How to Advocate Using Twitter: Make Your Words Count

It’s now 2022 and many young advocates are making New Year’s resolutions to start using social media to advocate for themselves. Since I am a social media professional, I thought I might share some tips and tricks that I’ve learned working at AUCD to help advocates with intellectual or developmental disabilities make your social media stand above the rest.

Currently, Twitter is one of the most popular platforms for social media advocacy. Many advocates like to use Twitter because the platform is centered around words. Your words are the focus, without the need for fancy graphics. Twitter features your words in a public forum that can reach millions of people fast, this is also called “going viral.” In the past, when someone had something important to say they needed to host an in-person event, like a press conference or a public protest. Now, one well thought out tweet can turn into a movement with millions of supporters.

Did you know the Black Lives Matter movement (#BLM or #BlackLivesMatter) started in 2013 with the use of a hashtag on social media? Read this story to learn more.

There are some specific ways to make Twitter work for you and your advocacy. First, you need to know who you are trying to reach. (Reach is also a word used by social media professionals to show how many people saw a social post.) Some advocates may only want to reach their school administration, some may want to reach their representatives in Congress, and some may want to reach the world. These are all possible goals.

Once you decide who you want to reach, you should follow those people. Then you will see the messages they post, and you can see who else follows them, too. You can mention people or direct your post to someone using the @ sign. This is good if you want to get someone’s attention. This is also referred to as tagging people on your post. When you tag someone in your post or photo on Twitter you are letting them and everyone else know that the post mentions them. AUCD and Think College gets tagged in posts almost every day! We like being tagged because it allows us to know what our followers care about directly from them.

As you start to follow people or organizations, you may start noticing words running together with a symbol in front that looks a bit silly. While this text may look confusing, it is actually the best way for people with similar ideas to find your content and interact with it. By putting a hashtag or number sign (#) in front of a phrase or word or acronym, anyone interested in that topic will find it when they search on Twitter.

Did you know you can see the most popular topics on Twitter under #Explore? Or, pick a topic you like and use the search feature, and you’ll see all the other people and organizations who think its important. #DisabilityRights shows up in posts about conferences, legislation, new college programs, legal proceedings, advocacy events, and more. Check it out!

Here’s an example from AUCD, where I work:

Recently, Liz Weintraub and I created a Tuesdays with Liz video about why it is important to get your COVID-19 shots. Here is the text we used to reach more than 7,000 people on all our social media platforms:

“Tuesdays with Liz is back! This episode features conversations on COVID-19 in #PlainLanguage. Hear from Maureen van Stone from the @KennedyKrieger and self-advocate, Kenneth Kelty, as they chat with @Tuesdaywithliz about #COVID19 #TWL”

We were able to use the hashtags #PlainLanguage, #COVID19, and #TWL, while also tagging Liz and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. This means anytime anyone searches for those hashtags they can find this post. And anyone who follows Kennedy Krieger Institute or Tuesdays with Liz will see this post. So, this one post on the AUCD Twitter page reached a lot more people than just the AUCD followers!

I shared how you can tag people with the @ sign to reach people who are advocating for the same things you are, and that hashtags can be used to both to share about a topic and learn more about a topic. Many students with disabilities are advocating for more and better inclusive college opportunities. Some hashtags that you might use with a tweet on inclusive higher education would be #Inclusive #HigherEducation or #InclusiveHigherEd.

When I searched on Twitter, one of the first tweets that popped up using #InclusiveHigherEd was from my colleague, Siddarth Nagaraj, where he used that same hashtag! You will also find tweets from students, college professors, and organizations. His tweet also tagged Think College (@ThinkCollegeICI), so they got to see it, too.

Remember you can tag people to get their attention or give them credit—like a shout out! So, if you start posting about #DisabilityRIghts or #PlainLanguage or #InclusiveHIgherEd, make sure you also tag @AUCDNews and @ThinkCollegeICI so we can follow your work!

The right hashtag can start your next movement.

About the post author: Aryana Jones is the Communications Assistant at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). She is a young professional with interests in communications, public policy, and social justice.

National Coordinating Center