Social media for advocates

 

Know that it’s OK to just read and learn from other people. Follow a variety of people including people you don’t 100% agree with.

-- Kathy Flaherty

Social media has become an important tool for advocates. It can be a powerful way to connect with other people advocating on your issue and with elected officials. But it’s not a necessity for effective advocacy, especially at the state level. Social media makes some people uncomfortable for a variety of reasons and that’s OK. Many very effective advocates do not have a social media presence.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to using social media. There are links at the end that provide more advanced help.

Here is excellent advice from Kathy Flaherty of Connecticut Legal Rights Project, an exceptional advocate and Twitter maven. Highly recommended.

Choose how, how much, and where you want to engage with social media. You can engage at any level from once-in-a-while to all-in. You can choose which platform(s) (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.) make sense for your advocacy and your available time. Don’t try to be everywhere in the beginning.

Before you start posting -- if you are working with (or for) an organization or coalition, be sure you are respecting the values and rules of the group. Your content should reflect well on your organization. Be very clear when you are speaking only for yourself. If your group doesn’t have guidelines about using the organization’s name on social media, create a process to draft some. Include a response plan if there is a problem.

There can be problems. Be ready for them. People can disagree with you strongly on social media platforms, and with some exceptions, they are allowed to. Don’t take it personally. People who care, on both sides, can behave badly. You don’t have to engage with them.

Follow the policymakers and agencies that touch your issue, as well as your own local elected officials. Some Connecticut legislators are active on social media and manage their own accounts. It can be an effective way to reach them, create conversations on Twitter, and thank them for their service.

Follow other advocates, especially those you agree with and like. Often, you’ll find out about opportunities and alerts on your issue first on social media, with action steps to make a difference. You can support like-minded advocates with a simple Like or Retweet.

Also follow people and organizations on the other side of your issue. You don’t need to engage; it’s unlikely you will change minds over social media. But it’s important to understand their position and concerns to craft an effective message of your own.

Follow reporters who write about your issue. It’s an excellent way to stay up to date. Many reporters get ideas for stories from Twitter.

Be brief. Less if more. Even though Twitter now allows longer posts, resist the temptation. You can’t hit every point on social media – don’t even try. Include links to more information.

Don’t overwhelm people with posts or, as in real life, they will stop listening. Twitter’s platform works better than Facebook for more frequent posts.

To boost your posts’ reach, use pictures or videos and include a link to more info and an action step. Personal stories and surprising new facts are effective. Inspirational quotes can be effective and breaking news is always popular.

Remember to thank people – social media is an excellent way to thank policymakers when they’ve done the right thing and to thank other advocates who’ve helped in your advocacy.

Take time with your account’s personal description/About us. This is how people will find you and decide if they want to follow your content. Update your description often.

Click here for expert advice from Kathy Flaherty, an exceptional advocate for people with mental health conditions and a Twitter maven. Follow her at @ConnConnection.

Who to follow on Twitter:

Kathy Flaherty                       @ConnConnection

CT Health Policy Project          @cthealthnotes

CT Health Foundation             @cthealth

CT News Junkie                      @ctnewsjunkie

Your list will grow quickly as you wander through the system and find helpful people

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Coalitions and collaboration

Changing Public Opinion

Tips no advocate should forget

Engaging policymakers

Legislators – Who are they?

The importance of legislative staff

If you only have five minutes

Champions

Tips for talking with reporters

Working with political campaigns

Links

Best Practices for Advocacy Groups, Facebook

New User FAQ, Twitter