Palestinians and Twitter: 15 Tips to Empower our Advocacy

Jerusalem- Today, being an activist is “cool.” A bully is not the “cool” person in your neighborhood anymore. It is even easier to obtain the title of an activist. A person who is very active on social media is a social media activist. If one actively discusses women’s issues, he/she is a feminist (women’s rights activist). The title of “activist” in Palestine is like the university degrees from Eastern Europe in the 70’s & 80’s that could be bought cheap. As those degrees do not help heal the sick or build a sustainable tower, having the “activist” title does not make one a great advocate of the cause.

A lot of people in Palestine explicitly and harshly criticize online activists. The main argument is that we need people on the ground not online. This criticism is mostly right when talking about Facebook activists and mostly wrong when talking about Twitter activists. Although the Palestinian community on Twitter is relatively small, it encompasses a lot of the field activists in a way that makes it easier to locate and network (in contrast to Facebook). Facebook users get thousands of followers by posting “sexy” photos, silly jokes and spamming walls. Needless to say, some Facebook pages are serious and do a great job in advocacy, but they are the exception to the rule. On Twitter, those with most followers are those who report live from the field or produce original content. In fact, Twitter users lose followers when they spam timelines with useless tweets.

For Palestinians, social media is not only important for live reports, but it is also essential to give Palestinians a voice while their voices are hijacked by the Palestinian politicians. It is also important to connect Palestinians in exile and the homeland. That is why I find myself convincing my comrades to join Twitter at a time when many criticize online “activism.” Among Palestinians the word “activist” has become a sensitive word. A lot try to distance oneself from this word, but let me break it to you: “activist” is not a recently created word. There is no reason to become sensitive about it; it is merely a common noun.

ac·tiv·ist [ak-tuh-vist]

noun 1. “an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, especially a political cause.”

It is true that sometimes we get over our heads in our online activities. Sometimes we get excited about trending or other advocacy methods without giving a thought about our goal. That is all fixable. The pro-Palestine presence is stronger on Twitter than the pro-Zionist presence, but we still have a long way to go. The number of Palestinians with over 10,000 followers does not exceed 20. We need to empower each other and have a stronger presence to advocate for our cause more efficiently and push forward our ideas.

Working as a social media specialist for the best part of my short career, I thought of sharing 15 tips for Palestinians to keep in mind when using Twitter as an advocacy tool to help make their tweets efficient and empower their existence on twitter. These tips are also based on my personal observation of Palestinians on Twitter.

  1. Spamming: twitter is not a chatting tool. If you want to chat with someone use the Direct Messaging functionality (DM). People will unfollow you if you spam their Timeline. It is alright to reply to people and mention them. If you sense that the chitchat will be long, just take it off the public timeline.
  2. Reporting Live: reporting from live events, especially tense ones, is the number one reason for boosting ones followership.
  3. Originality: producing original content will boost your followership whether be it photos, videos or articles written by you.
  4. Multimedia: posting photos and videos boosts the chances of retweets (RT) and thus boosts your chances of receiving more followers.
  5. Verifying Photos: Posting photos of live events and Israeli attacks is essential but also critical. Posting old photos as if they were recent will make you lose credibility and thus followers. Before posting a photo verify it by using the google images search tool. Look up the photo and see where it appeared on the net before.
  1. Creativity: Be creative when you post photos, videos or articles. If you tweet an article, do not merely copy-paste the title if the title is not catchy, find a line in the article that is catchier and use it. If you tweet a photo or video, be descriptive and creative in your tweet.
    e.g.Wrong: From the demonstration in NabiSaleh
    Right: Raining Gas in #NabiSaleh
  2. Mention tweeps: mention other tweeps when you tweet their photos, videos or articles. This encourages others to mention you and retweet you and follow you.
  3. Hash tags: use hash tags wisely. Too many hash tags in a tweets weakens it. Locate the one keyword in your tweet. If you must, do not exceed three hash tags per tweet.
  4. Cursing: using bad language even when are angry or cursing at the occupation does not make the argument any stronger. On the contrary you drive away people especially those who follow to learn more and still newbies at following the cause and trying to know more. Revolution is about ethics first and foremost. If you have an ethical and just cause, you will find it unnecessary to use bad language since your hands will be full with facts, numbers and arguments to use. You shouldn’t have the time to figure out the dirtiest word in the language you speak to describe your enemy.
  5. Mention sources: If you copy tweets or tweet pictures it is essential to mention the source if it was not obvious. Mention Twitter users whom you obtained the information from. This does not make your tweet any less important. When you mention people, people mention you as well. When you steal from people’s timelines, they become reluctant to RT or mention you.
  6. Hasbara spams: if you get mentioned by hasbara trolls there is no need to open an argument with them. Most of the time their purpose is to drag you to their field and use you to promote their ideas. Block them and move forward. This way you exclude them from the Twitter community rather than make them an annoying part of it.
  7. Respect: it is very important to show respect to people’s opinions even when you totally disagree. Do not ridicule their opinions or use provocative language. Pick words wisely. Otherwise you will end up only with followers who totally agree with you. That makes your presence on Twitter useless as you will lose the power to influence those who disagree with you.
  8. Following spam: do not follow people with the expectation of a follow-back. It is not a give-and-take procedure. You follow people because you are interested in following their tweets on a daily basis, and people follow you for the same reason. It is okay to follow people who do not follow you back. There is no need to feel offended that someone is not following you back.
  9. Trending: a trending campaign should have a specific purpose. Trending campaigns are used to bring attention to a forgotten cause. It is not helpful to just have the hashtag in the top trends. The content within the tweets is more important. You want people who find the hashtag and attempt to explore about it to learn useful information that will develop interest rather than to find meaningless but sentimental words.
  10. Terms: do not use the Israeli-given occupation terms, even if those are the terms most widely known.
    e.g. If you report on a rocket falling from Gaza on a settlement research the name of the Palestinian ethnically-cleansed village the settlement was built upon. Use the name of the original village, and put the name of the settlement in quotations.
    e.g. Do not adapt your tweets to ‘political realities’. The land between the River and the Sea is Palestine. In the Palestinian political reality the term West Bank does not exist. To be more accurate it used to be a reference to all the land of Palestine West of Jordan’s river. If you must, you can say “occupied in 1967” this is a historic fact and is fine.

Maath Musleh

Comments

  1. ralphiesmom says:

    Thanks. This list is very useful.

  2. thank you Maath I am not an activist but will use the tips..loved the last note of givving the original names of villages..by the way we musn’t call Alquds Jerusalem even in English ..it’s Alquds..anyway thanks 🙂

  3. amazing job Maath.

  4. Maath Musleh
    Brilliant tips of using Twitter powerfully, well done Maath, I will certainly adapt them and be more active on Twitter and join you all guys as a Palestinian in diaspora;-)

  5. soundmigration says:

    Reblogged this on Soundmigration and commented:
    This is really thoughtful and practical guide borne of the experience of Palestinians using twitter

  6. Mustafa Sami says:

    The number of Palestinians in your list with over 10,000 followers is now 21. Most of them are not in Palestine. Most of them write in Arabic. Few of them write regularly about Palestinian issues.
    So, let me add two tips:
    1. Write tweets and articles in Arabic and translate others’ tweets to Arabic.
    2. Talk with more people from other countries. Get to know them and their issues, directly or indirectly using their hash tags. A number of them will take the chance to follow you and spread your news.

    Can you please upload the list in an excel sheet or add a list of all Palestinian tweeps in your twitter account?

    Thanks.

    • Well not tweeps with over 10,000 followers are 26, 15 of them tweet regularly about Palestine, almost daily basis, 9 of which use Arabic exclusively, & 6 use either English or bilingual. which is a good balance,

      Your tips are spot on. Thanks.

      On adding the list in Excel Sheet, I will work on that but it take more effort and time to add them as a twitter list..maybe later

  7. miragabi says:

    Maath, do you think we have been using twitter and other social media tools in our Palestine work to it’s full potential ?

    • Not really no, the problem is because the boost in using twitter happened to quickly not in a planned or organised way, meaning being in a conflict area always give u a boost in followers regardless of your content, and we’re too lazy to organise despite several great occasional campaigns, but no running strategy,but the positive think is the networking we’re doing that are bringing Palestinians together despite the distances which is a great asset that makes the the planning and organizing much easier if we’d take a shot at it

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