Digital & Social Media

A Social Media Movement That Sticks


What are the key pieces to creating a social media movement that sticks? Everyone – from major corporations to local nonprofits to individuals – would like to know the trick. There’s no silver bullet, obviously. However, based on my experience with helping launch #GirlWithABook on my own time with the help of a friend, there are a few takeaways I’ve learned.

Continue a Conversation That Already Exists

Most people know the story of Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai – how she was targeted and attacked in 2012 by the Taliban while traveling home on her school bus. She and two of her classmates, Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz, were shot that day simply for being girls daring to go to school.

In the days that followed, every news article and every broadcast about this attack horrified me further, and frankly, made me quite angry. Naturally, I needed to vent my frustration to my good friend, Olivia. It was from that exchange that we came up with the idea for #GirlWithABook, a social media movement dedicated to raising awareness about girls’ education.

Show, Don’t Tell

To appeal to a wide audience, visual content always wins.

We started on Facebook, asking people to post pictures of themselves with a book or sign stating “I stand with Malala” as a way to show solidarity with the millions of girls around the world fighting to get an education. We first posted our own photos and then asked friends and family to do the same. Within weeks, we were receiving hundreds of photos from all over the world.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but we had just planted the seeds for a social media movement. The first important component was that we found a subject people already were talking about. The subject of Malala and girls’ education was a trending topic all over the world. The second was beginning as a photo campaign, which allowed others to interact and participate, and that helped us to gain significant momentum.

Form Partnerships

Lastly, we connected with other organizations that were dedicated to the same cause and equally passionate about the subject.

As a result, we have been able to work with the Half the Sky Movement by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn; the United Nations; The Citizens Foundation; and Dreamfly. Whether it was through creating original content together, supporting one another’s specific hashtag campaigns, or even raising money to build a library (as we did for The Citizens Foundation), #GirlWithABook was able to build a stronger presence on social media. Now it serves as a space for girls and women to learn about the barriers to girls’ education and issues of feminism around the world.