Social Media as an Advocacy Tool
Live from the Equality & Justice Conference—ProgressNow director Robbie Sherwood shared his experiences and insight on the best ways to use social media to advocate for causes. He discussed various strengths of different social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Knowing the differences between platforms and how to use them is key.
“On Twitter you decide who to follow–people, feeds, anyone and anything you think is cool or valuable, from the New York Times to Perez Hilton,” said Sherwood. “On Facebook there’s more obligation: these are your friends, family members, and people you went to high school with. They don’t always agree with you, but they still follow you. The same goes for your organization’s Twitter and Facebook.”
Sherwood focused most on how to use Twitter to dip into statewide and worldwide conversations in real time. Trending topic streams have the potential to reach hundreds, thousands, even millions of internet users.
Posting compelling tweets with hashtags is a way to insert yourself, your words, and your opinions into public dialogue beyond the confines of your own followers.
“Trending topics can catch fire,” said Sherwood, “from #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter, to hashtags inane as #GoldenGlobes and #SuperBowlAds.”
Social media is one of the most powerful ways to reach lawmakers. Tweets are more subversive and are more difficult to ignore than emails.
“Twitter is an exciting tool for advocacy because it can spread valuable information in a short amount of time. Five tweets will get a congressman’s attention more than 20 people copying and pasting an email.”
When Sherwood tweeted #BindersFullofWomen during the 2012 presidential debate, celebrities like left-wing comedian Bob Delaney and women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke retweeted Sherwoods hashtag to some 50,000 followers each.
“It was like surfing a wave,” said Sherwood, “All I did was hit send. It took me two seconds, and suddenly several thousands of people are seeing what I’m saying.”
Sherwood concluded with tips for advocacy on social media:
Stay on message, don’t feed trolls
Follow strategically to connect with influencers, activists, and journalists
Google yourself to see what people are saying about you
Keep track of your metrics in order to attract donors, using platforms like Klout, Twitter Analytics, and UniteBlue
Buy your own images
Be careful and cognizant about what you say, because it reflects on you and employers/organizations you’re a part of