I was in the middle of eating breakfast on Saturday, Jan. 28 when news spread far enough of President Donald Trump’s executive order barring entrance to the United States by refugees and green-card holders from seven Middle Eastern nations. The one that has since been deemed The Muslim Ban.
I was out of town visiting some friends. For the rest of my day, we—much like the majority of the nation— were glued to Twitter as people across the world expressed outrage and contempt on what an overwhelming majority call an unjust, immoral and unconstitutional display of power from the 45th United States president.
As Saturday evening turned to widespread protests in airports across the country and an eventual federal overturn of portions of Trump’s executive order, the common thread that connected this narrative was found in the American Civil Liberties Union’s social media mobilization.
"Extreme vetting" is a euphemism for discrimination against Muslims. Period.
— ACLU National (@ACLU) January 27, 2017
— ACLU National (@ACLU) January 27, 2017
As a longtime watchdog for civil rights and defending the Constitution, it’s completely and utterly imperative that the ACLU stays on top of its social game. The ACLU demonstrated a number of strong social strategies throughout Saturday, Jan. 28. So strong, in fact, that an argument can be made that the nonprofit’s messaging and social coverage swayed the American public’s strong reactions and fueled the fire for protest.
How do you use social media to mobilize a nation into direct action?
It helps that Trump’s executive order was inherently unpopular by most American standards to begin with. You can almost break down the ACLU’s swift and effective handlings on Twitter alone. Just by scanning the ACLU’s social media timelines on January 28, you’ll find:
- Swiftly published blog content with powerful and effective headlines like Trump Begins His Unconstitutional Program of Anti-Muslim Discrimination
- The deployment of highly “snackable” and shareable messaging graphics
- Heavy sharing, retweeting and engaging with activists, social justice/impact influencers, and partner nonprofits
- A heavy circulation of user-generated content in general. Lots of it
— Bex Taylor-Klaus (@IBexWeBex) January 30, 2017
- Strong calls to action woven throughout to contact local and federal government officials, to join demonstrations, and to donate to the ACLU and similar orgs
- Emergent tech like Periscope and Facebook Live highlighting significant developments from demonstrations and other live goings on
— renee ahdieh (@rahdieh) January 30, 2017
That’s just after a quick scan. Toward the end of the evening, our feeds were cluttered with notable figures and even celebrities taking a stand against Trump’s executive order, posing challenges to followers to donate to the ACLU and matching all donations to specified number. The ACLU was on the tongues of the entire country by the end of Saturday night.
So what does that all mean?
A lot of things. We could discuss the sheer power of social media, the tense political and social climate of the United States, just how crucial it is to have a skilled social team behind your brand or message, but what we saw from the ACLU on Saturday is an amalgamation of all of this and more.
1000+ people are standing with refugees at the San Diego airport. Demonstrators have moved to both sides of the stre https://t.co/AblyjS7deu
— San Diego ACLU (@sdACLU) January 30, 2017
The ACLU’s efforts to combat President Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees worked. The evening ended in a partial victory those who oppose the EO.
Frankly, the ACLU’s strong and savvy sense of narrative ensured that, as Americans this was a situation we should all be aware of and taking action on. It demonstrates that directing actionable positions through social media can result in tangible, real-world change. Here, this means families won’t be torn apart and people won’t be sent away from the U.S. unlawfully.
We should take the work of the ACLU social media team to heart, from a professional point of view to simply how we live online as we face an continuously uncertain future as a country.
So props to you, ACLU. Thanks for all the work you do, and thanks for having a kickass social media team, too.