Twitter and Facebook are everywhere! But can these powerful social media tools help defeat man's ancient enemy-- hunger? Can they support relief operations for famine and drought-ravaged East Africa? Jen Hardy of the charity Catholic Relief Services recently took time to discuss Twitter, Facebook and fighting global hunger.
Can someone use Twitter to mobilize support for famine relief in East Africa and other areas suffering from hunger?
Absolutely! Twitter is a great way for people who share common interests to share information. It’s also a wonderful resource for searches about a particular topic. I suggest doing a few searches on Twitter to find out what people are saying about the drought and food security in East Africa. That way, your advocacy messages will be informed by the conversation that’s already happening.
Go to the Twitter homepage (even if you don’t have an account!) and try searching a few of these terms: drought, famine, East Africa, the name of a specific country (like Kenya or Somalia), and Horn of Africa.
Are there ways to make tweets about global hunger stand out?
Tweets with a link for more detailed information are great. You can share the most interesting tidbit in the text of the tweet, and then add a shortened url that provides further context.
It’s also a good practice to use hashtags when crafting a tweet about a specific topic, such as hunger. A hashtag is simply the “#” sign in front of a search term. On the Twitter platform, using a hashtag creates a clickable link to search for other posts with that same hashtag. It’s also a way to sort information quickly at an event, such as during a local fundraiser for famine relief.
Here are a few tips for using hashtags:
- Don’t litter each tweet with multiple hashtags. Two or three is plenty.
- Don’t leave spaces between a multi-word hashtag. For example, use “#HornofAfrica,” not “#Horn of Africa.”
- Do use What the Trend or another site devoted to explaining hashtags if you’re not sure what something means and to find the best hashtag for a specific topic.
Can Facebook also be used for helping to feed the hungry?
Not only can Facebook help fight global hunger, I think it’s vital for raising awareness of the issue and sharing ways to get involved. A crisis that’s half a world away and slow moving, like the drought in East Africa, is so much more real when we feel a personal connection to the people living through it. Media coverage and advocacy by organizations are just parts of the puzzle in getting people to care. A few of my friends, for example, posted about how sad the pictures coming out of East Africa were, but they didn’t actually make a donation to hunger relief until I reached out through a personal message with a list of several of the most efficient organizations working in East Africa. That personal contact helped them take the final step from empathy to action.