- Does social media add value in grassroots advocacy? Do posts and tweets matter?
- Tweeting isn't for me. Do I really need to tweet or post online?
- Who is an online influencer?
- What should I be doing on digital? How are leading organizations approaching social media?
- How can we prepare for an attack on social media?
- I’m having trouble engaging with others on social media. What’s so different about speaking online?
A single tweet or post online is a drop in the social ocean. And a thousand comments distributed diffusely across different targets will quickly get drowned out in the noise. But channeling social media activity from your advocates can amplify their voices into real public pressure. Unlike a form letter, social media messages are public in nature. When a Hill office receives even just a handful of tweets from their district, it typically elicits a response. Moreover, social media can be used to find and recruit new supporters – be they new grassroots advocates or influencers themselves. To learn more, see our Digital and Social Media Primer.
No – in fact, some of the greatest value in using social media comes from listening, not speaking. Listening can help gather new intelligence to head off hidden threats or chart new pathways to influence. For instance, you can identify who an influencer talks to, who they source, what they talk about, and who they listen to. You can also identify new online influencers who shape online conversations before they enter Washington or more traditional media venues (case study). To learn more, see our Digital and Social Media Primer.
There are 5 key players who shape (and are shaped by) online conversations: Experts, Issue-Passionates, Accelerators, Lurkers (they just listen), and – most importantly – the Framers. These framers are the most influential group of social media participants. They don’t generate that many ideas (that’s what Experts do) and they aren’t necessarily the most passionate (that role is played by Issue-Passionates, as you might have guessed). Framers earn their keep by making other people’s ideas relevant to their own audiences. Framers are good at making ideas matter. They’re deep enough on issues to have credibility with their audiences, and have a knack for re-packaging those ideas in meaningful ways.
After years of experimentation, government affairs offices have developed three effective uses for digital and social media. They’re gathering intelligence to head off hidden threats and chart new pathways to influence. They’re growing mindshare in policy debates by seeding ideas into communities of influence and educating digital learners. And they’re deploying an expanded network of supporters by channeling pressure into public spaces and organizing previously unknown allies to support their issues. To learn more, see our Digital and Social Media Primer.
By the time a social media attack hits your organization, it’s too late to start planning your response. It’s important to have a plan pre-wired so that you and your colleagues can react right away and move forwards in step. Typically, the highest hurdles to an effective response are having budget in place for media buys and having the appropriate permissions in place to respond quickly. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve scenario-planned for likely critiques to be levied at your organization by an online influencer. We’ve created a Social Media Defense Checklist to help you make sure you’ve taken all the right steps in preparation.
Talking online isn’t just a matter of learning new lingo. It’s a truly unique culture, guided by norms that are more casual, competitive, and transparent. And our offline instincts don’t often resonate with these online norms. For instance, using our offline credentials to establish credibility is often seen more as flaunting than anything else. And vetting communications may seem like it will lower the likelihood of controversy. But users hate talking points and they can easily sniff them out.
So what does work? Come as you are: disclose your employer, but don’t announce it whenever you speak. Engage with what others are talking about: offer an original, constructive idea to an ongoing conversation. Be a neighbor: be polite in back-and-forths – this is public, after all. And take a familiar tone: be personable, show some humility, use colloquial language.