We explore the dynamics of digital activism and offer some helpful tips on how to provide credible information, engage your audience, and tell your story
While it should not displace protest and other political activities, digital activism is a powerful way of spreading ideas and converting them into real world action. From Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter and #MeToo – social movements are increasingly starting in the online world and furthering their aims through digital technology.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a sharp rise in people engaging with political and social causes online, according to Change.org, which shows that people are increasingly turning to online tools to voice concerns, influence policy, and put pressure on decision-makers.
But it’s not enough to just launch a hashtag and hope for the best. For charities wishing to voice online activism campaigns there is planning and background work that needs to be done. Here are a few tips on how to start an online petition or campaign for change and actually get it noticed.
In order to join in with the conversation or spark a new one, it is important charity communications managers familiarise themselves with what’s going on. Thoroughly research the movements or petitions that have gone before yours, the wider debate yours may fit into, the language being used, and the platforms being talked on where your most receptive audience is likely to be.
Things move fast online, so keep tabs on what’s happening by signing up to Google News Alerts on specific keywords. On Twitter, you can use a social media monitoring tool like TweetDeck to track the real-time conversations you want to stay on top of and follow specific topics.
Another crucial aspect of research is to answer this question: who are the people already out there working towards the same or similar goal? And who’s able to amplify our voice?
Influencer marketing has become a buzzword in charity communications in recent years. The concept of a charity bringing onboard a like-minded ambassador is nothing new, but the digital world is home to many influential figures who command audiences from the niche to the vast.
It’s almost guaranteed that there will be an online socialite, activist, or journalist with an engaged following out there who talks about a topic close to your cause. Here is a quick guide to finding them and getting them interested.
While engaging politicians and taking part in policy debate is an important aspect of campaigning, be wary of aligning your charity with a specific party online, as charities must remain politically neutral by law.
Awareness has to start from within and this means knowing how to discern credible sources from non-credible ones. Misinformation, particularly around COVID-19, is rife, so charities need to think like journalists when they channel other information to support their cause. This is the first step in becoming an authoritative voice on a topic. Some tips on verifying and checking sources here.
On the other hand, linking your campaign with established data and science is an effective way to show your charity’s authority on a topic and be listened to.
Wherever possible, make it easy to get involved by giving people the tools they need such as templates or pre-written letters and emails to send to local MPs, suggested social media posts to copy and share, and infographics to use.
Think of simple actions that supporters can take virtually and in the real world, and let them know their voice counts by keeping track of and celebrating any steps towards your campaign’s goals in your communications with supporters.
Just like with any online campaign, the goal of online activism is to create noise and be memorable, so many of the best practice rules around digital storytelling apply: