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Virginia March for Life Resources

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Grassroots lobbyingMeeting with legislators • Using social media

How to lobby using social media

There is a growing need to be part of an often public but essential conversation about politics and policy through social media. Using social media creates the potential to join that conversation, thereby complementing (but not replacing) face-to-face contact.

Where: twitter, blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr  
Who to target: policy makers, policy influencers (corporations, trade associations, NGOs), media

What social media can be used for:

Social media is another platform on which to communicate. It is now a major tool for carrying out all types of research and engagement for both lobbyists and policy makers. If only for visibility purposes it can be beneficial to embrace some of the channels available, but the benefits can go beyond that as you are able to:

  • Shape online policy environment and public debate;
  • Raise awareness and engagement on a policy topic in a timely and interactive manner;
  • Monitor positions, conversations and reputation of stakeholders;
  • Shape your reputation to a wider audience creating more trustworthiness.  With the focus recently on transparency among the institutional processes and lobbyists, social media presence validates your identity as you have third party endorsement, which can result in more credibility for your organization;
  • Gain instantaneous feedback. You can easily track what multiple stakeholders are asking for;
  • Grow a list of advocates by identifying and building relationships with people who support your position;
  • Learn from industry experts and provide your own expertise;
  • Amplify messages as you are able to mobilize a larger number of people.

Content to provide on social media:

  • The more conscious an organization is in defining its interests, the more effective it is at communicating its goals and positions online and off. So make sure you have clear organizational goals and objectives to which you can align your social media activity.
  • Be proactive and present solutions online to set the agenda of your policy issues. Integrate what you say with long term plans.
  • Many traditional resources that are available to policy makers and stakeholders can be generic so it is necessary to develop new ones that grab the attention of stakeholders. Take advantage of interactive opportunities such as infographics, video presentations, and graphical explanations of a topic – social media is a key conduit of this form of content presentation.
  • When writing your content use a newsworthy angle. By tying it into a wider story/policy issue more people would be made aware of what you want to say.
  • Know the details of what you’re talking about. Make sure what you say is valid, as any misinformation affects reputation.

Reputation:

No presence on social media or websites that are not up to date can seem unprofessional and therefore lower your reputation among stakeholders who are already active online. The quality of your content influences your reputation but you must also think creatively about the presentation and the channels you use for your content – online channels offer the greatest scope for creativity and diversity.

Persistence:

Repetition is key – if policy-makers hear message a number of times through various different channels then they are more likely to take note. Social media is especially useful in that it is easier to repeat messages (in a variety of ways) in a non-intrusive manner. 

Integration:

It is essential to communicate via a number of means and channels. You must target policy-makers from multiple approaches and make sure that your social media correlates to your offline lobbying efforts.

Create a story:

A compelling story which resonates with its audience works better, especially if presented in a simple and digestible manner. To communicate on legislation you must extract the most understandable part of it and focus on the impact that it could have for stakeholders.

Be human:

Be helpful in your messages and make sure you are not creating useless, automated information that does not resonate with people.

Be direct and concise:

Make your content focused and to-the-point. Try to find the most effective ‘key words’ while eliminating jargon, clichés, and over-used words that no longer mean anything.

Overall, any effort to influence a policy-maker requires one comprehensive approach that integrates strategy, tactics and techniques.  All your resources should be interdependent and to lobby effectively you must find an optimal mix of resources for the task at hand. Social media is increasingly becoming a useful lobbying and education resource when integrated into a wider communications strategy.

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