The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

Leverage Social Platforms to Raise Awareness for Your Cause

Nonprofit Social Media Advocacy for Beginners

Social media has revolutionized advocacy. Today, it's a no-brainer that you should be getting your hands dirty with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram to expand your reach, tap into new audiences, and connect with like-minded individuals who are eager to support your nonprofit efforts.

So just what are the best practices for using social media for advocacy? Here are four of our top strategies we use at Care2:

Hone in on your goals

First, identify your target audience and the actions you want them to take. Do you want to increase email newsletter sign-ups? Gather signatures on an online petition? Boost engagement? Maybe you just want to increase Facebook "likes." Identifying your goals will help you fine-tune your strategy to get the results you want.

Once you have those goals in place, the key is to track your campaigns so you can know if you have been successful. Make sure that you put tracking codes on all of the URLs you post to social media. Facebook Insights and tools like Sprout Social or TweetDeck can show you stats like impressions and clicks, but it's up to you to keep that tracking going to know if you have gotten interaction on your site, like petition signatures or newsletter signups. There are also some great tools like ActionSprout that allow you to do some signup collection right on Facebook, if you're so inclined.

Tag, tag, tag.

Hashtags are your friend! Keep up to date on the latest news stories so you can tag your Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter posts with relevant hashtags that will help your content surface when people search for those subjects. Hashtagging may seem like an afterthought, but more often than not, it helps people to uncover content with which they identify.

Experiment with hashtag campaigns; there is so much to learn from just trying. Create a custom hashtag around an event, contest, or issue, and encourage your audience to use it to spread the word. Reward those who do so by retweeting them or "liking" their posts. You'd be amazed how much engagement spreads when citizens feel their efforts are reaffirmed by established nonprofits working on causes they're passionate about.

Or, if you're not ready to start a campaign of your own, take a cue from nonprofit Water is Life and join in with an existing, popular hashtag. Water is Life used the popular hashtag #FirstWorldProblems to promote a video that demonstrated how absurd many modern problems are in comparison to the struggles of families who don't even have access to clean water. Check out a few other great examples using hashtags and social efforts to spark change.

Experiment with ads

Advertising can help you to get eyeballs on your content and drive leads from audiences that are difficult to tap into through organic efforts. Advertising can get technical quickly, but try experimenting with Facebook's "Boost" option to start. Facebook will even notify you when a post is performing better than many of your other posts. These posts are great ones to start experimenting with boosting.

All you have to do is click "boost post" in the lower right of your post. You'll be asked to select your audience-this is where those niche audiences and interests come in. Think about what subjects your desired audience might be interested in, and try targeting those keywords. You can also limit your boosted posts geographically (don't go too local or you won't be likely to reach enough people) and based on association with someone who already likes your page. You'll then have to choose a budget for your post. You can spend a ton of money very quickly on Facebook, so start small and see what kind of result you are getting. Even for just a small amount spent, you should see your post reach improve.

If you're ready to venture into full-fledged ads, be prepared to spend some more time crafting your language, images, and looking into the stats. Beth Kanter has a great post about ads that can get you started if you're ready to dive in.

Get creative!

Shareability is key, so switch up your content often. Some things to try: branded graphics, videos, and infographics (don't have design resources? There are a bunch of sites that allow you to create your own!) to get your audience engaged and talking about causes that matter. Or, try tweeting photos from your events or rallies. Ask participants for their Twitter handle so you can tag them in the post. Your audience will love seeing real people like themselves turning out for a great cause. I also love seeing examples of organizations that use social media to encourage their followers to post their own content, like how Amnesty International has new supporters take a selfie with their logo and post it to social media. This gets your organization in front of so many more eyes than you would have without it.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to leveraging social media for advocacy. These platforms offer myriad options, tools, and tricks for getting your causes known-just remember to establish goals, experiment, and don't be afraid to have fun!

Joe Baker Joe Baker

The preceding is a guest post from Joe Baker. Joe is the Vice President, Editorial and Advocacy for Care2 and ThePetitionSite. He is responsible for recruitment campaigns for nonprofit partners, membership growth efforts, and all editorial content. Prior to Care2, Joe was the Executive Director of N-TEN. He also worked for Amnesty International USA as the Director of Internet Communications after serving as Grassroots Advocacy Director and Deputy Director, Western Region. In addition to his extensive nonprofit management experience, Joe spent seven years performing and managing research in telecommunications and software engineering. Joe has a Ph.D. in Communication Systems and a B.S. in Economics/Systems Science from UCLA. Joe serves on the Board of Directors of Death Penalty Focus, the Advisory Board of GiveForward.org and volunteers for the Sierra Club and Amnesty International.

Topics: Communications