With so much community activism and education happening on social media right now, it’s more important than ever to understand the most efficient and effective ways to spread the word about something you find useful and informative. An upcoming event. A list of must-read books. A thought-provoking video. That's why we've been hearing so much about “signal boosting,” the act of re-posting useful information from a specific source to your social media followers. You are quite literally boosting an important message, image, post or “signal.” While this activist tool is quite simple, we've put together some best practices with examples of people who are acing the technique. Here's the signal boosting 411.
What Is Signal Boosting and Why Is It the Social Media Practice We Need RN?
1. Know When To Pass The Mic
Lift up the voices of people directly working for change and people who are directly affected. In other words, rather than posting your own feelings of outrage about an injustice to a community that is not your own, be an ally by sharing the words of someone in that community. Or turn your platform over to an expert, as Julia Roberts did with Dr. Anthony Fauci to counter COVID-19 misinformation. (Granted, we're all not going to be able to interview our heroes, but a YouTube video clip is fine, too.)
2. Give Credit Where It's Due
Your aim is signal boosting, not signal stealing. So be sure to tag the creator in your image, name them in your caption and link to them wherever possible. Maybe even screen grab and re-post their whole post. The easier you make it for your followers to get to—for example, in the case of a book—an author’s own social media pages, the more impactful your bringing them up is going to be.
3. Be Careful When Showing Faces
While protest imagery can be a powerful form of witness, be aware that showing people’s faces can make it easier for the authorities to surveil them.
4. Think It Through
After a recent move to honor George Floyd by posting a solid black square prompted a backlash (critics said these empty squares tagged “BlackLivesMatter” clogged searches needed for information exchange), seasoned Black activists underscored the need for action, not merely gestures. In lieu of only sharing your perspective on a situation, what useful step can you take to impact it? (TLDR: Make things better, not worse.)
5. Avoid The Tone-deaf Hashtag
Hashtags should be respectful and reflect the gravity of the moment. While celebrity appearances and marches can have lighthearted moments, those aren't what you are asking your followers to focus on. It's about change, it's about the work and any silly emoji or thoughtless hashtag is going to not only undercut your message, it's going to get you (justly) roasted.
6. Master The "link In Bio"
While your social media account’s bio space is usually the repository of a throwaway comic line you put there when you opened the account years ago (See: “I was told there would be cupcakes”), consider putting in a link to a timely news article or insightful essay, then telling whoever reads your post to go click it.
7. Be Open To The Dialogue
In her New York Times-bestselling book So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo writes “You're going to screw this up royally. More than once.” She's talking about engaging in a dialogue about race. Do it anyway, she says. Here’s another suggestion, while you’re getting dragged for your well-meant but failed attempt at communication, or just being criticized period, show up for the discomfort. Listen. Learn. Leave the possibly-messy exchange there for others to learn from, along with you. Next time, chances are, you’ll do better.