Unleashing the Potential of Social Media for Digital Advocacy: A Guide for African CSOs

Unleashing the Potential of Social Media for Digital Advocacy: A Guide for African CSOs

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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. 

Be Visible 

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. 

Be Strategic 

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. 

Be Engaging 

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. 

Be Analytical 

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. 

About the author

William Donkoh Jr.

William Donkoh Jr. is a communications professional with expertise in digital marketing, advocacy communication, social media management, and brand development. With a Bachelor's degree in English and a Master's degree in Brands and Communications Management, William possesses a deep understanding of the digital landscape. Known for creating engaging content, developing strategic campaigns, and maintaining brand consistency, he excels in delivering exceptional results. William volunteers with WACSI as a communications assistant.

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WACSI Communications

<span style="font-weight: 400;">William Donkoh Jr. is a communications professional with expertise in digital marketing, advocacy communication, social media management, and brand development. With a Bachelor's degree in English and a Master's degree in Brands and Communications Management, William possesses a deep understanding of the digital landscape. Known for creating engaging content, developing strategic campaigns, and maintaining brand consistency, he excels in delivering exceptional results. William volunteers with WACSI as a communications assistant.</span>

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FIIFI BOATENG

Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.

NANCY KANKAM KUSI

Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.

AGNES ADWOA ANIMA

Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.

DORIS ODEI

Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.

PRINCE AKOWUAH

Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

MAXWELL APENTENG

Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.

GEORGE ADU-MINTAH

George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.

IBRAHIM KWAKU GBADAGO

Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.

RUTH YAKANA

Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

BETHEL KWAME BOATENG

Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.

WHITNAY SEGNONNA

Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.

STELLA YAWA WOWOUI

Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.

KWAME ASANTE

Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.

GRACE AKPENE ZIGGAH

Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.

LILLIAN DAFEAMEKPOR

Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.

JOHN P. FRINJUAH

John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.

GERVIN CHANASE

Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.

LEANDRE BANON

Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.

SAMUEL APPIAH

Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.

JIMM CHICK FOMUNJONG

Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.

FRANCK A. SOMBO

Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.

OMOLARA T. BALOGUN

Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.

KWABENA KRODUAH

Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.

CHARLES KOJO VANDYCK

Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.

NANA ASANTEWA AFADZINU

Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.