Twitter for Advocacy: How to Shape Your Strategy

People Using Twitter on a Couch with Emoticons

As your marketing program matures, you’ll find that you use social media channels differently based on your strategy and target audiences. This is especially true for nonprofits developing advocacy campaigns. Using Twitter for advocacy presents a lot of opportunities as long as you have a plan in place to make the most of the channel and its strengths.

If your nonprofit advocacy plan includes Twitter—or you’d like it to—learn the basics of using Twitter to empower your community and reach crucial influencers or decision makers. We’ve also put together some examples of accounts and posts you can use to shape your strategy.

Using Twitter for Advocacy

Each social media channel has its pros and cons. Compared to Facebook, the way Twitter works is more conducive to reaching new audiences in an organic way and joining (or starting) a public conversation—both of which are key parts of advocacy work. And while Twitter has lagged behind Facebook in terms of users, it’s more popular than ever and nonprofits are seeing a 15% increase in followers compared to the past year.

On a practical note, there are also free tools out there that make moderating, listening, and posting on Twitter pretty convenient for your advocacy strategy. If it’s been a while since you or your organization took Twitter seriously, be sure to read up on the latest best practices for your brand, voice and posting schedule. You can also find helpful courses on Lynda.com, which some public libraries offer free of charge.

Forming a Strategy

Before you start tweeting away, there are a few key considerations that you’ll need to nail down in order for your strategy to be successful.

Target Audiences

Are you trying to reach journalists? Policy makers? Community leaders? New members? Focus your efforts on discrete personas, which will begin to differentiate your Twitter audience from other channels. You can then start organizing specific people in your account by following them and adding them to lists.

Calls to Action

Do you want people to share your tweets? Make a pledge? Sign up for email alerts? You can have multiple calls to action, but focus on ones that help reach your advocacy goals and enable you to maintain relationships with people (like capturing their contact information). Just say no to slactivists.

These mini asks will shape your content and the ways in which you measure the results of your efforts. For example, if you’re asking people to sign up for emails, you’ll want to track how many of the newsletter signups on your website are from Twitter traffic. This is why we love Google Analytics dashboards.

Original Content

You don’t have to plan every tweet far in advance, but it helps to build a treasure chest of facts, statistics, visuals, multimedia clips, quotes and evergreen messages you can use to fill out your posting schedule. Try to work in links to your website to drive traffic to more information like research reports, blog posts and ways to get involved. Decide on the tone and personality you want to bring to your account and consider the share-ability of your tweets.

Content Curation

If your head is spinning thinking about the content, now’s a good time to remember that you can also curate information from others as part of your plan. You’ll still want to add your own insights and commentary, but Twitter is made for retweets. Raise the voice of others that share your point of view and share like-minded articles and resources that your target audiences are talking about (or should be).

When you share other people’s content outside of a retweet, be sure to mention the writer or owner of the content in your post. It’s a great tactic for linking up with influencers.

Hashtags

Hashtags serve multiple purposes when you’re using Twitter for advocacy. Create and consistently use a custom hashtag in your tweets to group them all together. You’ll be able to see other people that use the hashtag, too. This opens the door to reach out to them, add them to your lists and share their tweets as part of building a relationship.

You should also research and use existing hashtags that are relevant and popular in the community you’re trying to reach. This way you can join and contribute to larger conversations with people who might be interested in your cause. For example, an organization advocating for legislation that helps kids with a genetic disorder might find like-minded supporters with #RareDisease.

Engagement

Like all social media, Twitter isn’t meant to be a one-sided conversation. Be sure to carve out time to meaningfully engage with people in addition to pushing out content. Plan to comment and share. Try tagging people that you want to interact with, whether online and offline.

You could even explore hosting a tweet chat to get people to participate at a set time and date or develop a social media ambassador program to build momentum and train new advocates.

Nonprofit Examples

You don’t have to be a mega nonprofit with a full-time social media manager to get results from Twitter. Here are some advocacy examples from organizations both large and small who are doing a great job, hashtags and all.

Fight Colorectal Cancer

During advocacy-related events, FightCRC takes the time to live tweet what’s happening as well as retweet their advocates in attendance.

National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias

NFED posts compelling visuals of the advocacy process with strong calls to action to help motivate followers to get involved at each step.

JDRF

On their advocacy-focused account, JDRF uses celebrity star power and the #RenewSDP hashtag to consistently get their message out there.

Washington Trails Association

WTA has their content game on point, often sharing their advocacy blog content as well as participating in more national advocacy efforts related to their mission.

Americans for the Arts

Americans for the Arts has drummed up support and public awareness through tweets with #SAVEtheNEA that direct people to their blog and website hub.

If you’re looking to build momentum, encourage discussion and reach new people, consider using Twitter for advocacy at your nonprofit. By creating a strategy that’s focused on clearly defined audiences and goals, you’ll be well on your way to sharing great content that moves the needle for your organization’s advocacy efforts.

What Twitter accounts do you turn to for advocacy inspiration? Know of a charity using Twitter to make a difference for their community? Feel free to toot your own horn in the comments and invite people to check out your tweety goodness.