Leading your horses to water: Making social media easy for your activists

Like so many things, it’s easy for social change activists to get really excited about social media and its capacity to bring people together around the causes we hold so dear, forgetting in the meantime that these new tools aren’t necessarily intuitive for all of those we’re trying to engage and, more importantly, that empowering people to use them successfully can be another opportunity to build capacity and strengthen our relationship with our constituents.

That’s why I love what the Environmental Defense Action Fund has done with their Twitter Guide to the climate change bill.

There is a lot that they’re doing so well with their web-based advocacy–great (as in horrifying and spell-binding) videos of the oil spill disaster in the Gulf, up-to-date blog posts, podcasts and other informative tools, and a good social media presence–but this Twitter guide is especially impressive because it manages to walk people through how to engage on this legislative issue on Twitter, without seeming condescending or too ‘tech-y’.

And, while a guide like this can become outdated very quickly (as legislation changes and the Twitter discussion stream shifts), it provides an excellent model for organizations seeking to influence the online conversations their supporters have about their issues.

Some of the essential elements:

  • Guide to the most common hashtags used by supporters and oppponents of the legislation (helps advocates organize their tweets, builds momentum around the topic, and facilitates monitoring)
  • Twitter-ready talking points (key messages, already formulated in short phrases suitable for tweeting)
  • Integration with Twitter (they include a link right next to each point that allows supporters to immediately tweet a given message–this serves two purposes: getting the message out quickly AND giving people a chance to practice interfacing with Twitter, if they’re new to that)
  • Beginner-friendly language that assumes neither that users have to be Twitter experts to get started nor that all of your followers are necessarily “Twitter fluent” (you could pick this up with only a very basic idea of what Twitter is and still get started–you really need to know more about how messaging and policy debate works, which is what you want to emphasize anyway; Twitter is just the medium)

    Does anyone have other examples of nonprofit advocacy groups producing tools like this to help advocates navigate the social media landscape? I’m especially interested in those that are campaign-specific and “battle-ready”, so to speak, so not the more involved guides that provide background information on the applications but rather quick, easy-to-use tools that can be immediately implemented in a campaign. Are you creating anything like this for your work, or might you?

  • 2 responses to “Leading your horses to water: Making social media easy for your activists

    1. No, we’re not creating them…we’re using these guides! Thank you to all the great organizations like EDF for publishing them!!!

      • There really are so many great tools out there now–I was in class yesterday working through these scenarios about federal legislative advocacy, and students started to talk about the social media campaigns they would design to complement their lobbying work…what was interesting was that, when the issue was really happening, social media wasn’t the factor it was today, so it was fascinating to see how differently advocacy could/would unfold in today’s context.

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google photo

    You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s