• August 24, 2022
  • Capitol Canary

A Beginner’s Guide to Developing a Digital Advocacy Campaign

Digital advocacy is the use of technology to create, promote and mobilize support for a particular cause or campaign. In this post, we start out by defining digital advocacy before leading into the benefits of this strategy, what to look for in a digital advocacy solution, and the steps for creating a campaign.

What Is Digital Advocacy?

Advocacy is engaging in activities with the goal of influencing policy decisions. Digital advocacy is the collective term for advocacy campaigns carried out in the digital space. These activities may include sending out emails or text messages, creating social media campaigns, holding virtual events, and more. This type of advocacy generally relies on the use of advocacy software for organizing people, identifying opportunities, and developing strategies.

4 Benefits of Digital Advocacy

Digital advocacy comes with many benefits. Afterall, we live in an increasingly online and connected world, so anytime you can leverage the tools of technology, you increase your odds of reaching and engaging more people. 4 of the biggest benefits of digital advocacy are as follows:

  1. Scalable Advocacy: Instead of sending out individual letters in the mail, making phone calls, or engaging one on one in person, you can reach far more people much easier with digital tools. A single email can go out to an entire list and be forwarded by supporters. A video shared on social media can go viral, reaching well beyond the local community.
  2. Collects/Keeps Data All in One Place: Using digital advocacy software makes it possible to store all of your information in a central, searchable, highly functional location. So if you need to identify who is available for contacting local legislators, it’s super easy to do so.
  3. Extends Supporter Reach: Because digital advocacy efforts are so easy to scale, they make it possible to reach far more people. In particular, you can expand to a younger, active demographic through digital narratives. This same demographic, due to their tendency to be more digitally connected to friends and peers, can extend your reach even further. 
  4. Quick to Launch: If you use the right digital advocacy software, launching a campaign becomes streamlined and much easier.

How Do You Create a Digital Advocacy Campaign?

If you’re ready to get started with digital advocacy, the following steps will guide you down the path from preparation and planning to launch, and even post-campaign reflection and assessment.

1. Prepare & Establish Campaign Objectives

As the saying goes, proper planning prevents poor performance. Be sure to take the time to plan and prepare. This means establishing measurable goals, setting a timeline, and ensuring you have the right technology, tools, and people on board to get things off the ground.

2. Build Out Your Audience

Next, you need to build out your audience or your collection of advocates who will help spread the message. Consider creating recruitment posts, events, or information sessions. It can be helpful to have an online information and sign-up page that is easy to navigate. When it comes to digital advocacy, advertising across social media and through email networks is usually the best way to get started.

3. Launch Advocacy Activities

Once you have a cohort of willing participants, you can train, organize, and prepare them to participate in the launch of your advocacy activities. Which activities you choose will depend on your goals, your message, and what you believe will work best for your particular situation, but may include social media messaging, contacting legislators, sharing video messages, directing people toward action, and more.

4. Assess & Evaluate Your Campaign

After your campaign is concluded (or sometimes during lulls or critical shifts) it’s a good idea to reflect upon the success. Assuming you set measurable goals from the beginning, you can determine if those goals were met or not. If you have the right software on board, it may even offer critical insights into which efforts yielded the biggest outcomes so that you can better align your strategies moving forward.

Overcoming Digital Advocacy Challenges

As you engage in digital advocacy, you may encounter certain challenges specific to this format. Some people, for example, experience digital fatigue due to the sheer number of things to pay attention to and follow online. So, your campaign must somehow rise above the noise while not coming across as overly aggressive, which can scare people off and make them question the truth value of what you present.

You can also go wrong by not having a coherent strategy. Beware of using too many different channels to communicate, which can spread your efforts thin and lead to minimal impact. A good strategy contains a timeline with plans on what to post and when in order to maximize visibility, as well as when follow up posts should occur so that engagement is optimized. The more you can use peer-to-peer messaging the better since people are more likely to pay attention to what their friends and family post than to posts from a third party.

What to Look for In a Digital Advocacy Solution

Key to a productive and impactful digital advocacy campaign are the digital tools and software you choose. The wrong tools cause more trouble than they’re worth, but the right tools can provide incredible support, insights, and usability. Look for the following features in any digital advocacy solution you’re considering:

  • Campaign Customization: To make your campaign stand out, you need the ability to customize it to meet your needs. This includes customizing landing pages and emails as well as methods and strategies you use.
  • Acquisition Tools: The more tools and features a solution has that help you acquire and engage more advocates, the better. This means email and text messaging capabilities, the ability to send personalized messages, and the ability to uncover relationships between supporters and targeted policymakers.
  • Personal Story Collector: Studies have shown that people are more compelled by personal stories than by general narratives pertaining to large groups. Look for a solution that makes it easy to collect and curate relevant personal narratives that support your efforts.
  • Multichannel Communication Offerings: Ideally, a solution will enable you to spread your message on multiple different platforms in order to target more people and find the right audiences.
  • GOTV Component: Look for features that support get out the vote (GOTV) efforts, such as access to critical election information and links to voter registration.

Real-time Reporting: The ability to track what’s working and what isn’t, and to spot trends and identify gaps as your campaign is ongoing will help you to optimally steer your efforts moving forward.

Digital Advocacy Best Practices

As you start your journey into digital advocacy, keep in mind the following best practices to help maximize your reach and achieve success.

Sending A Relatable Message

People aren’t compelled to act unless they feel a connection to the issue. Whether you’re collecting advocates, informing the public, or directing messaging toward policymakers, the message must be relatable. In other words, the individuals in question must understand how it directly affects them and why a change would benefit them or those they care about. Note that this might mean creating slightly different messages for different audiences as well.

Using the Right Communication Channels

Know where your target audience spends their time online. Information about social media demographics is important here. The right digital tools may be able to help you home in on where your efforts will be best spent, but you can also seek out information online about the age, gender, and political leanings of people in different digital spaces.

Attaching Resources to Educate Audience

When you send out your messaging, include links to appropriate resources. These may include the studies and data that back up your assertions (so that those who want proof don’t have to go searching). It may also include additional links to personal stories or your campaign page, so interested individuals can find out more and even sign up for notifications with minimal effort. The easier you make it for people to engage, the more likely they will.

Conclusion

Digital advocacy is absolutely vital in the modern era. It became even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were social distancing and will continue to be an excellent way to reach more people and spread messaging more easily. But in order to avoid pitfalls and ensure success, you need to have the right tools on board. At Capitol Canary, we strive to help organizations like yours engage and mobilize more advocates with our best-in-class multi-channel advocacy software. Schedule a demo today to learn more.