By Teri Fuller, Advocate, END Breast Cancer Illinois
I was first inspired to use social media as a means to end breast cancer while at NBCC’s 2012 Annual Advocate Summit. As I sat in the audience listening to social media experts discuss what the breast cancer movement can learn from other social change movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring, Dr. Alan Rosenblatt, one of the very top social media experts and Associate Director for Online Advocacy at the Center for American Progress and CAP Action Fund, pointed out that our task was simple: We could use social media tools to do what we do best—raise awareness about our deadline, make clear its urgency, and urge others to take action.
The next day during our State Action Planning Workshop, the advocates from Illinois decided to use social media as part of our primary strategy for ending breast cancer by 2020. And with the generous counsel of Dr. Rosenblatt, we in Illinois have launched our first social media campaign to urge all state Representatives to co-sponsor the Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act, or H.R. 3067.
To our suprise, this social media campaign has been fun and easy. And we think you can do it, too.
Here’s how we got started:
First, we began by setting up an electronic petition urging the remaining Illinois Representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 3067. Anyone can create a petition that is shared, or “tweeted,” on Twitter. We used a tool called Act.ly to create our e-petition. Because Twitter only allows you to post 140 characters at one time, we split up the petitions:
- One to target Representatives Donald Manzullo and John Shimkus at http://act.ly/5z1 and
- One to target Representatives Randy Hultgren, Joe Walsh, and Tim Johnson at http://act.ly/5z0.
You may be doing the math and asking why only five of the six remaining Representatives were targeted with these e-petitions. Here’s why: not all Representatives have Twitter accounts―although the majority do.
After creating the two e-petitions on Act.ly/, I simply signed and tweeted my two e-petitions to all of my followers. Here is one of the tweets is sent out:
petition @RepHultgren @RepJoeWalsh @RepTimJohnson to COSPONSOR Accelerating End of Breast Cancer Act http://act.ly/5z0 RT to sign #IL
What does all of this text mean?
To begin, the @RepHultgren is known as a handle, or name, used by Representative Randy Hultgren. This means that every time I tweet or someone else “retweets” this message, Representative Randy Hultgren’s office is notified. Likewise, Representative Joe Walsh and Representative Tim Johnson are “tweeted at” each time as well.
The text of the tweet is very simple: sign this petition urging these Representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 3067, and then provide a link to the e-petition . A person who sees the message on Twitter clicks on the link, clicks “Sign and Tweet,” and voila!, we are virtually one step closer to our goal of getting all Illinois Representatives to co-sponsor the bill.
Each time someone on Twitter signs and retweets the petition, all of his/her followers are likewise sent the message to sign the petition.
So far, these two petitions have been shared with nearly 30,000 Twitter users. 30,000. That is big as in huge! And this was all accomplished by just setting up a Twitter account and then creating an e-petition on Act.ly.
Setting Up a Twitter Storm
At our most recent meeting, END Breast Cancer Illinois further strategized our H.R. 3067 social media campaign, and we decided that we would host a Twitter storm during the first week of August 2012. A Twitter storm is a coordinated action on Twitter where activists all use to the same hashtag (#) to promote a cause, call to action, or piece of content.
Our plan is to get everyone we know to tweet and retweet the two e-petitions targeted at the Representatives for seven straight days. With each click, the Representatives will be notified. At the end of that week, advocates from END Breast Cancer IL will contact all our Representatives and we will use the grassroots techniques that NBCC has taught us to lobby for their co-sponsorship.
So How Can You Do This In Your Own State?
1. Create a Twitter account. For help on doing this, check out this four-minute video on YouTube: A Beginner’s Guide to Twitter.
2. Start following people. If you follow me, you can easily find the aforementioned e-petitions. My “handle” is @bigshotfuller. You can also follow NBCC @Deadline2020.
3. Create your own e-petition on Act.ly. Just go to http://act.ly/ and sign in using your newly created Twitter name and password.
4. Copy as much of Illinois’s petition as you like—don’t forget to substitute the Twitter names of the Illinois Representatives your own state Reprentatives. To find out Twitter handles for your Representatives go to http://govsm.com/ (please note: not all Representatives will have Twitter accounts—although the majority do).
5. Next, sign and tweet. Your followers will see your tweet and take action. Tweet throughout the day—at various times of the day. Maybe even decide to hold a Twitter storm of your own.
6. Finally, follow up with the Representatives in person and/or by phone.
Now that you know how to create your own Twitter H.R. 3067 Social Media Campaign, please take a moment to help your fellow advocates in Illinois by signing and retweeting our e-petitions: http://act.ly/5z1 and http://act.ly/5z0.
See you on Twitter!