How to Use Social Media to Raise Awareness
By Elisa Camahort Page, Carolyn Gerin, and Jamia Wilson
Today’s complex online ecosystem presents an advantage to you that organizers of yesteryear did not have. Namely: Social media allows you to distribute the messages you want to be seen far and wide. You are not bound by place, space, and time when it comes to finding people who care about your cause and spurring them to action. Raising awareness, consciousness, and even funds has never been simpler. That being said, there’s a reason some people think social media = time suck. It’s easy to overinvest your time and even easier to feel overwhelmed. All social media channels are not created equal for the task.
Consider this section your primer on the most appropriate tools for social media activism, as well as your permission to just say no to spending twenty-four hours a day chasing your tail on social.
Know your tools for mass (but shallow) distribution (aka awareness). Some social media tools are best for disseminating quick takes. They don’t necessarily drive traffic to think pieces or foster conversation; however, they are best for propagating a headline or sharing what’s happening in real time. Twitter is an obvious leader in this space. Another service to look into is Thunderclap, a tool that allows you to make it easy for supporters to share coordinated messages across Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. You set a schedule and provide the base language for shares. Your partners connect their profiles on a one-time basis to contribute to your “Thunderclap.”
Make friends with clickbait. If your goal is mass awareness and distribution, then you know what to do: Write the most pithy-yet-clicky headline you can manage. A headline that lets people get the gist of your message even if they never actually click through. And a headline that isn’t so long that it discourages people from re- sharing it. The ACLU (@ACLU) has a Twitter stream full of short copy to which they add links and hashtags. Their position is very clear, and if you re- share their tweets, there is usually space for you to add commentary or to swap in your favorite hashtags.
Understand the audience mindset.
People like to “spray and pray” the same content across every social media tool, but spare a thought for the mindset of your potential advocates and how it changes depending on where you reach them. Twitter has become a real-time engine—people turn to Twitter to know what’s happening right now. Sometimes it’s fun stuff, like #Scandal, and sometimes it’s current events, like #Ferguson. So when raising awareness via tweets, try to make your updates as of-the-moment as you can, perhaps even tying other current events or trending topics to your post (avoiding irrelevant or spammy tweets, please!). Facebook, in contrast, is a place where humans come to connect with other humans, individuals they mostly consider family and friends, and skews to a slightly older demographic. Personalize as much as possible. Tell the story of why you care about this cause, this action, this issue, and so on.
A picture is worth…well, you know.
Can your cause be captured in strong images? If so, leverage the hell out of image-oriented social media tools like Instagram, Tumblr, or Pinterest. If not, save your limited band-width for other tools. For example, humane societies nationwide have figured out what Sarah McLachlan always knew: Plaintive images of sad animals will stick in the brain forever. As a result, these organizations share a steady stream of such images to keep the “adopt, don’t shop” message top of mind. In emergency situations, a powerful image can rally masses of people to help. For example, an image of one young Syrian refugee child who fell victim to drowning while trying to escape to Canada by way of the Greek island Kos did more to wake people up to the crisis than facts, figures, or even widely shared pictures of adult refugees did. We know that blog posts and Facebook shares get better traction when they include an image— so start thinking about what pictures bring your cause or issue to life and will make people feel something.
Excerpted from Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Activism, and Advocacy for All by Elisa Camahort Page, Carolyn Gerin, and Jamia Wilson (Ten Speed Press, 2018).
Elisa Camahort Page was the co-founder and COO of BlogHer, Inc, a scrappy start-up turned women’s-media-powerhouse. Counted amongst the tiny percentage of women-founder teams to raise venture funding and achieve an exit with BlogHer, Elisa is now a strategic consultant, writer, and public speaker.
Carolyn Gerin is the creator/art director of the beloved 3-book ‘Anti-Bride’ series by Chronicle Books. She ran an award-winning creative agency in San Francisco, CA. She leads Cannawise.co, a strategic branding firm with expertise in retail product launches, brand development/strategy, and messaging, for companies in the B2B and B2C cannabis economy.
Jamia Wilson is the director of the Feminist Press and author of Young, Gifted, and Black. She also wrote the oral history in Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World and co-authored Road Map for Revolutionaries: Resistance, Advocacy, and Activism for All.
Your Personal Road Map to Being an Effective Changemaker
An Evening Workshop with Jamia Wilson & Elisa Camahort Page
Wednesday, June 26, 2019, 6:00 – 9:00 pm
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