How to use social media

Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook can be a powerful tool for campaigning. Here are some top tips on using these platforms.
  Published:  18 Aug 2017    |      6 minute read

Social media lets you interact with your audience.

It provides an ongoing opportunity to let them know what you're doing, engage with them on your issues, and ask for input.

People are more likely to get involved if they know that you're listening to them.

You can also use paid social media to try and reach new audiences and encourage them to take action.

Facebook. Instagram and Twitter are 3 of the most commonly used social media platforms. Here's how to get the most out of them.

Top tips for using Twitter

Follow other users.

Whenever you choose to follow someone, they will receive an email notifying them of this. If they like the look of your profile, they may decide to follow you back.

The more people you follow, the more are likely to follow you back.

Twitter will also make suggestions of people and accounts to follow – which will become more useful and accurate over time.

Interact with fellow tweeters

Click on the speech bubble icon to reply to people and engage in conversations.

When you reply, this tweet isn't broadcast to all your followers, so you can have conversations in smaller groups. It will say in the tweet who you are replying to.

Try to be useful, original and contribute to a conversation

Think about what would make others want to follow you, what you can provide them with and what sets you apart from all the other Twitter users.

This might be your local knowledge, your expertise of a particular issue or the fact that you're always first with news or information that people are interested in.

Don’t under-tweet

As with any community, you have to be active in it to reap its rewards. This means tweeting at least once a day.

You don't necessarily need to tweet every day, but it's worth liking and re-tweeting if you don't have time to write an original tweet.

Use images as much as possible

If you mention a past event or action, make sure to include a photo.

Live tweet

Some of the best tweeting – and where Twitter really comes into its own – is live tweeting from events, such as rallies, demos or fundraisers.

Anything that’s a bit out of the ordinary and that people might be interested in following live.

Try to ensure at least one person is live tweeting if you organise or attend an event.

Make sure to check whether some people don’t want to be included in live coverage, and to exclude children unless you have their parent’s permission.

Don’t over-publicise

It’s important to vary self-promotional updates with interesting links to other blogs, tweets or news stories. No one wants to be the person who only ever speaks about themselves.

Use the hashtag (#) for keywords

A hashtag is simply a way to group together tweets on a similar topic or event.

If you're organising or attending an event, give it a hashtag, or find out if there's an existing one.

Hashtags will help people find your tweets and make it possible for something to spread or become a trending topic.

Keep your tweets short and to the point

Try not to use up all your characters and stick to a maximum of 2 or 3 hashtags per tweet. A one line tweet is preferable.

Reply to tweets and mentions

Check your notifications regularly. If someone mentions you in a tweet, or replies to one of your tweets, acknowledge this and thank them where appropriate. No one likes being ignored.

Keep and eye out for direct messages (DMs)

If you have this feature turned on, then keep an eye out for any notifications that you're received a DM (the ‘envelope’ icon).

These are private messages, normally between 2 people, although you can now DM in a group as well, similar to WhatsApp. These will not be seen by your followers, but always keep in mind people can take screenshots.

Publicise and promote your Twitter account

Whenever you get the chance to promote your Twitter account, do it! Add your handle (your Twitter username) to printed materials, email footers, etc.

Top tips for using Facebook

What do you want out of Facebook?

If you want a space to discuss issues with your members, start a Facebook Group. If you want to use Facebook for promotion and recruitment, then opt for a Page.

1. Setting up a page

It can take a while to develop your presence and gain followers. You’ll need to post regularly and really nurture your page. One advantage is that you can these use your page to set up Events (see below).

2. Setting up a group

Choose either a private group, open group or invite only. You’ll also need to consider who will vet applications if you go for the latter option. Groups, once established, can become self-sustaining in the long run.

Engagement is important

The more likes and shares your content has, the more people will see it. So make sure the quality of all your posts is high, respond to comments, and encourage people to contribute.

Try to post something at least once a week

Facebook will otherwise flag your page as not relevant – and show your content to fewer people.

Share

Up to half of your posts could be shares from other people and pages. See what is being shared by relevant local accounts such as news channels and local newspapers.

Join relevant groups, including Friends of the Earth groups. Make sure you have turned on the See First option on the Friends of the Earth Page so you can share from it. But don't share randomly.

Think about whether it will be of interest to the people who have signed up to follow your page or to join your group.

Facebook is great for events

If you create a Facebook Page you can then set up Events that are linked to that Page. This is a key benefit. Events can be a great way to share and promote a local action.

Positive posts generally receive more likes

Don't be continually downbeat and pessimistic.

Images or videos are a must

Post shareable content. It should evoke a feeling from your audience. Unusual, funny, celebratory and cute are all very shareable on this channel.

Personal stories can make a big impact

Gather stories about local people.

Facebook frowns upon asking for likes and shares

Instead make your post extra interesting and worth sharing.

Short posts are better

Ideally a max of two sentences. Don't ramble.

Top tips for using Instagram

Instagram, owned by Facebook, is one of the fastest growing social channels and is especially popular among under 35s.

It’s a relatively simple and very visual app, where images and video are key.

The platform has 2 main parts:

1. The feed

This is like your Facebook news feed, where you share image or video posts. Posts stay on your profile permanently. You can post up to 10 images or videos in one post, with video length being a max of 1 minute. You add a text caption beneath and include hashtags and emojis.

2. ​​Stories

These are shot in portrait mode on your phone. They can be a mix of photo and video, and you can add all sorts of extras on top, from text to stickers and even crazy effects and GIF animations.

The best way to understand it is to have a look at other people’s Stories.

There is also IGTV, this is designed for longer-form film content.

The feed is the most likely place you’ll be posting too, but consider using stories for events that make an interesting story, like visiting a fracking site in Lancashire.

Post regularly

Probably once or twice a week as a minimum, to get started. If you don’t have an original image or video to post, then consider getting an app like Repost which allows you to share another person’s image.

Image quality is important

The brighter and bolder the better. Better not to post pictures of people in meetings or looking bored/uninspired/cold.

Positivity rules

Instagram is a generally positive place, so make the most of it. Enthusiastic language, positive and motivational imagery and a sense of excitement and action are most likely to engage this audience, as long as they are and feel genuine. There is also room for seriousness when called for.

Hashtags matter

Check for locally relevant hashtags (eg: #Norwich), see what hashtags are being used by other local organisations, businesses, etc, and consider creating one for your local group which you then use in all posts. We recommend this format: #FoENameoftown.​​​

Follow and get followed

Like other platforms, the more you follow the more are likely to follow back, especially as you get started.

Also, by commenting on popular relevant local posts, you’ll get seen more and people will start following you, so being active in the first few weeks is very important.

Sensitive information

Avoid sharing sensitive or revealing information that you wouldn’t want to see in a public space like Facebook.

Are there things you don't want a particular industry to know about? If so, don't share them online generally except in trusted spaces and among trusted people.

Likewise, don't share personal information about people in the group, such as their address or telephone number.