Dept of Free Advice: 4 Social Media Advocacy Tips

Next month, I’ll be presenting on using social media for issue advocacy campaigns to a room of about one hundred communicators. Fine-tuning my presentation has me thinking about how to most effectively use social media for advocacy and its rapid evolution over the last decade.

I worked on my first campaign in 2004. Back then, candidates we’re barely online fundraising, Twitter didn’t exist, and a dot edu email address was required to have a Facebook account. Campaigns and advocates quickly figured out the opportunity that social media presented, and a decade later there are more options for social media than most organizations can manage.

With that rapid expansion and abundance of opportunity in mind, here are four tips I’m including in my presentation on effectively using social media for issue advocacy:

Make it easy for you

Social media is important, but not EVERY social media platform is important. Whatever your organization does, pick two or three social media platforms to focus on. Make it easy on yourself. You probably don’t need a Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Snapchat page for your campaign. I’ve been in many meetings where someone suggests we open another social media account because it’s trendy without considering if it will effectively reach our target audience.

Make it even easier for your followers

If you’re advocating for legislation, a ballot initiative, or a candidate, you are probably asking something of your supporters. Donate, vote, volunteer, put up a yard sign, call your legislator, etc. You MUST keep “the ask” simple. Give them straight forward content and a call to action that is easy to make.

And in that spirit, provide your followers and fellow advocates with good content (i.e. graphics, pictures, and videos) and don’t hide it. Make sure everything is accessible on your website and shared often on your social media platforms.

Dedicated staff time

Facebook pages and Twitter accounts don’t populate themselves. The best social media accounts engage in a conversation with fans, followers, and other accounts. The only way that happens is if a real live human spends time on social media and engages in conversation. You should also have some evergreen posts scheduled so your account never goes stale, but that is not a substitute for consistent care and feeding from a person. Also, if you’re going to have a stale account, don’t bother having one at all.


Campaigns have always relied on repetition and simple slogans – bumper stickers, buttons, and yard signs are all classic campaign swag designed to repeat a name, slogan, or call to action. What makes hashtags a little different is that you’re asking your supporters to actively use them. So it isn’t just enough to recognize and remember a slogan. You need supporters to repeat it. Good hashtags are short, easy to remember and – this is really important – they need to be easy to spell. I was at an event where the word “entrepreneur” was part of the hashtag. Entrepreneurs don’t even know how to spell that word.

Another hashtag fail is to include a series of letters that don’t mean anything. Instead of an acronym that is unrecognizable and hard to remember, pick a couple of words that actually relate to who you are and what you’re doing. #KeepItSimple #KeepItShort


So those are four basic tips to remember for using social media for your advocacy campaign. They may seem rudimentary, but these ground rules are too often forgotten. And trying to do too much at once usually means a group ends up doing nothing well. Simple and effective is better than stretched too thin and missing the mark. Now, go forth and tweet!