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Give Advocacy a Boost With Social Media

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, February 2012 Intelligence

By: Dave Phillips, CAE

Summary: How tweets, posts, and blogs can add punch to your political action.

Are you having trouble motivating members to take action on a key political issue? Social media may be the answer. But before you start posting calls to action on your association's Facebook page, take some time to plan your social media strategy for advocacy.

After a successful transition from a printed newspaper to a daily news blog three years ago, my organization, the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, realized this same communications technique was a good fit for our advocacy efforts. Our research shows that as many as 85 percent of our members and 50 percent of Pennsylvania legislators use social media. So having a social media plan to connect with members and legislators can be a great way to add punch to our political action.

Our first step was to develop a solid strategy. We asked:

  • How will message distribution be organized?
  • Which social media outlets will be used?
  • How will the results of the effort be measured?

We still use email to initiate our calls to action, but now we follow up with a blog post that's linked to several Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. The real magic happens when members retweet the message and repost it to their own Facebook pages. We estimate that this strategy helps us reach thousands of additional members (and members of the public) whom we did not reach with the email blast. Politicians see our calls to action on Twitter and have even kept our staff abreast of developments by tweeting us from committee and caucus meetings.

We wanted to increase our member response rate to calls to action on key legislative issues. Before, our response rate was hovering around the national average: just under 10 percent. By supplementing our traditional communication channels (mostly email and e-newsletters) with social media, we increased our response rate 20 percent from the previous year.

We measure success by how many members we motivate to take action and contact their representatives. By that standard, using social media has proven to be a valuable addition to our political toolbox and an effective way to expand the number of members who participate in political advocacy.

Dave Phillips, CAE, is CEO of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors. Email: dphillips@parealtor.org

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