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In less than a year, the #MeToo movement became a global phenomenon. On social media, it became a simple way to express solidarity with victims of sexual harassment and abuse, as well as an easy way to comment on the remarkable power imbalance that still exists in American society between men and women.
How #MeToo went viral
So how did #MeToo become such a powerful rallying cry for women? It can largely be attributed to actress Alyssa Milano, who sent out a single tweet using #MeToo, encouraging all women who had been either sexually harassed or assaulted to use the hashtag. And it immediately went viral.
According to Facebook, within a 24-hour period, over 4.7 million people worldwide had used the hashtag, and over 12 million posts, comments and likes had been generated. The single tweet from Alyssa Milano has now received over 68,000 replies.
#MeToo as a global phenomenon
And, even more fascinating, #MeToo truly went global. In Spanish, the hashtag became #YoTambien. In French, the hashtag became #balancetonporc. And there were various iterations in other languages as well, including different versions in the Middle East.
In the United States, #MeToo was sometimes transformed into #NotOkay, but the meaning remained the same: men could no longer get away with the same type of behavior. They could no longer harass or bully women in certain situations, and the fact that prominent Hollywood stars were coming out with their own stories made the hashtag all the more powerful.
It’s easy to conclude from all this that social media still has enormous sway in our popular culture. There’s no easier way to get out a message than to launch it on social media.
The building blocks of a global phenomenon
In thinking about how and why the #MeToo movement was (and is) so successful, it’s useful to consider all the various elements that made it so successful:
- A social media influencer (Alyssa Milano) with a powerful voice
- A timeless message that transcends cultures and nations
- Social platforms – Twitter and Facebook – that makes it very easy to re-tweet and like content (thus making it very easy for other people to show solidarity with just a single click)
- A hashtag that is simple, direct, empowering and highly personal
That’s not to say that it’s possible to re-engineer the #MeToo movement for other causes and other movements, but it is singularly fascinating to understand why some movements never seem to get off the ground, while others seem to go viral within 24 hours. In recent memory, perhaps the #LeanIn movement is the closest thing we’ve seen to the #MeToo movement.
Social media tipping points
If you’re a social media marketer, one way to put all this into context is by considering Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” theory. He challenged people to think of trends and memes as infectious diseases that start with Patient Zero and literally go viral, infecting each new person with ideas or beliefs.
That might just be what we are witnessing here with the #MeToo movement – the best example yet of how social media can turn simple ideas and concepts into infectious ideas that are impossible to get out of your head. The world has changed forever as the result of a single tweet, highlighting the power of social media.