How to do digital advocacy

An image of a smartphone

Advocacy is an organized process of influencing people or institutions in order to achieve a stated positive change. Digital advocacy means the “process” is mostly digital, by using digital tools.


Why it’s great:

  • Accessible to anyone with access to the internet/mobile
  • Can potentially reach many people
  • Quick and cheap


But let’s keep in mind:

  • There is a lot of competition out there - how do you differentiate yourself?
  • Platforms keep changing their algorithms - how can you keep reaching your audience?
  • Not everyone has access to the internet - how do you include the unconnected?

Depending on your goals, digital may not be the way to go.


Here are the 6 steps to a successful digital advocacy campaign which we'll explore in more detail:

  • Goals - what are you trying to achieve?
  • Audiences - who are you trying to influence?
  • Messages - what do you want them to know & do?
  • Tactics - how will you get there?
  • Timeline - when will you do what?
  • Monitoring & Evaluation - how successful are you?



1. Goals - what are you trying to achieve?

Your goal is the main change you want to see take place as a result of your advocacy efforts.

Try to limit the number of goals you set - if you're overambitious you may find yourself struggling to achieve any of them.

Try to be as clear as possible about what you want to achieve and use the SMART approach to come up with your goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound

    Read Carly's blog about why we all need to speak out for those whose voices are ignored.

    Young people in Madagascar take photos of the beach using a mobile phone.
    Young people in Madagascar document environmental degredation in their community using a digital tool, to support their advocacy efforts.

    2. Audience - who are you trying to influence?

    Your audience are people or institutions you seek to influence in order to achieve your goal. Try to define your audience(s) as clearly as possible:

    • Profession - are they in school, university, have a specific job, or does it not matter?
    • Location - where do they live, are they urban or rural (or both)?
    • Age - how old are they?
    • Gender - are they a specific gender?
    • Passion - what do they care about?
    • Attitude - how do they feel about your issue/cause?
    • Change factor - how can they bring about the change you are trying to achieve?
    • Media habits - what media do they consume?
    • Influencers - who do they listen to?

    Do proper research to learn more about your audience - find information online or consult a focus group. The more you know, the better you can decide on messaging, tactics and timing.

    3. Messages - what do you want your audience to think/do?

    Your messages will convince your audience to think something or take an action, in order to create change.

    Three key questions to guide the development of your messages:

    • What do we want people to know?
    • What do we want people to feel?
    • What do we want people to do?

    Try to tailor your messages to your target audience (that’s why you did step 2).

    Be as succinct and specific as possible - we all have short attention spans - and use simple language, avoiding jargon.

    In case you want the audience to take an action, make sure to include a call to action!

    And remember to use relevant hashtags on your platforms to link into conversations.

    4. Digital Tactics - how will you get there?

    Your tactics are the content and channels through which you will communicate your messages to your audience:

    • Make sure that you create compelling content that conveys your messages: videos, graphics/visuals, blogs, interviews, human interest stories, first-person narratives, email communication (newsletters, appeals, etc.)
    • Use digital channels that reach your target audience: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Medium, Tumblr etc.

    Don’t overstretch yourself and adapt your content to individual channels.

    Make sure you think about the relationship between channels and content - some content works better on some channels than others.

    Get inspired by Timoci's mission to protect the environment.

    5. Timeline - when will you do what?

    The timeline is a plan that you develop, deciding when you will use what digital channel and post what type of content.

    If possible, have a set end-date by which you want to have achieved your goal, and from that date, work backwards to determine milestones.

    Consider important moments where people will talk about your cause:

    • Relevant events/conferences
    • National and international days/dates

    But remember, not everything can be predicted - closely follow the news and “ride news waves”.

    6. Monitoring - how successful are you?

    Monitoring means observing and measuring the impact of your advocacy efforts.

    Make sure to periodically check whether you are on track to achieve your goals - this is why it’s advised to set SMART goals. Measurable means quantifiable, e.g. We want 100 people to go and vote.

    In case you see that you’re not on track to achieve your goals, consider reviewing your messaging and adapting your tactics.

    “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

    ― Malala Yousafzai