Why the Best Grassroots Campaigns Use Social Media
Social media has revolutionized how organizations influence public opinion, mobilize activists, and impact public policy decisions. It’s never been easier to gain the attention of elected officials by tweeting at them, leaving a comment on their Facebook post, or sharing a story with them online.
Whether you’re a non-profit, a trade association, or just a company that’s interested in public policy, it can be easy to get lost in the bureaucracy of American politics. But social media makes contacting lawmakers simple and productive for constituents. As an organization, you can use digital advocacy tools to rally your supporters and motivate them to take action through social media broadcasting.
Here are three reasons why social media is an ideal medium for grassroots advocacy.
It Builds Movements With its Own Momentum
While the term “viral” has become a bit overused, it accurately illustrates how ideas spread on social media. If 20 supporters tweet about your advocacy campaign, and they each inspire 10 of their own followers to tweet about your advocacy campaign, you then have 220 tweets about your campaign. A tweet or Facebook status can reach a wide range of people in a short amount of time, even if the original poster doesn’t have a ton of followers.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York’s 14th district won her bid for Congress with an aggressive grassroots campaign, using social media broadcasting to raise awareness about her platform. A video about her campaign went viral one month before the election. Facebook and Twitter spread her message so effectively that she defeated the incumbent who had outraised her by a margin of 10-1.
The Black Lives Matter movement was one of the first movements that grew on social media. It harnessed feelings that were shared among their supporters and organized them for engaging in advocacy. Many other movements since have kickstarted on social media, including the Women’s March, the Climate March, the March for Life, and the March for our Lives campaign.
Twitter is a great way to get your supporters to pay attention to something you care about and to make it easy for them to contact their representative. Capitalize on a popular story already generating media coverage and social media engagement, and use it to get your message across.
Elected Officials Pay Attention to Social Media
100 percent of Congress uses Twitter and Facebook. They all have profiles on these platforms because they know that their constituents do too.
Lawmakers have staff working for them to make sure they’re filled in on various issues, but they’re stretched thin when it comes to taking action on very specific policies. This is where civic engagement plays such an important role. If there are issues your organization cares about, social media is one of the most straightforward ways for constituents to inform their legislators about issues that may not always be on their radar.
Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX) has said, “When there’s a big vote, and I want to know what my constituents are thinking… I ask my staff for an assessment of who’s called in for it and who’s called in against it—and then I’ll usually check social media myself.”
Your Advocates Already Have a Social Media Habit
A large part of your advocate base is already on social media every day. When organizing a group, it’s easier to meet them where they are. 84 percent of Americans say that people are more comfortable engaging in political discussion on social media than in person. Millennials and Gen Z are particularly savvy when it comes to social media, and they are your organization’s fastest-growing constituency. Four million 17-year-olds will turn 18 by the November 2018 elections, and millennials now outnumber Gen X in the workforce. They also expect to see political and social issues discussed on social media. 87% of Gen Z are likely to share a positive opinion about companies addressing social issues, according to the 2017 Cone Gen Z CSR Study: How to Speak Z.
Your Organization Can Start a Movement
Political activism on social media can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Getting the attention of your lawmaker is as easy as sharing a meme—bonus points if it’s a political meme. Either way, don’t underestimate the power of social media to bring like-minded individuals together and hold legislators accountable to their constituents.