Nandini Jammi, founding organizer of Sleeping Giants, on mobilizing an online community of 300K people & how companies can be more socially responsible
Nandini is the founding organizer of Sleeping Giants, the social media campaign making bigotry and sexism less profitable. Sleeping Giants began as an anonymous tweeting effort shortly after the November 2016 elections to make brands aware their ads were funding the “alt-right” site Breitbart. Their ad revenues are now down by 90%.
In April, Tech Ladies hosted an #AskMeAnything with Nandini. We discussed best practices for engaging an impassioned community online and the tactics and strategies employees can use to help make their companies socially responsible (among other things!).
Below are some of our favorite Q&As. Head over to the community for the full #AskMeAnything (you’ll have to join the group if you’re not currently a member).
Q: How do you mobilize a large online group — how do you go from discussion to action?
Nandini: Sleeping Giants is rooted in a single vision/message: that bigotry and hate should not be profitable. That’s been our drum beat since Day One.
Everything we post on Twitter and Facebook is really just to help advance that mission. A lot of what we do is educate our community, give them what they need to know and keep constant vigilance over what’s going on in the tech/business world.
For example, we educated our community a ton about Tucker Carlson and his White Power Hour (aka Tucker Carlson Tonight) before we started actively contacting advertisers a few months ago. As a result, our community is super informed and proactive — and they join us, stick with us, and tell their friends about us because they’re all in on this one big mission we’re on.
Just shining a light on the tech world has had an IMMENSE knock-on effect in our community. Since we started our campaign, a lot of folks have started filling in the gaps that we don’t have the time/resources to address.
A few examples:
- One of our Giants has been persistently documenting comments in Breitbart’s comments section (powered by Disqus) and using it to convince advertisers to blacklist the site. It’s hard work, but it’s vital to our movement.
- Someone started a (now defunct) Twitter campaign called @deplatform_hate, which focused exclusively on payment processors that have been facilitating funding and donations to white nationalist/hate groups.
- Another Giant worked on their own time to get Richard Spencer totally defunded. Richard now relies on Bitcoin.
There’s many more amazing individuals working behind the scenes everyday!
Q: We’re so impressed with how Sleeping Giants mobilized in such an effective way to make change and make a dent in Breitbart’s revenue! I think a lot of people assume there is some secret sauce to making a difference, but I’ve found that very average folks who just care a lot can have a huge impact. So, what’s your secret sauce? What did you do differently to become so viral?
Nandini: I think a few things really set us apart from the start:
1. We were getting instant results: In the really early days of our campaign, we got followers because they could see our tweets to businesses AND the businesses replying to say, “Oh, we had no idea we were on Breitbart! We’ll get those taken down ASAP.” Like boom, totally transparent. That’s all there is to it.
2. It was easy to join us: Anyone can hit up Breitbart, take a screenshot and get results fast. I think especially in those really dark days after the 2016 elections, this gave people a way to tangibly hit back. It was comforting and cathartic.
3. We were anonymous! We ran this thing completely anonymously for nearly 2 years. That gave way to headlines like “The Mysterious Group That’s Picking Breitbart Apart, One Tweet At A Time.” I mean, it’s a great story, right?
4. We’re truly a community-powered effort: The only reason we’re effective is because of our community. We spend a lot of time reading, listening, and responding to our followers. When we’re wrong, we’re quick to apologize and make it right. We just want to do good by our community and I think that’s what keeps them sticking around.
5. We’re funny. It’s hard to be outraged all the time. We try to keep it light when we can.
Q: What are a few tactics that Tech Ladies at every level can use to make their companies more socially responsible — as individuals, managers, and leaders?
Nandini: I’m so glad you asked this question. If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that we as Tech Ladies are powerful as hell when we speak up.
The #1 thing you can do is *Check Your Acceptable Use Policy*.
What we’ve learned is a lot of businesses may have clauses against incitement to violence, but NOT against harassment and garden variety racism. It might be something that was overlooked (or maybe someone at your company is cool with enabling racism?). In any case, advocate for a stronger AUP (and the enforcement of it).
Some examples of companies that have great policies and are super responsive: Store Envy, MailChimp, OKCupid, Bumble, Pinterest. They are setting a great example!
You can do a lot of damage to bad actors simply by adjusting your policies to keep them off your platform!
Q: How can we evaluate if a topic has critical mass of supporters or it’s a vocal minority that needs more work to be mobilized?
Nandini: This is a good question, but NOT the right question to ask when you’re confronted on social media.
Rather, you want to ask yourself what your company/brand values are and whether your ad/policy/partnership violates those values. Are you doing right by your customers? Your employees? Your business?
It doesn’t matter if just one person reaches out to you. How you react to that information should be dependent on those values. In fact, a lot of Giants report that a single tweet or email from them resulted in a company taking down their ads on Breitbart.
It’s not about the “mob.” It’s about you, being true to your values.
Thanks to Nandini for her time and wisdom! If you have an inspiring woman or non-binary person to nominate for an #AskMeAnything in Tech Ladies, shoot me an email: hannah[at]hiretechladies.com.
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