Nonprofit Social Media 101: Lessons from Indivisible

August 20, 2018  |  Gabby Weiss

We recently sat down with Becka Wall, a Social Media Strategist at Indivisible Project and former Assistant Director of Digital Content Strategy at NARAL Pro-Choice America, to talk about the basics of running social media for an organization or campaign. She had a lot of great insight to share about building your organization's digital profile and engaging authentically with supporters. You can watch the video, or read the transcript below!

It’s important for progressive organizations to define their voice online; how do you do that?

Becka: Something really important that progressive organizations can do to define their voice online is to decide what your voice is and stick to it. I know that it sounds simple, but it’s important to stop and ask, “What is our overall tone?" Are you a member-driven organization, are you a movement, do you want to talk about the news and keep people informed? Deciding what your key focuses are will help you determine what type of content you want to post and will ensure that you're communicating with your audience in the right way.

How do you define that voice differently across different platforms?

Paying attention to what your audience is engaged with and what they’re interacting with is really important, and a big part of that is data. A huge part of social media work is not just messaging, it’s looking at data and finding out what is performing well and what people are engaging with. I think that it's also helpful to look at each platform and see what other organizations are doing to get creative inspiration.

You should also know what people go to each platform for. If you watch Instagram, you can see that it's mostly personal anecdotes. It's a very personal platform, and people don't want to just see your organization's graphics, they also want to know what your organization is doing. Twitter is a very news-y platform, people really want to hear from you quickly about big news updates around your issues. In contrast, Facebook has a longer shelf life, so you want to think about how your posts are going to age there.

When running a strong social media campaign, how do you think about rapid response to breaking news and how do you prepare for those kinds of events?

It is really important to implement a breaking news system and protocol and stick to it. So if you decide that you're going to have somebody on call every weekend who's going to check the news every 2-3 hours and just make sure that nothing major is happening, then you really have to be consistent with it. Of course nobody's perfect, and no one person is going to catch all of the news, but they'll at least know if they get a news alert on their phone that there is something worth engaging on.

I also think creating a system for approvals in that breaking news system is really crucial, to make sure that you always know who you can reach, you know what to do if that person is offline, or if all of the leadership of your organization takes a vacation. You should know what that protocol is and what the system is beforehand, so that you know can handle that breaking news and avoid any problems that can come with rapid response.

When we're talking about engaging our supporters online, how do you motivate them to take actions offline?

That's a great question, I think it's always a question for a lot of digital activists and organizers: how do I get people to take this online action and then move it offline. Something I think about often is making sure that I'm offering something for every rung on the ladder of engagement in our social content around a campaign. To start off, Indivisible doesn't do a lot of petitions but we do a lot of calling your members of congress, and that's something that people can do while they're sitting at their computer, calling a member of congress is actually a pretty low bar ask. I'll do that initially as a way of building up to asking folks to give money or join actions offline.

I also promote events that they can go to in their district with their local Indivisible groups, and a big part of that is promoting all of the work that those groups are doing. You want to make sure you're not just telling people to take action, but showing them the people who are taking action, and showing the successes that those actions resulted in. Because even if that person didn't get engaged in the fight you're working on right now, maybe they'll get engaged in the next one because they saw your post with all of the photos of actions around the country and how much fun it looked.

When doing social media at the national level for a large organization, how do you collaborate with people working at the local level?

Indivisible has a really amazing organizing team, and they really keep us informed on what their local groups are doing. For example, last night I missed that a group in Minnesota District 3 had done an action where over 100 people showed up to protest Trump's comments about Helsinki and everything that has happened around the Russia investigation in the past couple of days. Our organizer Tim reached out to make sure that I saw it and sent photos that we’ll use as content later today.

You do a lot of engaging with supporters and lifting them up—do you engage with trolls or haters, and how do you respond?

I previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice America, so I have a lot of experience with trolls. There are a lot of anti-choice trolls out there, but the question I always try to ask myself is, is this person trying to engage in meaningful conversation on our page? If they're not trying to engage in a meaningful conversation, then why should we engage in conversation with them at all? For the most part, trolls know they're being trolls, they're really not interested in having a conversation with you; they just want to leave a comment on your page and you can just delete and ban them and go about your day - it's not really worth your time to engage with them.

It is worth your time, however, to have a comment policy. You should definitely implement one for your organization, and that will help you manage some of those sticky situations where some of your most active, ardent supporters are so passionate about a topic that the conversation can get a little out of hand and people start attacking each other. That's not a productive conversation at that point, so having that policy and posting it publicly on your page’s information section can give you something to point back to if those situations arise.

What do you think about the importance of having an editorial content calendar?

I think every organization likes to do their communications a little differently, for some roles I've had in the past an editorial calendar has not been helpful because the organization is so involved in the news cycle that it was better off to just plan a week or so ahead. But for some organizations you can plan weeks and months ahead, and I think having at least an editorial calendar that's a Google calendar is the system works best for me.

Having a Google calendar that meshes and syncs up with your own personal calendar is going to really help you check your calendar for the day and see what's happening not only in your day-to-day meetings and such, but also type of things you should be posting about without having to look in a bunch of different places.

What do you wish more progressives understood about social media?

It's a job! It really is, it's a really big full-time job, it's also a really tough job and it's worth the time and energy and financial commitment to hire staff to do it. Also, being plugged into social media all the time is something that you should take breaks from. You should absolutely treat your social media staff with respect and kindness and if they miss something you should share it with them, and always approach it with kindness cause it's a tough job. But it's a really fun one too!


For more useful tips and tools, download our Nonprofit's Guide to Hacking Social Media!