, Y., Cho, M., & Boatwright, B. (2019). Hashtag activism and message frames among social movement organizations: Semantic network analysis and thematic analysis of Twitter during the# MeToo movement. Public relations review, 45(1), 10-23.
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