Here is a piece I wrote in October of 2014 for the now defunct Connectivity blog at CQ-Roll Call. It called for campaigns and organizations to make social media a top priority, with appropriate staffing and resources. This is still a message that too many have yet to embrace. With the rise of fake news on social media, it is even more important than ever for reputable organizations and campaigns to posts reliable and credible content there.
Among Americans online, more people get their political news from Facebook than from CNN or Fox News. A recent study from the Pew Research Journalism Project finds that Facebook is second only to local TV news as a source for political news among the 89% of Americans with internet access. That is 48% of online Americans and 39% of Americans in total. And that is just Facebook. Throw Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ into the mix and you see very quickly that social media is the most powerful way to reach people across the nation with news about politics. This raises the question: Are you putting enough emphasis on social media at your organization?
People who work at advocacy organizations, trade associations and other organizations focused on politics and policy often ask me, “How can I keep the amount of time I spend on social media down to a minimum?” After a moment composing myself, I typically answer, “More people will connect with your organization via social media than any other way, most likely more than all other ways combined. Given this reality, why isn’t social media your highest priority?”
If you compare the priority your audiences place on using social media to connect with your organizations, combined with the priority they place on social media as a source for political news, to your priority for using social media as a strategic tool, do they match? Are you giving social media the resources, staff and priority it deserves? If you are asking questions like, “How to I minimize the time I spend using social media?” or if you have an intern or a junior staff as your social media manager, the answer is “NO.”
Social media is a powerful tool that can serve every aspect of your organization, from press outreach to advocacy, from policy research to fundraising. If you put the resources into it that it deserves, you will enhance your organization’s influence and the service it provides to your members. It is as simple as that.
When it comes to social media, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. If you are trying to promote content, the more you share links to your content, the more people will click through to your content. If you are trying to build brand recognition, the more you post messages about what your organization is doing, the more brand recognition you build. If you want to influence policymakers, the more you share your policy goals and the reasons behind your position, the more activists will rally to your cause, the more the press will write about your cause and the more policymakers will get your message. And these days, policymakers will only act if they get a lot of messages from constituents telling them to act.
But you cannot simply throw resources at social media and expect it to work well. For it to enhance your advocacy program, you must think strategically about it. You have to know which Members of Congress to target, presumably those that you can move to support your position. You have to know which members of the press are likely to write about your work on a policy and you need to coordinate social media messaging targeting them to reinforce your other efforts to pitch them. And you need to know which communities of citizens are most likely to take action on your policy campaigns and how to target them on social media.
The point is that not only should you put a very high priority on using social media for your advocacy program; you should put a very high priority on using it well. Get beyond thinking that social media is the domain of young people. All ages of people use social media and most people who use it (young and old) do not know how to use it strategically. So put someone who understands your organization’s messaging strategy, who understands your audience and who knows how to leverage social media to get your message to the right audience in a way that moves them to do what you need them to do in charge of your social media program. Then make sure they have the resources they need and the cooperation and collaboration of everyone in your organization. You will see amazing returns.