Social media advocacy, in a nutshell, is using the power of your social media platforms to inspire your fans, followers, and connections to support a cause by taking action. You don’t have to be a celebrity or an influencer to be a digital advocate and make an impact.
The advantages of using social media to advocate for a cause include:
- low (or no) hard costs for set-up
- potentially wide reach
- quick/instantaneous sharing of messages
IGNITE has seen lots of great social media advocacy efforts within our own community:
- Loren Walter using Instagram to educate people about the 2021 January runoff election in Georgia, encouraging people to register to vote and GOTV.
- Hannah Testa using Instagram to encourage her fans to participate in World Clean Up Day to get plastics out of our oceans.
- Tiffaney Boyd using Facebook to get friends to attend a teach-in about California Proposition 16 to end affirmative action in the state.
No matter the cause, social media gives you a platform to:
1. Raise awareness.
2. Educate others about an issue.
3. Inspire people to take action.
Let’s dive in!
What sites should I use?
Hundreds of social media apps exist that can be used for digital advocacy, but to get started, spend your time and resources where your supporters are most likely to be. Focus on the apps where you spend the most time and have the most engaged community.
If you are trying to reach a certain demographic, then consider using the app you’ll most likely find them one. For example, advocating for social security benefits may resonate more with the 45+ crowd so you’re best off to take your efforts to Facebook. If you want to reach people about participating in a march for youth voting rights, take it to TikTok or Instagram.
Different types of content are more common on certain social media platforms. Besides aligning your message with your audience, align your content with the platform.
Less is more. Don’t spread yourself thin by talking on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, YouTube, MySpace… Focus your efforts on one or two apps and give it 100%. If you’ve never used Twitter, don’t feel like you have to have an account to successfully advocate online.
Where should I start?
Here are a few hot tips to get you started.
1. Pick an issue or cause you’re truly passionate about.
2. Research, research, research. If you are going to ask others to support this cause, you better know all the ins and outs of what you're advocating for.
3. Familiarize yourself with the organizations and experts already championing this cause. Learn for their efforts to make yours more impactful.
4. Triple check sources before posting links or facts. You don't want to feed the misinformation machine!
To recap, before posting, make sure you’re genuinely knowledgeable about the cause. You don’t need a Ph.D. but you do need to know enough to have a conversation on the topic.
How do I drive social change on social media?
Before you can ask someone to take action - like signing a petition or calling their elected representative - you’ll have to take them on a journey from awareness to advocacy.
Don’t let these seven stages intimidate you. You’ll find some of your community are already far along in this process. Others will need to start from step one.
Awareness: You know about the issue but have limited knowledge and no emotional investment.
Understanding: You understand there is a problem but you have yet to connect the dots between the issue and your own interests/experience.
Connection: Your understanding increases to a point where you can see how it directly impacts you and/or the communities you belong to.
Belief: Your connection to the cause deepens and you’ve come to believe in the necessity of solving the problem.
Action: You begin keeping a close eye on the issue, seeking out more information, and attending events. When you see information on social media, you share it. You join online communities centered around the issue.
Loyalty: You begin to make personal changes, even sacrifices, in your own life to advance the cause. You consider this issue your #1 cause.
Advocacy: You are calling your elected representatives. You are signing and circulating petitions. You are delivering testimonies at hearings. And you’re loudly and proudly promoting the cause on social media.
Knowing your online community could fall anywhere in this seven-step journey, think about creating different types of content to meet people where they are at. You’ll need posts that introduce the issues (awareness) to posts that make it extremely personal (connection) to posts with a powerful call to action (advocacy).
If you remember nothing from this article, at least walk away with these key tips to be an effective advocate on social media.
- Meet people where they are at. Vary your social media content to the seven stages of engagement.
- Your passion for a cause may offend people. You can attempt to educate them but sometimes haters gonna hate and you have to let it go.
- One and done isn’t enough. A single post to Twitter or Instagram isn’t going to change the world. And there’s a decent chance that, due to algorithms, that only a fraction of your online community will see your post.
- Facts, not Fake News. When you’re championing a cause, it’s important to share accurate information. You can do more harm than good if you are circulating information that is false.
- Be real. Be human and authentic with your audience. Don’t do it for the likes. Do it because it’s a cause you care genuinely.