Unleashing the Potential of Social Media for Digital Advocacy: A Guide for African CSOs
Social media over the past few years has become an invaluable resource, especially for Africans and African organisations to tell their own diverse and dignified stories.
At other times in history, narratives about the continent were dominated by denigrating and essentialing stereotypes that furthered the notion of a savage and dark continent. However, since the inception and popularisation of social media, Africans and African organisations have found a voice to share their own dignified experiences and stories.
Throughout recent history, several movements and advocacy efforts such as the #BlackLivesMatter and the #MeToo movement have widely gained global recognition, acceptance and to some extent, results through the power of social media.
It is important, therefore, that civil society organisations (CSOs) in Africa fully utilise the power of social media in their advocacy efforts. This article outlines four social media techniques CSOs can leverage to amplify their advocacy and outreach initiatives.
Visibility is an important part of the work of CSOs. It is prudent for CSOs to create a strong online presence across all the social media platforms that align with their general goals and target audience. Social media pages should have well-visible brand elements including the CSO’s logo, motto or slogan (For social media websites that make use of header images such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, this can be placed in the header image), a detailed but short ‘About’ section, a link to the organisation’s website and graphics that include the organisation’s colours as aesthetics are an important part of creating a social media identity that is easily recognisable and can engage viewers.
Again, CSOs can apply for verification badges (usually a blue or gold tick which signifies the account is an officially verified account of the individual or organisation) for their social media pages as they provide a level of credibility and reach for their social media posts. Some social media platforms such as Twitter, however, require a paid subscription for verified badges for organisations. This may be unfavourable to smaller CSOs as organisational verification badges can cost up to $1000 per month.
To help increase visibility during a social media campaign, CSOs should create hashtags (denoted with a ‘#” symbol) which are unique, easily identifiable and resonates with people and their course. An example is #ShiftThePower, coined in 2016 to promote an event by the Global Summit on Community Philanthropy but has now become the universal hashtag for advocacy.
The organisation must create compelling content centred around its niche to be able to build a solid audience or follower base. This should be done by setting concise social media goals with strategies, and periodic posts specific to the general content preference of the social media platforms used by the organisation. For example, periodic ‘short form’ videos and pictures on Instagram and Facebook, blog articles on LinkedIn, short or summarised texts on Twitter, and engaging videos on YouTube. This will make sure all the social media channels of the organisation are tailored to specific sets of audiences.
CSOs can also partner with other organisations and even influencers to personify the content they disseminate. An example will be an organisation partnering with a food blogger or food content creator to create awareness for a fundraiser aimed at a campaign for food security. This opens the activities of the organisation to a new audience who might gain interest in the organisation and become lifelong supporters.
CSOs should also make sure their followers are well engaged by replying to comments or messages, reacting to reposts or shares, and engaging mentioned posts by other organisations or individuals that mention or tag them.
Social media is a perfect peephole for people to know and understand the work of CSOs and their role in society. CSOs should therefore ensure that every content they post on social media should be reflective of the goals of the organisation while also being easy enough to understand and process.
Measuring the success of any social media strategy is a vital part of communicating effectively using social media. Evaluating analytics and metrics of social media posts on the different social media platforms can help organisations to know their audience, their demographic, the type of content they are interested in etc. This will help CSOs in drafting their content plan and overall social media strategy. This can also help with paid advertising as it will help the organisation target the exact audience, they would want to reach with the specific type of content that a demographic of people is likely to consume.
Social media is an invaluable tool which African CSOs should fully utilise to drive impact in the communities they serve. CSOs can maximise the impact of their social media initiatives by developing a solid social media presence, engaging their audience, using social media strategically, and assessing its impact.