This post is an excerpted chapter from “The Most Amazing Online Organizing Guide Ever" This chapter is by Megan Kelley & Joe Solomon.
Facebook is as much a tool for promoting social change as it is a puzzle. How do you figure out how to use the arsenal of tools Facebook offers (and often changes on a whim) to break through the noise, reach the most people, and sometimes inspire folks to do stuff. Below are 11 well- worn tips online organizers use to do all those things.
1) Create a sudden burst of community recruitment
There’s no reason your campaign should have a small Facebook page—or if you already have a few hundred or a few thousand fans, why you can’t grow significantly.
These days, anyone can access the feature to invite friends to “like” a page. So, why not encourage all your staff and core volunteers to invite all their friends? Host an “invite your friends” pizza party! If ten of your core staff and volunteers invite all their friends, and on average you have 300 friends each, you will have invited 3,0000 friends in one fell swoop. If just 10% say yes, that could be 300 new fans for your page!
Bigger communities don’t just let you reach more people, they let your current supporters see they’re part of something much bigger. And that kind of realization can be key to encouraging folks to check out what you’re up to and share your stuff. Nobody wants to be all alone “liking” and “sharing” your stuff, you know? Sometimes, this secret code can help.
2) Focus on photos.
Facebook is at heart a photo-sharing network (remember, it’s ‘Facebook’, not ‘TEXTbook’). People relate to pictures of other people and can quickly find meaning in a visual. And more than that: it seems clear the Facebook feed prioritizes showing images over showing articles. So try it: from now on, just post photos to your Facebook feed. And when you want to post an article, that’s cool. Just upload a photo that relates to the article, and when Facebook asks you to “say something about this photo” - write a blurb about the article, and post a link to it. Often you can use the photo that’s featured in the article. Just remember to give credit to the photographer!
Photos can also play a special role when communicating progressive victories. The story of any social movement is that people are at the heart of making social change. So when you’re sharing especially good news that you know was due to people power, consider uploading a picture of a protest, rally, or hearing that was part of making that change possible. Then write more about the victory in the blurb section. Often mainstream media fails to connect progressive victories to the ordinary people who fought hard for that change. In some small way, we can try to amend that via social media.
Posting photos of your team and volunteers can also help your followers put a face on who is behind your work, and in general make things more real and relatable. Look for moments to take pictures of you and your team at work (or even at play), and through doing so humanize your feed a bit. Remember, it’s Facebook.
3) Make memes too (it’s easier than you think)!
The only thing sexier than photos for the Facebook universe are “memes”. Memes, for the purposes of using Facebook, are photos that have words layered over them. You see them all over Facebook, right? (e.g. an inspiring quote above a cloud or something) Well, you don’t have to be a pro-designer to make your own memes. Currently, our favorite tool for making quick and dirty memes is a website called PicMonkey.com.
It makes sense to make a meme if you have some punchy, compelling, exciting news you really want to share (and see shared). Making a meme can be as simple as layering a headline over or below an image. A good meme is essentially a vehicle for carrying a clear message within a compelling visual medium, and so people are more likely to see it, get it, share it, and some of their friends may do the same, and so on, and so on, potentially creating a big outreach wave.
Seriously, don’t be intimidated by making your own memes. We’ve helped break the process down in a dedicated meme-making chapter in the online organizing guide. Memes will take a little longer to craft - but a good meme can reach as many people as posting dozens of articles and photos.
4) Important: Always post a message with your content.
Try not to become one of those pages that just posts links. If people just wanted to see headlines, they’d go to the NYTimes.com. People go to Facebook to connect, and they want to hear why you want them to check out a particular link.
Whenever you post anything to Facebook, whether it’s an article or a photo, include a message about why folks should check it out. Express some excitement, include a compelling quote from the article, a summary, shout-out who was featured in the article, etc. Even if it’s just a few words (e.g. “Check this out - this is great news”), that will go a much longer way towards encouraging folks to check out what you posted.
This also applies with sharing other people’s content on Facebook (e.g. an ally’s meme). Take a quick moment to write out a unique blurb for why you shared it/what’s inspiring or important about it, and chances are more people will have a look.
5) Write for one degree out from your core.
When writing updates, write for the friends of your friends. Why? Because your followers should already get what you’re up to - and you want your followers to share your updates with their friends. So who better to write for than the friends of your friends? Your followers will appreciate this, and show it by sharing your stuff more often. Here’s what we mean: explain your acronyms and niche lexicon, use clear and engaging language, and write updates that even your mom would grock and get behind.
If you’re having trouble writing a great update, sign out of your page, and just start writing an update about whatever news to your friends. If you can write an update that you think would hook your friends, chances are you have an all-star update you can use for your campaign.
6) Show social evidence of support (don’t be shy about asking people to ‘click LIKE + SHARE!’).
We’re building “social movements”, right? You heard us say this before: people want to see they’re a part of something bigger. So, when you’re posting things you want to see go popular, spike it with some activity. Ask people to “Click LIKE & SHARE” on occasion to quickly generate some buzz, and make it more likely more people will want to join in and spread the word too. When you’re promoting an event, make a ‘Facebook event’ (and invite all your relevant friends) and link to it often to show your community that lots of folks are already on board. Whenever you have a chance, make visible the surge of support that already exists (or is rising) for your cause. Refrain from asking your online supporters to be the first to step up. Use email and more traditional organizing tactics to inspire the first wave of action (e.g. when gathering petitions, RSVPs, etc.)
When you can show there’s a decent upswell of support, you’re more likely to inspire an actual groundswell.
7) Create a Facebook storm.
A Facebook storm is when a whole bunch of pages and people post about the same thing at roughly the same time. If you want something to really break through on Facebook, you might want to plan a “Facebook storm”. Get in touch with colleagues at related pages and invite them to post whatever it is on the same day, at say noon. Memes are really good for this. For example, if you post a meme and then a bunch of related Facebook pages cross-post your meme at roughly the same time, it will greatly increase the chances that it shows up in many of the Facebook feeds of people who care about your issue.
It’s also just good to be in touch with colleagues who administer sister Facebook pages on a regular basis. That way you can ask for promo help, and you can make impromptu storms, and so on. Just be ready to give some solidarity back!
Check out a more thorough chapter on organizing a “facebook storm” in the online organizing guide!
8) Seize newsie moments.
The arc of a traditional narrative for a campaign goes like this: outreach - protest - rest - outreach - protest - rest - etc. With social media, you can spice up this narrative. Check the news on a fairly regular basis, and look for moments to frame your campaign in the context of what’s the hot news of the day. For example, just recently the Obama Administration responded to a Star Wars petition, saying that they did not support blowing up planets. That made an opening for us to make a meme for CRMW asking, “So, why does Obama condone blowing up our planet?” But forget Obama, maybe you can connect the latest Justin Bieber drama to why stopping rhino poaching is so imperative?
9) You are a storyteller - not a news reporter.
As a Facebook communicator, you are now a storyteller for what’s likely one of the greatest sagas of our time. Don’t forget that: you’re not just a machine for pumping out news. People can find their own news—especially bad news. Don’t worry about posting every article under the sun. You’re a saga-writer. Ordinary people are often your heroes, the spectrum of civil society activism are your main mediums for showing modern heroism. And even when you’re not winning (which is most days), things tend to move forward. Bit by bit. And more often than not, it’s because of community organizers and public sentiment shifting the conversation. Always aspire to weave the over-arching story of people power into your updates. It’s the truth, and it’s validating and inspiring to boot.
10) Don’t be seduced by the “FaceCrack.”
Facebook is just a tool, as part of a larger toolbox for building movements. And it’s far from the sharpest or most effective tool in the toolbox. Don’t be seduced by the impression you can build power or turn out mad crowds by simply hitting all the Facebook bells and whistles. Tighten your time on Facebook. And use it smartly in conjunction with other outreach tactics, like coffee shop meetings, door-knocking, phone-banking, letter-writing, pamphleting, tabling, etc. And even if you get all this, communicate this theory of change to your followers too. When asking them to “like” or “share” something, give them something more meaningful to do too. Remind folks that showing up will always mean so much more than clicking Like. No revolution was won by folks who showed up in spirit. By building a culture of valuing offline/deep activism, you’ll be primed to turn people out when it’s go time.
The best online organizing generally arises from amazing offline organizing and actions whose stories are communicated well online, and in turn inspire more people to get involved, inspiring more powerful digital media, which in turn inspire even more people, and so on.
And if you are already addicted to Facebook (and if you use a Mac), try out the app “Self Control,” which lets you set times on your computer in which you can block any given website.
11) Take risks.
This seems obvious—but it’s important. All the Facebook tips in the world won’t get you terribly far unless you’re willing to take some risks. Facebook is just a tool, and you can use it in myriad ways. Try looking at the tool sets in new ways. What are ways you can encourage a conversation in, say, the comments of a post? What are ways you can rally your Facebook supporters to storm a malignant corporation’s Facebook page? How far can you go in using an honest, personal voice when writing updates? Push the boundaries and you’ll see those boundaries turn into your most effective ventures. Value your mistakes—you’ll make plenty of them—it means you’re expanding your potential.