Advocacy Curriculum: How to Advocate Via Social Media
Social media can be a wonderful thing. We can connect with people from different places, learn quickly about break news, and share feedback with perfect strangers. It is also a great tool for advocacy, and sharing with government officials facts and opinions about important topics. However, just like social media in other realms, poor use or abuse can undermine your advocacy efforts.
How can the busy physician or medical student effectively use social media channels to advocate before policymakers?
The first and most important thing to remember is to treat social media outreach to policymakers like you would any other social media communication. That means following the basics:
- Do not say type or record anything you would not say in person
- Use the right medium or channel to get your message across
- Check your spelling and uploads
- Use hashtags to connect your post to a larger community
- Be careful with personal information
In addition to these tips, here are a few more to consider before tagging your elected official in a post.
Make sure you use the right account: Elected officials may have an official government account and a campaign account. When you are reaching out to someone, think about whether you want their campaign or official government account to see your message. It may seem like a small detail, but the staffs for both are likely very different and may respond differently. For example, if your goal is to have an elected official show up at a protest, tagging their campaign may more quickly add it to their calendar. A more detailed policy analysis, on the other hand, may be buried in a campaign account which specializes in quick responses.
Show your work: Social media limits your characters and video posts, so an issue that requires much explaining or background can be hard to convey on social media. Be ready when you post to link to more details - usually an official scientific or government account is ideal. If you think a link with scientific knowledge is not useful, think about a post thread or series of posts to go into more detail. This example shows how an expert can communicate with the public in a way balancing in-depth information and "TL:DR" need-to-knows.
Tag the right people: If the elected official has staff or team members on social media, make sure you tag them as well if they are a source or contact for the issue. Unless it is an issue that cuts across all policy areas - and be honest with yourself if it does - tagging the whole office or every person working for them may be counterproductive. Tagging a person working on housing policy on a post about Iran may just annoy people.
Pictures still make a difference: Pictures and videos are great advocacy enhancers. You can have all the facts behind you, but a picture or video helps drive home a point better than straight facts. The best thing about social media is that it is so easy to upload and share video with text.