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The Power of Social Media

By Rachel L. West
Advocacy & Community Outreach Consultant

On the morning of June 22nd House Democrats stood up for gun violence prevention by sitting down. Over the course of the next 25 hours around 169 members of congress would participate in a sit in led by civil right icon Congressman John Lewis. Think progress has a list of those who joined here.

The following video shows the start of the sit in.

As you can see at the end of the above video, House Speaker Paul Ryan almost immediately calls for a recess thus shutting down C-SPAN’s broadcast. Just a few years ago this act would have prevented the American public from seeing and hearing what was going on. But social media has changed that.

House Members Scott Peters (D-CA) and Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) began live streaming from the floor of the house on Periscope and Facebook Live (Source). Other members of Congress posted photos on Twitter with updates and calls to action. With their feed still turned off C-SPAN aired Rep. Peters’ live stream.

According to Facebook the live stream on their network was viewed 3 million times. Twitter (who owns Periscope) reported that Rep. Peters and Rep. Swalwell’s tweets had 1 million views. Twitter also stated that the hashtag #NoBillNoBreak was used 1.4 million times (source).

Rep. Lewis explained to C-SPAN how the sit in was planned. You can watch his interview below.

The sit in made national headlines. It was certainly a watershed moment for how social media can be used as public policy advocacy tool. Hopeful we will see more elected officials using it to engage with constituents. Today (June 29th) I saw that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) for using Periscope to live streat a press conference/rally on gun violence prevention that she was holding in the Bay Area. At one point the stream was being viewed by 631 people. As I wrote this that number continued to rise.

As macro social work practitioners live streaming apps are another tool we need to add to our advocacy toolbox.

How do you envision using live streaming apps in your work? Share your thoughts in the commenting section below.

HT to Karen Zgoda for inspiring this post.

Posted by Rachel L. West

In addition to being the founder of The Political Social Worker blog, I am a consultant. My consulting practice offers advocacy and community outreach solutions to nonprofits, social good organizations, and private practitioners. Additionally, I offer career coaching to macro social work students and professionals.

One comment

  1. Great breakdown and I really enjoyed Karen’s tweet as well. Anywhere there is a story to be told live streaming can bring people there. Incredibly powerful tool. I have also seen a lot of politicians and other advocacy groups using SnapChat to tell “stories” at events they are attending as well.


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