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Social Media Advocacy: Everything You Need To Know To Get Started

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Published: Mar 13, 2022

Is social media advocacy something that you should spend time on? 

Yes. Social media advocacy has proven to be quite effective in effecting change. It has shown its efficacy in spreading awareness regarding an issue quite quickly and amplifying the impact of a movement.

The #BringBackOurGirls movement is a classic example of this. 

On the evening of April 14, 2014, a little-known Islamist sect named Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 girls in the northeast Nigerian town of Chibok. 

For weeks almost no one seemed to have any idea about this until the news went viral on Twitter, and #BringBackOurGirls started trending. 

3.3 million tweets later, including ones from celebrities like the First Lady Michelle Obama, the world government was put under pressure into rescuing the girls. 

The United States offered hostage negotiators and 200 troops for the search.

In Nigeria, the movement morphed to the streets. Hundreds of protesters at the Nigerian Capitol started keeping a daily vigil chanting the catchphrase.

social-media-advocacy-example
Source: Medium

This was an example of the power of social media advocacy. It ramped up an overlooked issue to a global phenomenon. 

So if the power of social media advocacy has you intrigued, this post will help you get started with it. We’ll start by diving into what social media advocacy is. 

What is social media advocacy?

Social media advocacy is defined as the strategic use of social media to advance a cause or issue and effect change. This is typically achieved by: 

  • Contacting
  • Informing, and 
  • Mobilizing supporters over these platforms.

Just look back at the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, for example. It facilitated two things: 

  1. It informed people around the world about a severe issue that was occurring in a small town in (Chibok) Nigeria.
  2. It helped mobilize supporters leading to protests, marches, and TV interviews.

Collectively, this helped pressure international governments to look into the matter. 

Is social media an effective tool for advocacy? 

Most organizations and groups often worry about slacktivism. 

Slacktivism or clicktivism is a term used to argue that any action on social media doesn’t result in any real-world action or change. Many organizations often cite this as a reason and steer away from social media advocacy. 

But the problem with that mindset is that they ignore the reach and awareness these platforms provide. And the first step towards effecting change is spreading awareness about your issue. 

I may sound like a broken record, but circle back to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign and look at the kind of awareness it drove. This is an actual quote from a protestor, Brittany Plothow, who was marching for the movement at the Utah State Capitol. 


“Without Twitter, Facebook, and Google hangouts, I wouldn’t know what’s going on.
Maybe we’re not in Africa, but you never know who you’re going to reach with a rally. It may be a politician or a philanthropist or someone who has the resources to do things I can’t do as far as money or power.”


But it’s not just this; campaigns like #BlackLivesMatter, #RefugeesWelcome, #LoveWins are examples of issues that were pushed through social media and helped mobilize people.  

So yes, social media is an effective tool for advocacy. And it can drive real-world actions. 

You just need to know how to nurture people for that. Our post on Slacktivism to Activism talks about how to do this in detail. 

Advantages of social media advocacy 

Social media advocacy has some unique advantages, and these include, but are not limited to, the following. 

Low cost

There’s literally no cost involved in setting up social media accounts. You can set one up for free and ask your supporters to engage with you and spread your message further. 

You will have to rely on some advertising to get that initial momentum. This will incur costs depending on your target reach and goals. However, the cost-vs-return is still less than physical posters, media ads, etc. 

Wide reach

There are over 4.5 billion social media users across the world. Even if you’re able to effectively target and reach out to 0.1% of this population, that equates to support of over 4 million users. 

With social media, there are no limitations to you getting to those many people. But if you compare it with other efforts, say walking around neighborhoods talking to people, you might not be able to get to as many people. 

New opportunities to engage supporters

Social media platforms present you with a new channel to interact with your supporters, recruit them for volunteering, mobilize them, and even publicly engage with someone in power (say the President of the United States). 

Moreover, these interactions can be two-way. For example, you could host a live AMA session on your handle and clear people’s questions about your mission. 

Moreover, your supporters can share these interactions with their social circle or contribute to conversations happening between two high stake holders too.

Peer-to-peer efforts

Social media acts as a great tool to fuel grassroots advocacy. It’s pretty easy and straightforward for your existing supporters to spread your message and recruit others for the cause on social media. There’s no learning curve, and it is sometimes as easy as clicking a share button. 

An existing supporter sharing just one post from your organization puts you in front of a whole new audience, i.e., the supporter’s friend circle. 

These are just a few unique advantages of social media advocacy that can help you build your advocacy campaign effectively. 

So what social platforms can help you reap these benefits? We see that next. 

Social media advocacy platforms

A recent study by FiscalNote analyzed the social platforms that drove people to an advocacy’s action center. Here are the top platforms.   

social-media-advocacy-stats

Here’s how you can use these social platforms for advocacy. 

Facebook

Facebook is the most popular social platform, with over two-thirds of the world’s population actively using it.

The platform allows you to share different types of content like photos, videos, gifs, and plain text posts with links. Its messenger feature is also quite intuitive, allowing you to reach out to people both privately or as a group via direct messages.  

Facebook is most commonly used to: 

  • Spread awareness about an issue by posting images and videos along with explanatory descriptions. 
  • Keep supporters engaged by putting out regular updates about your movement. 
  • Build your supporter base through peer-to-peer efforts, asking people to share your updates with their networks. 
  • Mobilize people by sending direct messages or posting a public update about it on your page.  
  • Recruit and mobilize people through peer-to-peer efforts by getting your existing supporters to post publicly and send private messages to people in their network. 

Twitter

Twitter is a microblogging platform that allows you to put out small bursts of information. If you have more to say, you can put out a long thread that consists of multiple tweets in a chain. 

You can share images and videos on Twitter too. It is often used to:

  • Tag influencers and people in power to incite a direct and public conversation with them. 
  • Share updates about your movement and its progress.
  • Spread awareness about your campaign by leveraging hashtags. If enough people post using the hashtag, the topic starts trending, putting you in front of a vast audience. Moreover, the use of hashtags makes your content searchable.
  • Ask people to share messages and re-tweet posts to reach out to their network and recruit new supporters. 

Instagram 

Instagram is a visual social media platform that is primarily used to share images or short videos (reels). You do have the option to share longer videos, too, using the IGTV feature. 

Your social media advocacy strategy on Instagram can be divided into three categories:

  1. Instagram page: A dedicated page for your group to share updates. 
  2. Instagram stories: Updates that appear as highlights on the top of a user’s app and are accessible to your followers but disappear after 24 hours. 
  3. Advertisements: Sponsored posts distributed via stories, posts, and/or reels to people who don’t follow you. 

All three aspects come in handy in their own unique way. Here’s how to use them: 

Instagram page

  • Share visuals and captions about your movement to spread awareness.
  • Inform people about your plan of action with carousel images. 
  • Drive people to your action center by adding a link to it in your bio and asking people to click on it in each post. 

Instagram stories

  • Share live updates about your movement. Let people know what’s happening and how they can join you. 
  • Engage with your supporters in real-time by holding short polls. 
  • Driving people to donate or act by adding relevant stickers to your story.

Advertisements

  • Create visuals and descriptions based on the kind of ads you’re putting out.
  • Add a link to your website or relevant page in the sponsored post (you could also direct them to your bio if needed)

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is more of a professional social network that is primarily used for business networking. But this networking comes in handy for advocacy too. 

The kind of content that you can share on LinkedIn and its messenger feature is similar to that of Facebook. Hence, it’s helpful for social media advocacy in a manner identical to that of Facebook, which includes: 

  • Spreading awareness among supporters by posting regular updates.
  • Keeping your base engaged with LinkedIn’s newsletter feature. 
  • Networking with people in power, lobbyists, and others who can get you an introduction with them to help you push your mission forward. 
  • Mobilizing people by sending them direct messages. 

YouTube

YouTube is a video streaming platform that people use to consume videos of different lengths, types, and themes. For advocacy, this can be a great tool to educate your supporter base and spread awareness. 

Here’s what you can do:

  • Create instructional videos about your plan of action and exactly how people can help you—for example, an instructional video on how to call a representative. 
  • Create videos about people affected by the issue that you’re fighting to change to spread awareness about your movement. 
  • Use the video description box to add more details about your movement and links to other social channels and your action center. 
  • Use the YouTube Live feature to live stream a march or rally so people from other locations can join or view it virtually, adding to your reach.

You can even amplify the impact of these videos by sharing them on all your social media handles.  

Although these platforms have shown relatively good results, you don’t have to be limited to them. If you have the bandwidth, you look into other platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, etc. too. 

However, if you’re only starting out, I suggest that you prioritize establishing a presence on the primary platforms first and then moving on to others. 

Social media advocacy strategies

Select the social media platforms that you wish to be active on (I would recommend all, but you can start with just a couple of them) and then use these strategies to get started:

  1. Complete your profile.
  2. Have a regular posting schedule.
  3. Leverage hashtags consistently.
  4. Encourage people to engage with your posts.
  5. Leverage paid ads. 

Let’s look at exactly what each of these advocacy strategies entail. 

Complete your profile

No matter the platform, always make sure that your profile is 100% complete. Generally, all social media platforms will ask you for the following information:

  • Your organization/group name.
  • A brief bio that tells people what you do or stand for.
  • A link to your website or action center.
  • The location you are based out of. 
  • A profile picture (you can put up your logo here).

There will be other information that you may need to provide exclusively to a platform—for example, your industry on Facebook, the number of employees on LinkedIn, etc. 

Make sure to fill in all those details. A complete profile shows credibility and makes it easy for people to know everything they need about you. 

Regular posting schedule

Create a regular posting schedule for each platform before you start posting. With a schedule, you can ensure that your social activity is:

  1. Consistent 
  2. Timely

Consistency of posting shows that you are active, and even social algorithms start pushing your content more to people in your network. 

Having a fixed time to put out your posts makes it easy for you to schedule a bunch of them beforehand, so you don’t have to put in the manual effort every time. A tool like Buffer can help here. 

Moreover, make sure that your posts are crafted in a way that fits the platform. Be mindful of:

  • Image dimensions.
  • Word/character limit on descriptions or captions.
  • Whether you can add links to your posts (for example, you can’t add links to Instagram posts. But you can add one to your bio and direct people there).
  • Video length and resolution. 

Hashtagging

This is so important that we added this as a separate strategy rather than as a part of another point. 

Adding hashtags to all your posts helps with two things: 

  1. It makes your posts and updates more easily searchable. 
  2. It gives your campaigns a unique identity. Something that people can use to push your message forward relate to your efforts, etc. (think #BlackLivesMatter).

You can use hashtags on almost all social platforms, so use the same hashtags on all platforms for your campaign. 

Moreover, make sure that you have one that relates to your organization. Something like #{YourOrganizationName}. Use this on all of your posts so people can tie back your efforts to you.

Encourage people to engage with your posts.

If you’re looking to spread your message far and wide, your existing supporter network is essential. 

They are likely to have a circle of like-minded people who may also care about your cause, but they just might not be aware of it. So use your existing supporters to get to them.

Whenever you put something out, make sure to: 

  • Ask people to share it, like it, or comment on it. When people do so, it sends out a notification to their respective networks or adds your post on their feed, thereby putting you in front of them. 
  • Request your supporters to use your hashtags whenever they post something about your efforts (be it your content or something of their own), so others can find out about you. 

Leverage ads

In case you don’t have a huge supporter base, advocacy advertising can give your social media advocacy the kickstart it needs. 

With ads, you can target the right group of people based on their: 

  • Interests 
  • Causes they support
  • Location
  • Demographics, and more. 

Take this ad, for example, which is targeted towards executives to gather their signatures. 

social-media-advocacy-paid-ads
Source: MobileMarketing

Ads can put you in front of literally millions of people in a matter of days and help build your supporter base. 

When putting out ads, however, just make sure that your ad copy and CTA align with your objective. 

For instance, if you want a donation, label the CTA accordingly; if you want them to follow your page, link out to your page and mention that in the copy. Also, try to use visuals that help you stand out. The best ads are those that are clear, concise, and catchy. 

Also, make sure that your target audience is specific and well-targeted to ensure a higher impact ratio. 

Moving forward

Social media advocacy can push your mission to heights that you wouldn’t have imagined. The only trick is to use them the right way and consistently. 

We’ve covered the right platforms that you should get started with and the strategies to get the ball rolling. However, if you need some inspiration to inform your campaigns, check out our post on 4 Advocacy Campaign Examples that talks about four such successful social media advocacy campaigns. 

Featured image source: Photo by Ravi Sharma

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