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Social Advocacy & Politics: Organize Your Colleagues First

You have been tasked with developing a social media program for your campaign or organization and you want to know where to begin. Sure, the obvious first steps are to create you social media channels (which, of course, includes coming up with a message strategy and name for your Twitter account, Facebook page, and any other channels you decide to create). But once you have your brand channels and message strategy in place, it is time to start building your core social media community. Most people will start looking outward to do this, but I suggest you start by focusing inward and organize your colleagues.

Unlike your brand and project social media channels, your organization does not own your staff’s personal channels. But even though your colleagues are free agents on their own social media channels, they are still a crucial asset to your organization’s program and strategy. Your colleagues are experts on many of the issues that matter to your organization and they are (hopefully) big supporters of your mission. But you cannot force them to tweet on behalf of your organization and you really cannot stop them from tweeting about things that have nothing to do with your mission. The key to getting value out of your colleagues on social media is to treat them like a VIP community that you organize just like any other key influencer community.

The secret to organizing any influencer community on social media is to create a value proposition that reinforces behavior among the members to move your advocacy or political agenda forward while advancing the individual goals of each member. The advantage you have when organizing your colleagues, as opposed to other communities, is physical proximity. You can walk into their offices, most of the time, for face to face communication. For those working remotely, you can call or email with a greater likelihood that they will respond in a timely fashion. You can give lots of value in return for their help.

With the extra ease of communication you get with colleagues, you are able to easily train them to be more effective social sharers. You can check in on them to see if they need some extra help (and to see what projects they have in need of social promotion). You can send out daily emails with suggested tweets (including the trackable short URLs you want them to use). You can develop deliberate social media strategies for their projects during their early phases to help raise awareness of their work and improve their reputations. And you can encourage them to interact with each other, creating a more compelling presence for them on social media.

In return, you can use your brand and project channels to retweet and share their posts. You can recommend them on Twitter with #FFs and other @mentions. And if you are collecting performance data for all your colleagues, you can provide them with data-driven recommendations for improving their outreach activity. All of this helps them grow their professional reputations while raising the profile of your organization.

What your organization gets in return for organizing your colleagues is substantial. First, each of your colleagues will have their own networks to reach out to, expanding your reach. And their influence will likely be stronger for a unique set of people compared to your organization. Second, your organization’s message will get more repetition without your brand channels becoming overly redundant and boring.

Third, by having the option to retweet or share comments from your experts, instead of your message always coming from your inanimate brand, your persuasiveness goes up and you get to be more “social.” Aside from the reality that social media is really about people interacting with other people, we know that messages from an expert is more persuasive than messages from an organization.

Since you cannot force your staff to share your organization’s work on social media, but you would greatly benefit if they do, you have to treat them like any other key community you are organizing. Train them, support them, incentivize them and reinforce them to share. Create easy to share content. Create friendly competition with leaderboards and prizes (even if it is just recognition). This will not only ensure that your organization’s message will be shared far and wide by trusted messengers, but it will also ensure that when your staff move on to new jobs, they will keep sharing your message.

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