by Katie Trombetti
In a show of solidarity after the January 7th shooting in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo office, people began tweeting #JeSuisCharlie and they kept tweeting and retweeting for weeks. In what is perhaps the most unfortunate social win, #JeSuisCharlie was born out of a place of hatred, blood and despair.
#JeSuisCharlie quickly gained traction with 5,044,740 tweets by that Friday evening, peaking at 6,300 tweets per minute. #JeSuisCharlie quickly became more than a hashtag, it was the word that brought together people who were mourning the loss of those in Paris and the attack on free speech. People began to make the now iconic black, gray and white photo saying ‘Je Suis Charlie’ their profile picture on Twitter, holding up signs saying ‘Je Suis Charlie’ and even creating art themed around the attacks and the new phrase #JeSuisCharlie. Because those killed over their speech were cartoonists, artists all over the world responded with drawings of their own. The most famous of these was the cartoon saying, “He drew first,” by David Pope. This was many artists’ way of dealing with their loss. Even if they had not personally known those killed, they were in the same line of work as those who had been gunned down and this was their way of dealing with it. Hundred of cartoons were uploaded to Twitter along with the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie.
The key insight to this campaign is that it was a way for people all around the globe to show solidarity with the people of Paris and to support freedom of speech. This hashtag was a way for people to cope with what had happened, it was their way of reaching out and trying to make things ok. The campaign was mostly conducted on Twitter, partially thanks to the fact that a hashtag was involved. It was a quick way for the people in Paris to see what was happening and it enabled people all around the world to find more information about the shootings. While there was some posting about it on Facebook, there was not enough of a presence to be as impactful as it was on Twitter. It is also important to note that Twitter is very easily accessible for those uploading pictures so those who were expressing their feelings about the event through art were not hindered by a cumbersome uploading process or an instant delete like Snapchat.
This campaign was a win based on how quickly it took off and how widely circulated #JeSuisCharlie became. With over five million tweets in three days it became of one of the top trends on twitter worldwide. socialcontrol.com said, “The strength behind #JeSuisCharlie and the outcome goes to show the power behind social media. It shows that compassion is contagious, and sometimes the best viral content is not premeditated. It should be the goal of every social media agency to create something so natural and human. An important takeaway from this tragic event is that social media puts the power in our pockets, on our desks and in our hands. Social Media was able to unite 40 world leaders all with the sharing of a simple, yet important phrase.”
As a social win, it could have been improved by moving onto other social media sites, such as Facebook or Instagram. It could have reached many more people had it been shared on these sites, not just mainly Twitter. While the movement was organic and grown through anyone who wanted to participate, it would have been difficult to coordinate efforts to move it on to other social media sites. If it were possible to control, however, more art could have been encouraged. Seeing artists used their grief over someone like them to produce meaningful art was something that people really enjoyed seeing.
Fray Carey, Robin. (January 9, 2015). Social Media Today. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/je-suis-charlie-and-power-social-media
(January 10, 2015). RT. Retrieved from http://rt.com/news/221339-jesuischarlie-muslims-paris-shooting/
Fantz, Ashley and Whiteman, Hilary. (January 9, 2015). CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/07/world/social-media-jesuischarlie/
Breeden, Aurelien. (January 8, 2015). The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/09/world/europe/charlie-hebdo-terror-attack-je-suis-ahmed-merabet.html?_r=0
(January 8, 2015). ABC Australia. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-08/jesuis-charlie-social-media-reacts-to-charlie-hebdo-shooting/6005672
(January 16, 2015). Social Control. Retrieved from http://socialcontrol.com/jesuischarlie/