Edrington, Candice, & Lee, Nicole (2018). Tweeting a Social Movement: Black Lives Matter and its use of Twitter to Share Information, Build Community, and Promote Action. Journal of Public Interest Communications, 2(2). 289-306.

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 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.

A content analysis of the primary Black Lives Matter Twitter account was conducted. Tweets were collected using the social media monitoring platform Crimson Hexagon, which allows subscribers to collect all public posts from a given account. For this analysis, all tweets sent by the @BlkLivesMatter Twitter handle between January 1, 2014, and December 31, 2017 were collected. The initial sample included 16,203 posts. However, to assess the communicative functions used by BLM, posts that were sent directly to an individual were excluded. Retweets of other accounts without commentary also were deleted. This resulted in a final sample of 2,225 tweets.

Key Findings

  • Sharing Information was by far the most common function used by BLM, but different types of Community and Action messages were also common.
  • The communicative function of BLM’s tweets changed over time. Although Information posts remained the most common, they decreased over time relative to other types of posts.
  • Community and Information posts were retweeted more than Action posts, but there were no significant differences in terms of the number of replies.

Implications for Practice
Other social movements and organizations looking to grow and spread their messages can learn from the case of BLM. Although it is important to share information and calls to action, these findings suggest that using social media to build community is more likely to amplify messages through sharing.

Article Location
The full article is available at: http://journals.fcla.edu/jpic/article/view/106120/102293

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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