The key characteristics of a social movement are these:
- They are generally used by political outsiders. People who already have political power do not need to engage in social movements.
- They are generally grassroots in origin. These are movements that start from the bottom up, not from the top down.
- They tend to use unconventional tactics. They do not lobby politicians or give campaign donations. Instead, they stage sit-ins and protest marches.
- They are made up of people who have a shared sense of grievance. People who join such a movement must feel very strongly that they are being mistreated.
Overall, then, a social movement is something that is done by outsiders to the political process. They use unconventional tactics to try to make their demands heard by those who have power.