While I’ve tried to minimize screen time this summer in favor of soaking up sunshine, I have been keeping an eye on the Twittersphere, where advocacy groups are making major waves with smart and shareworthy campaigns.
Any organizer worth their salt will tell you that online organizing is no substitute for boots on the ground. And the efforts I’ll describe below have all relied heavily on relationships forged outside 140 characters. But the right-now-ness and echo chamber effect of Twitter can be used to brilliant effect, as these campaigns have demonstrated.
1. Summer of action on climate and energy
From the Tar Sands healing walk in Alberta Canada to climate action on the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest, it’s been a busy summer for communities fighting the good fight against fossil fuels and climate change. While it’s a movement with many fronts, smart social media strategy has helped knit discrete actions together into something that feels momentous. 350.org developed a #summerheat campaign, building off last year’s Summer of Solidarity. Meanwhile, dozens of groups joined forces under the banner of #FearlessSummer to oppose pipelines, coal exports, and mountaintop removal mining. Consistent hashtag use on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other platforms has helped connect activists with one another, and connect each event to the larger movement.
2. Family planning advocacy
Resource Media has organized a number of Twitter parties over the years, on topics ranging from green cleaning to toxic algae. This July, we partnered with K4Health, a project of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), to host a Family Planning Advocacy chat on World Population Day. The goal was to promote a new Family Planning Advocacy toolkit to advocates around the globe. K4Health and USAID used old-fashioned emails and existing networks to promote the event, providing sample tweets and Facebook language for cross-promotion, sample questions to pose during the chat to spark discussion, and how-tos for participants. And they emphasized the need to include #fpadvocacy in all tweets, to allow easy following of the chat. The chat reached an estimated 4.7 million people. It was so successful that #FPAdvocacy was briefly the third-most popular hashtag in the U.S.!
3. Shark Week
Shark week may have started on television, but it has become an internet sensation. And the smart folks at Upwell have leveraged tidal wave of public interest in these predators to promote their protection. They equip ocean advocates all over the country to talk shark conservation and shark science in language people will want to read and share. Upwell hosts a Sharkinar and prepares a toolkit, promoted through their fabulous weekly email, the Tide Report. According to Sysomos, there were nearly a million #sharkweek tweets this August, and Upwell’s efforts equipped ocean groups to dive headfirst into the conversation and promote their efforts to #savesharks.
How is your organization using Twitter and other social media to build buzz about your campaigns? Share your stories in the comments below.