Digital platforms – including social media – provide powerful ways to communicate ideas, raise awareness, encourage broad support, and build momentum for your cause
With more and more people having access to the internet via their mobile phones, digital engagement can offer a quick, cheap and easy way to reach many people. The global reach of digital platforms allows you to interact with people from around the world and learn about ideas and struggles different than your own. This boosts creativity while at the same time fosters solidarity networks among young people
Digital platforms are powerful, but should be used with great caution. We should always use social media consciously. Don’t get sucked into the social media trap, of having arguments with others, or spending hours scrolling aimlessly though posts. Remember to always check the reliability of the information you find online.
How can you use digital platforms to boost your advocacy?
Build a presence for your cause or organization. You can set up accounts on social media platforms popular in your country and use these to share information and updates with other people.
Develop a content strategy. The internet provides a lot of competition for people’s attention so try to create something unique and creative.
Participate in social listening. You can research conversations taking place online around your issue (by searching hashtags, for instance) to get a better understanding of the discussions people are having and how they view the issue.
Design a digital campaign. This is one way to get a message out to lots of people and encourage them to take action.
Team up. Look for opportunities to team up or partner with established groups or organizations to have a larger impact.
Go live. Many popular platforms give the opportunity to ‘go live’ to create discussions or communicate an issue in an immediate way. For example, you could organize a live online presentation from a beach or river clean-up that shows the problem and lets you interview some of the volunteers as they work.
Work with digital influencers. Individuals who have a large following and powerful impact on social media are known as influencers. They can help you gain traction for your advocacy project.
Create digital petitions. Petitions are formal requests that ask for change and are usually sent to organization or government leaders. Many websites let you easily create and share an online petition, which lets others show their support for your issue.
Engage in data activism. Data provides powerful support for any advocacy project and helps you put your topic in the spotlight. It is important to gather data around your advocacy issue and communicate it wisely and timely.
Seek e-funding. Many websites can be used to raise funds (‘crowdfund’) for your activities. Remember to remain transparent about how you will use funds and provide updates to those who have supported you.
How to create a social media campaign:
You should design your social media campaigns to encourage broad support and build momentum around your cause. Here are a few pointers on how to create a digital campaign:
Set your goals. Be clear about what you want to achieve with your campaign. Set targets if you can, such as ‘raise awareness about air pollution and reach 10,000 people to sign a petition to reduce car pollution by December’. Try to be as specific as possible.
Determine your audience. Your audience includes people or institutions you seek to influence to achieve your goal. Try to define your audiences as clearly as possible and find out more about them.
Develop your key messages. You should develop your messages to appeal to the head, heart and hand. Appealing to the head or brain means using words, facts and figures to support your advocacy. To appeal to people’s hearts, bring in emotional and personal stories that your audience will care about and believe in. Lastly, appeal to people’s hands or their ability to get involved. People need to feel invited to join you and want to know how their involvement can make a difference.
Decide upon your tactics. What specific actions can help you reach your intended audiences? What type of content will appeal to them? What platforms do they use? Are they more likely to listen to certain people?
Do a risk assessment. Think about how people might react to your messages and content. Are they likely to misunderstand it or get upset about it? Make a plan for how you will address safeguarding concerns.
Define key activities and resources. List the activities needed to implement your digital campaign. Figure out what monetary and human resources you will need to make this happen.
Develop a timeline. Decide what you are going to do and when. Are there special time periods when people will care more about your issue?
Engage and moderate. When people respond to your messages and content, try to engage them further. Acknowledge and thank your supporters. If you think it is safe to do so, respond to those who might not agree and try to present evidence on why your approach is a good one.
Protecting yourself online
When engaging online, it is important to protect yourself. While online advocacy is important, always use social media responsibly. Here are some tips on how to stay safe online.
- Make sure you have strong passwords and that you protect your accounts. Don’t share these details with anyone.
- Maintain a civil and compassionate dialogue with people, even if you do not agree with them.
- Become aware of your country’s social media laws. Several influencers have been taken into custody over tweets or Facebook posts.
- Make sure to attain the consent of all participants who you will feature in your campaign; explain why and where you will use their data. Make sure that the information you share online doesn’t put you or anyone else at risk, especially when working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and in sensitive contexts.
- Protect your personal information and data. Be careful when you sign up for different services; it is common for data to get sold to third parties.
- Think carefully about what you share regarding your personal life. Activists and advocates can become targets of people who harass others online (often called trolls).
Unfortunately, you may experience some harassment online. Here are some tips if you do.
Keep calm. Don’t let anger overtake you and do not engage in back-and-forth arguments.
Express your feelings. Make sure to state that you disagree with what is happening and you don’t feel comfortable with it. Remember your disapproval is of the other person’s behaviour and their comments.
Ask for support. Don’t keep your fears to your- self. If you are worried about your safety or something that has happened to you online, urgently speak to someone you trust.
Report. Social media sites include a way for you to report harassment or upsetting content. If someone or something hurts you, report it.
Disconnect. Make sure you take regular breaks from the internet, especially if too much time online is having a negative effect on your mental health.
It is important to remember that advocacy is not an occasion but rather a lifestyle. You should reinforce your advocacy principles by the way you live and the choices you make. Let's dive into some personal lifestyle choices.
Interested in doing advocacy? Read more about how you can champion change through advocacy here!
Also have a look at the Youth Advocacy Resources Hub for more tips, tricks and tools to help you along your advocacy journey!