Social Media with a Cause: The Masterful #NoDAPL Movement
Roughly an hour south of Bismarck, North Dakota, a battle takes place. #NoDAPL Movement
The Standing Rock Sioux tribe is protesting the construction of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline which potentially threatens their main water supply from the Missouri River should the pipeline leak; an honest concern as more than 220 spills occurred in 2016.
As the self-proclaimed “water protectors” began occupying the construction zone, they were met with violence and intimidation as militarized local police forces arrested protestors, orchestrated attacks by dogs, and hit them with tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons in freezing temperatures, and concussion grenades; one of which severely injured a protestor when it exploded on her forearm which may now need to be amputated.
All of the force displayed by police officers against the peaceful protestors has led to massive public backlash against the pipeline.
In support of the water protectors’ efforts, social media users across the U.S. started the #NoDAPL hashtag, which eventually trended across social websites. Chances are, it has crossed your path many times.
The tag began to snowball into something much more significant and helped bring awareness to the situation by drawing in support from communities and influential social figures.
This culminated into a viral marketing campaign with such impressive reach, any business could learn a bundle by studying what worked for #NoDAPL.
Let’s take a look at social media’s instrumental role in helping to halt construction on the pipeline, if only for a little while.
Social Influencers are the Key Components
As the #NoDAPL hashtag began to spread awareness of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s plight, social media influencers, celebrities, and widely-followed communities began to join the cause.
JP Sears, who boasts well over a million followers on Facebook and is widely known for his comedic videos, brought levity by highlighting the absurdity of the corporate callousness in satirical fashion. The video gained more than 100,000 views and was shared across social networks more than 8,000 times.
Shortly before this video was published, Michael A. Wood, Jr., a military veteran and former Baltimore police officer who now serves as an influencer advocating for police reform, started a Facebook page which recruited over 2,100 military veterans to travel to the protest site and protect those protecting the water. A GoFundMe campaign was also started to help pay for the trip and ultimately raised more than $1.1 million.
More notable names also stood in solidarity with the DAPL protestors as the Dave Matthews Band played a sold-out show in which all proceeds benefitted resistance efforts against the pipeline. At the event, the band debuted their Standing Rock-inspired song, “Song for Billijo.”
“It’s interesting to me that the people with the longest history of getting f—ked over in America, are the ones who are getting f—ked over. . . Look, America has spent centuries moving native people’s from place to place. Maybe just this one time you can be the ones who move.”
In conjunction with these folks speaking out, many other social media influencers and celebrities like Ben Affleck, Mark Hamill, and Leonardo DiCaprio have tweeted in favor of the water protectors.
Content. Lots and Lots of Effective Content.
If these cultural icons and social superstars weren’t enough to make the situation turn into an unintentional viral campaign, scads of articles were created and promoted across social media to help further drive awareness of the disheartening circumstances facing the tribe.
For starters, the Unify Facebook page helped to inform its nearly 1.5 million follower base on the situation in North Dakota with various video shares (some garnering over 27 million views) supporting the tribe, and a series of Facebook ads which also helped to promote the cause.
While those with boots on the ground at the Standing Rock site did not ask for any of this, many articles were generated and circulated across every social platform; the materials drove millions of shares and countless reads.
It is clear that when used properly, social media can serve as a powerful agent for change and solidarity among people. Facebook served as a tool to organize Egypt’s 2011 revolution, and the same social destinations help support the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in its peaceful fight against corporate interests. The most amazing element of the story is this: It worked. That is until Donald Trump took office on January 20th. #NoDAPL Movement
In a heartbreaking – yet inevitable – turn of events, four days after taking office Donald Trump issued executive orders to essentially move forward with the construction of the pipeline; which is very troubling for the new Commander-in-Chief as records show Trump owns stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline. While many sources claim that the President has sold his share to prevent a conflict of interest, there is no evidence to support these claims as the apparent paper trail is hidden from public view.
The impending advancement of the Dakota Access Pipeline now means that the water protectors are likely to soon return to the construction site and resume protesting and will once again need the country’s support. #NoDAPL Movement
It is likely that social media will soon be teeming with articles about the protests, #NoDAPL updates, and various social influencers making their opinions known once more. Gone are the days that injustices happen in a silo; thanks to the immense power of social media, all entities are held accountable on a global scale. Any one of us that feels compelled to speak out on any injustice has the power to do so, one social share at a time. #NoDAPL Movement