Can social media help you change policy outcomes? Channels like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube definitely offer unique potential to engage more people with policy issues — especially when people share content that matters to them, so it reaches wider and wider circles. Social media also offer us more channels for communicating with our elected officials.
That said, there’s a lot we don’t know! Nonprofits are still experimenting to find the social media strategies that work best for advocacy. Here are some ideas to inform your experiments.
Grow public awareness
Circulate advocacy campaigns
If you’re using action alerts or petitions to send messages to elected leaders, social media are great platforms for circulating them. You can reach your own network and connect with more people who care.
Don’t make clicks-to-take-action your only measure of success. Much of the value of social media for political change comes from getting people thinking and talking about issues. Post articles, photos, videos, and updates that spark engagement.
Share stories of real world activism
Real world actions are usually more inspiring than online petitions. Whatever people are doing to promote your cause in real life — volunteering, demonstrating, meeting with their representatives — makes great content for social media. And when you post photos of activists, those people often share them with their own networks.
Show who you are
Like all of your social media activity, your advocacy outreach can help to grow your audience. It also shows potential supporters what you do and what you care about, so they can decide whether to invest their time and money.
Connect with elected officials
Be in touch
Politicians have social media for the same reason they have phone numbers and email. They want to hear from their constituents. So, take advantage of these convenient ways to contact them. (Of course, some elected officials use social media more than others. If your representative isn’t active on social media, it’s probably better to email or call.)
Communicate with respect
Whether you’re sending individual messages or using social media as a public forum, be professional and polite. When you show respect, you get respect.
Follow up in real life
You might or might not get a response when you comment on a politician’s Facebook page or reply to their tweets — but your message still gets through. Eventually, if you meet your elected officials in person, let them know that you’ve been interacting with them on social media. When they can connect the messages with the people sending them, they pay more attention.
The more messengers, the better: The more voices that carry your message, the stronger it gets across. Especially for important issues, recruit your members to send messages to elected officials close to the same time that you do.