Salzburg Global LGBT Forum » Overview

Related News


LGBT Forum Day 4 - Social Media Producers & Consumers

Day four of Salzburg Global LGBT Forum considers how LGBT activists and individuals can best use social media to share their stories

Enrique Torre Molina and Olumide Femi Makanjuola speak on a panel about social media and storytelling

Enrique Torre Molina and Olumide Femi Makanjuola speak on a panel about social media and storytelling

Louise Hallman | 06.10.2016

Much advice was on offer on day four of the Salzburg Global LGBT* Forum in Chiang Rai as panelists considered the power of social media – for producers and consumers – when sharing LGBT-related stories. 

Panelists from the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico and Nigeria shared insights into their own experiences with social media, both from their personal and professional use as producers and consumers, and offered recommendations on how the other participants could better use social media tools and engagement tactics to share their stories, engage with their readers and viewers, reach beyond their typical audience, deal with abuse, and stay safe online. 

Social media is ubiquitous in today’s world. A quick survey of the room in Chiang Rai showed that all but a small number (who had made the conscious decision to not use social media at all) were on Facebook, with many others using Instagram, Twitter and other regional services such as Weibo. 

Knowing which platforms your prospective audience use is an important first step in developing a social media campaign, advised panel moderator, Laurindo Garcia, founder of B-Change, a regional initiative to share positive and representative LGBT stories that offers consultancy to other LGBT activists and NGOs. 

Social media can be used to share opinions, galvanize support for an issue, prompt and direct action – and chronicle our daily lives, the latter of which is just as important as the other uses. Many of the participants shared that social media and earlier iterations of online forums had provided them with a safe space where they could be themselves and realize that they are not alone. Chronicling their daily lives on social media enables LGBT people and communities to show and live their truth, sharing a reality beyond fictional media representations of LGBT people in movies and TV or the limited perspectives shared in the mainstream news. 

Social media can also provide a place to discover and encourage allies who might be reluctant to speak out in public. The #lovewins campaign after the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage saw many allies as well as LGBT people take part. This can be important for LGBT people, as one participant shared in an anecdote from a friend: “My uncle knew I was gay but I didn't think he was supportive until I saw him share a #lovewins post.”

The “social media bubble” is gaining a lot of attention as Facebook and other platforms use algorithms to show users what they believe they “like” – causing an echo effect that sees LGBT-content shown only to those who are already supportive of LGBT rights and making reaching beyond this bubble difficult. Using paid adverts that are targeted at users with anti-LGBT or more conservative interests might be one strategy. Facebook, Twitter and Google all offer opportunities to activists and NGOs to apply for grants to use their paid-for services (such as ads) for free, reducing the barrier to access.

Many platforms also all have featured to report abusive comments and accounts. “Use them!” was a key point of advice from a panelist. As activists, there can be the expectation or belief that you must engage with those who disagree with you, but the relentless nature of social media engagement can be disheartening. “Stay healthy!” and block or report those who abuse you, participants were encouraged. Mobilize your followers to also report abusive comments and users. 

These report/block functions can also be used against LGBT activists to silence them. One participant with extensive experience in personal and professional social media engagement had the following advice for different platforms, having spoken to representatives from each of the corporations:


  • Twitter: apply for verification (the blue tick). Activists don’t need thousands of followers to do this and if awarded it can stop instant blocking if reported by anti-LGBT users.
  • Facebook: ask other “legitimate” and well-recognized human rights groups to message Facebook on your behalf to vouch for you. This will also prompt Facebook stop enforcing an immediate block and get you out of “Facebook jail.” 
  • Google: apply to Project Shield to protect your website from negative reviews and reports in their Google Search.

Staying safe online is a great concern of many LGBT activists. Some participants stated that they use pseudonyms or do share images of themselves online to protect their offline identities. Another simple piece of advice that was offered to stop hackers: use the two-step verification features offered by many platforms now. Many of the major social media platforms have LGBT staff and interest groups within their corporations; activists should try to cultivate a relationship with these groups.

Social media campaigns with a clear purpose, strategy, with multimedia elements can be daunting and difficult for individual activists or small NGOs to pull off successfully. “Don’t try to do everything alone!” advised one panelist. Hire in experience if you have the budget. If you don’t have the funds, many organizations will work pro bono for causes they support. 

Family Is...

Throughout the week, the Forum has considered the importance of families for LGBT people and communities. Discussions have focused on the families we are born into, the families we choose, and the families we raise, with participants sharing their own personal stories within small groups. These stories will be collected for an exhibition to be held in Berlin in May 2017.

Fellows also took time out of their discussions to take an afternoon trip to the nearby White Temple.

The fourth session of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum is being held in Chiang Rai, Thailand in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Being LGBTI in Asia programme.

Funding for this joint Salzburg Global-UNDP session was generously provided to Salzburg Global Seminar through a grant from the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth to support the “Family is…” Project and through a donation by US philanthropist Michael Huffington. The Being LGBTI in Asia programme is supported by UNDP, the Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Additional session support was provided by the Austrian Embassy New Delhi, Austrian Development Cooperation, Capital Group Companies, Dreilinden gGmbH, the Elizabeth S. MacMillan Fellowship Fund, the Embassy of Canada to Thailand, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in China, and the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

Recaps and interviews with participants will be published on a regular basis throughout the session and You can also follow the event on social media using the hashtags #SGSlgbt and #BeingLGBTI on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

*LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. We are using this term as it is widely recognized in many parts of the world, but we would not wish it to be read as in any way exclusive of other cultures, terms or groups.

Louise Hallman