Digital outreach has become a necessity for modern advocacy groups. Social media has transformed how advocacy campaigns gather supporters, fundraise, and educate their audience on the issues that matter most.
With the sheer number of advocacy groups taking to social media, it can be hard to get noticed. Unlike advocacy and campaigning activities that leverage your community connections and rely on one-on-one interactions like canvassing, social media outreach often begins with broad messages that can reach potential supporters living anywhere in the country.
This doesn’t mean social media is more difficult to use than other communication channels. Rather, it has its own opportunities, challenges, and rules that your advocacy group will learn and adapt to the more you make use of this channel.
Of course, not everything needs to be learned through trial and error. To help your advocacy group start your social media outreach campaign off on the right foot, this article will explore four tips for building momentum and gaining attention online:
- Create a strong, consistent narrative.
- Host peer-to-peer campaigns.
- Create groups dedicated to your advocacy campaign.
- Stay in touch all year long.
Keep in mind that there are a variety of social media platforms to choose from, and your advocacy group might find more success on one platform than another. While some advocacy campaigns can sustain a multi-channel approach, don’t hesitate to focus your time and energy on the platforms that are bringing in the highest return on your investment.
1. Create a strong, consistent narrative.
With so many important causes out there, people are often swayed to join advocacy groups that can make the best case for support. Facts and statistics can be persuasive, but a compelling mission statement accompanied by a strong, consistent story can earn more supporters than reporting the numbers alone.
Advocacy campaigns impact real people, and the causes you care about have tangible effects on your supporters’ lives. This means you should have a reasonable number of potential anecdotes to share about your cause. However, some stories can be more impactful than others. Ask yourself the following questions about your messages on social media before hitting post:
- Which of my stakeholders is this message for? Advocacy groups generally have two audiences: your supporters and relevant elected officials. Some advocacy groups also have sponsors and partner organizations they work alongside. While your posts should be targeted to your relevant audience, make sure they don’t actively exclude other stakeholders who may be keeping an eye on your social media presence.
- Does this story reflect my advocacy group's overall brand? Your advocacy group may convert some supporters the first time they interact with your posts, but many will need multiple touchpoints before signing on. Make sure that all of your messages fit the same brand identity and accurately reflect the organization behind the posts.
- Does this story compel readers to action? Stories are meant to evoke emotion, but some emotional responses are more productive than others. Focus on crafting a narrative that instills energy in your audience. Then, provide them with a specific call to action they can channel their newfound investment into.
While a compelling story can help drive attention, some social media platforms lend themselves to long-form narratives better than others. For example, you might have an easier time communicating the details of your campaign in a Facebook post than with Twitter’s strict character limits.
2. Host peer-to-peer campaigns.
Each of your supporters has their own network of family, friends, co-workers, and other followers. This means that they have their own audience they can advocate to on behalf of your organization through peer-to-peer campaigns. Peer-to-peer campaigns can be run through a variety of platforms, but social media is one of the most effective communication tools your supporters have to reach out to as many people as possible.
Before sending your supporters off to start fundraising, make sure you have the right software in place to manage their activities. Grassroots Unwired’s guide to peer-to-peer fundraising software recommends looking for solutions that have the following features:
- Multiple communication methods. Social media will be one of your supporters’ main tools for their outreach, but they can also benefit from having access to additional communication tools for one-on-one connections, such as video chat features.
- Real-time reporting. Online peer-to-peer campaigns can be run at any time, anywhere. Stay up to date with all of your supporters’ activities by finding a solution that offers real-time reporting. Keeping up with your data in real-time will allow you to alter your campaign’s overall direction to take advantage of new opportunities.
- Scalability. Some peer-to-peer software solutions are built with specific organization sizes in mind. Look for a solution that can grow with your organization to ensure it’ll work with your advocacy group whether you’re operating at a local level or nationwide.
Make sure to stay in touch with your supporters over the course of your peer-to-peer campaign. This includes providing initial training and directions on how to discuss your cause. Then, keep communication lines open so they can get in touch if they run in to any challenges your team can help with.
3. Create groups dedicated to your advocacy campaign.
Providing your supporters with a place to come together and talk about your campaign can help build a sense of community around your advocacy group. Thankfully, platforms like Facebook allow organizations to create groups centered around specific topics and interests. Groups primarily have three main purposes, including:
- Marketing. Online fundraising research has found that Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes posts over groups. This means the posts you and your supporters make in your group are more likely to appear on their friends’ timelines. Subsequently, with groups, you can broaden your reach even further to extend your outreach efforts.
- Community building. People support your advocacy group for a variety of reasons. They believe in your cause, but many of them also probably appreciate the community formed around your organization. Creating an open forum for your supporters to gather and forge relationships with each other helps provide one more reason for them to continue supporting your advocacy group.
- Organizing. Use your groups to not only spread the word about your advocacy campaign, but to actually help supporters plan coordinated activities and initiatives. While you may not be able to connect your social media profiles straight to your software, you can use it to keep track of the supporters you contact on social media and directions you’ve given them over the platform.
Your advocacy software can help you manage your social media calendar, as well. Double the Donation’s advocacy software tips illustrate the full range of advocacy software solutions available, from canvassing tools to CRMs with advocacy features. Some of these solutions also come with post automation that allow organizations to schedule their social media posts, keeping their groups active.
4. Stay in touch all year long.
It’s normal for advocacy organizations to experience slumps in participation between legislative sessions. Of course, your organization needs to stay open and keep building momentum even during the slow seasons. Your social media presence can help keep your organization active and visible to your supporters, even when you’re between campaigns.
Remember that your supporters are using their social media accounts throughout the year, which means you can connect with them all year long. Here are a few ways you can keep active and continue to forge connections:
- Host events. Events help your advocacy group raise funds and connect with supporters. For your supporters, events are a fun way to learn more about the issues that matter to your organization and make friends with other attendees. Use your event and virtual fundraising software to host events meant to raise revenue and celebrate all your supporters accomplished in your last campaign. Doing so can help build a community, encouraging activists to come back the next time you make a call for support.
- Maintain a blog. Your website is the go-to location for supporters checking in on your advocacy group. Making routine blog posts signals that your organization is active, healthy, and gearing up for your next campaign. These posts will also provide new content for you to share on social media, creating cross-traffic between your website and your social media accounts.
- Support activists advocating on your behalf. Even if you don’t have a campaign currently going on, the issues you’re fighting still impact the lives of your supporters. This means many of them are likely to continue spreading awareness on their own social media profiles. While some social media platforms make it difficult to find these advocates, take the effort to seek them out and be sure to thank them for their continued support.
By maintaining a support base through social media from campaign to campaign, you’ll also reduce the amount of re-recruiting necessary for upcoming campaigns. While you should always aim to increase your support base, retaining your old supporters is key for growing your organization.
Social media has a low initial investment and high potential return for advocacy groups. Get started making the most of this platform by crafting a compelling message, investing in the right software resources, and helping your supporters form lasting connections with other members of your advocacy community.
About the Author:
Russ’ first experience in the world of grassroots organizing came when he was an infant and his mother pushed him in a stroller door to door to collect signatures for the Impeach Nixon movement. Eighteen years later he embarked on his college career in Washington, DC and during that time developed a passion for campaigns and elections that started with an internship on the campaign of the first woman ever elected to Congress from the State of Virginia.
For the next 15 years Russ lived and breathed campaigns, running field operations in a wide range of races and for a number of coordinated campaign efforts. When it became obvious to Russ that the technology existed to make field efforts drastically more efficient and accountable but the solutions did not, he launched Grassroots Unwired and has worked every day since to keep GU on the cutting edge, pushing new features and enhancements to meet the needs of every evolving grassroots organizing efforts.