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When and How: Leveraging Social Media to Advance Your Policy Goals


Most of us use social media as a way to engage our followers in conversation and to keep them up to date on what is happening, but are you using social media as a tool to dialogue with reporters and decision makers? While you may tweet and post on Facebook, do you undertake your social media work in the same strategic fashion as you do to engage traditional media advocacy activities? Many advocacy campaigns and organizations focus exclusively on being active without figuring out how to be strategic.

As with traditional media, our goal is to build power and influence with key decision-makers – and we can’t measure that in the number of tweets. You need to do more in order to leverage this powerful tool:

Build your audience and continue to grow it (followers): Do some outreach! Here are some ideas to get your started:

  • Link to your social media pages from your Website.
  • Change your status message, post a link, or send an announcement from your social media accounts to inform your followers of your accounts on other platforms.
  • Feature your accounts in your eNewsletter and add links to your social media accounts in your email footers.
  • Reach out to bloggers and tweeters you have relationships with and ask for their help in promoting.
  • Add a self-updating stream of your posts to an appropriate place on your Website or blog. This doesn’t just show that you have social media accounts, but that your content is worth following.

Expand your frame and watch both supporters and opponents (following): Following others is a great way to stay up to the minute on what others – including the opposition – are saying. By being in the loop on current discussions and breaking news, you can insert your campaign’s connection to the latest topic into the social media newsfeed.

Share content of others to be noticed by them: When you read something that catches your attention and you think your followers would be interested in knowing about it too, spread the word. Retweet or share the post. Not only does this keep your followers informed, it also helps in building your relationship with the original poster of the content.

#Tag it. Hashtags are the primary way that Twitter users organize the information they tweet, like a virtual filing cabinet. They are also used on Facebook, but not as prominently. You can launch different hashtags for particular campaigns, events and issues, or use a trending hashtag to connect to the conversation.

Have a dialogue and build a relationship with reporters: By following media outlets and individual journalists, you can engage in a dialogue about their coverage. Often you can provide a different viewpoint on breaking news and your campaign or spokesperson can become part of the story.

Have a plan. When done strategically, social media can help move your campaign or cause forward.

  • Have a plan for who is responsible for overseeing your social media accounts. A team can and should work together, but one person should take the lead on posting content.
  • Have a crisis response plan – make sure you know ahead of time who will be charged with deciding it/how to respond to attacks or opposition online. Part of your crisis response plan should include protocol around when to alert/inform supervisors and funders in a crisis.
  • Include social media in your media advocacy planning process – don’t make it an afterthought. Social media and traditional media advocacy should work hand in hand, making sure your messages remain consistent across platforms.