Beyond Tweets, Posts and Snaps — Putting Social Media to Work in Your Advocacy Efforts

By Michael Kaplun, Senior Strategist, The Fratelli Group

This week, I visited the website of an organization to find their Twitter account. Well, I not only discovered it — I also saw that they have accounts for (are you ready?): Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Vimeo, Pinterest, Google Plus, Flickr and LinkedIn!

Some of the channels were active and some, to my millennial-era dismay, were collecting virtual dust. But, more than anything else, their collection of channels reinforced two realities — and challenges — in today’s media landscape: 1) There are A LOT of social media platforms, and 2) It can be difficult for organizations to make sense of the myriad of platforms. Faced with this situation, some organizations order everything on the menu — and some walk out of the restaurant.

Social media is an effective and increasingly essential component of advocacy efforts, especially considering the ways people get their news and information today. According to Pew Research, nearly seven in 10 Americans use social media to collect their news (fewer than half did just five years ago). Meanwhile, one-third of 18–24-year-olds use social media as their primary news source.

So, as an organization, with limited resources and hours in the day, how do you determine which social media channels to use — and use them effectively?

In any advocacy effort, you must start by knowing what you are trying to accomplish. That is, identify what success looks like. Ask: What is the ultimate goal? Is it to reach and move members of Congress on legislation? Is it to promote an event or a new report?

Next, you should think through the three principles of effective communication — the message you want to deliver; the target audience you need to reach; and the tactics or vehicles to leverage in delivering the message and connecting with your audience. (I previously wrote about how these principles took flight at a school system here).

Once these components have been thought out, social media — along with other communications channels such as the press, in-person events and paid advertisements –can then play a critical role.

Therefore, when thinking about leveraging a social media channel, consider how it will contribute to your larger strategy. Then develop a game plan for putting social media to work:

  • Consider the most appropriate platform to reach your target audience;
  • Think about how you will use it actively — and with discipline; and
  • Begin preparing the content you will post and share through the channel.

Here is a recent story of this process in action. We currently work with an organization in Washington to help promote their international exchange program. The primary goals are to develop a stronger relationship with the program’s American alumni and, in turn, work with the alumni to positively promote their exchange experiences.

As part of this effort, we believed social media would be a great platform for the organization to get and stay in touch with them and for the alumni to better connect. We considered the channels that would be best for our audience — younger, highly educated students and professionals.

Twitter, while a powerful distributor of content, was too public, moves too fast and felt more like a broadcast medium for this audience. SnapChat, this year’s social media darling, skewed too young and is a little confusing for new users of the app. Facebook was a strong option, since nearly all U.S. adults are on Facebook, but the network is a bit too personal and cluttered with information for most of these audience members.

We then turned to LinkedIn. It is, what I like to call, the Facebook for educated professionals — and among the most used platforms in Washington. LinkedIn lays the groundwork for positive professional networks and connections for people, companies and organizations. Given that the exchange is a person-to-person exchange, what better platform for them to connect?

Once we agreed and understood what would be required from our end to establish and maintain an active presence on LinkedIn, we set up a LinkedIn group for the alumni that is now off and running. The alumni are meeting and re-connecting with others. Meanwhile, the organization is fostering stronger relationships with the program’s alumni.

Like any successful advocacy effort, leveraging social media takes preparation, discipline and work. But if thought through and done right, you can reach your audience powerfully — even through one channel.

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