Social media from square one

Quick tips you can use to establish and grow a social media presence.

Maybe you’re preparing for your next campaign, or maybe you just feel like you could be doing a more deliberate job of cultivating a social media presence for your organization. In either case, this article is for you.

In it, you’ll find some simple, straightforward advice for establishing and growing a presence on social media, including how to pick your channels, attract followers, and create really good content.

Let's get started.

First things first: choose the right channels

There are three questions you should ask before you decide which social channels to invest in:
  • Where is my primary audience?
  • Where do my partners have reach?
  • Where are my opponents active?
Your primary audience includes all the people most likely to care about your cause and those you are trying to attract with your next campaign. They include your allies, advocates, and potential supporters. You may already know which social networks many of these people use. If you don’t, look at the other organizations working in your space. Where are they active? Where do they achieve the most engagement? This will be a good indicator of where you might want to invest.

Your partners include key supporters and sympathetic public figures. If you establish a presence on social channels where they have large followings, it will make it easier for them to amplify your content.

Your opponents are the people or organizations standing between you and the change your organization seeks. You will use your new social media accounts to keep tabs on them, and direct pressure at them. But you can only do that if you’re on the same channels.

Five tips for setting up your accounts

Once you figure out which channels make the most sense, it’s time to set up your accounts. This is exactly what it sounds like: you’re going to pick your handles, choose photos, and add contact information. But there are five things you can do to make it easier for your new social presence to grow:
  1. Pick recognizable handles. Your handle (or username) should be the name of your organization, or as close to it as you can get. For example, the political action organization Sunrise Movement uses @sunrisemvmt across its social accounts.

  2. Create a consistent look and feel.Use your logo for your profile picture, your mission statement (or an abbreviated version of it) for your short bio, and choose a background photo that is relevant to the work you do.

  3. Upgrade to business accounts.Most social media platforms offer personal and business accounts. Make sure you upgrade to business accounts. They’re free, and they have tools, features, and analytics that will be helpful as you grow.

  4. Get verified. You’ve probably noticed that other organizations have blue checkmarks next to their profiles. This is a verification that lets followers know the account is authentic. Learn more about getting verified on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

  5. Authorize your accounts for ads.If you plan to run ads (and we recommend that you do during campaigns) make sure that your account is authorized to run them. Facebook in particular has a rigorous process, so do this well in advance.

Who to follow

Your accounts are set up and ready to go. That’s great! Now it’s time to lay the groundwork for your new network. There are two categories of people you should follow first:
  1. Everyone you already know. Ask your staff, volunteers, supporters, partners, board members, friends, and family to follow and share your new accounts. Anyone who already cares about your organization should be included in your first push.

  2. Other people who are likely to care about your cause. This includes peer organizations, relevant journalists, groups of other like-minded activists, and thought-leaders. A basic strategy you can use to build connections is follow, retweet, reference, or engage.

What to share

Each channel is like a different kind of party: you’re going to talk about the same things at each, but the tone and style of your conversations will be different.

For example, Twitter is dominated by pithy banter and breaking news commentary. Instagram is good for visual storytelling. People on Facebook engage in more substantive conversations and debates, and LinkedIn is the social media equivalent of a buttoned-up work lunch.

You’ll learn as you go. But here is a brief overview of what content works best on each channel:

Facebook Pages
Longer text-based posts and breaking news commentary that invite discussion. You can also share live event coverage, infographics, and supporter stories; host online events on Facebook, or organize in-person events.

Facebook groups
Conversation starters, polls, and surveys. Most of the posts in groups are generated by followers. You can also use groups to organize events and demonstrations.

Short pithy text-based posts and hot takes on breaking news. Twitter is also a great place to publicly spar with opponents and targets. You can also share events, partner content, graphics, and campaign announcements.

Photos, videos, and supporter and staff stories. Share more candid short-form content that disappears after 24 hours on Stories or host a real-time event on Instagram Live. You can also share long-form educational videos, talks or interviews.

Blog posts, thought leadership, and other commentary. Organization updates and job listings. Events and conferences.

Short, compelling videos. Facts, tips, and other brief educational content. TikTok is a great place to get creative.

Long-form video content, including interviews and documentaries.
As you create content for your social channels, try to grab your audience’s attention as quickly as possible. Good content centers the audience and offers them something valuable. It’s also timely, relevant, and actionable.

You can find a more detailed explanation of what makes content good in our 30-day social media quick-start guide.

Engage your network

Social media is social, so you build relationships there the same way you do in your real life—by talking with people, not at them. The key is reciprocity.

With that in mind, here are five tips you can use to grow your new network. Think of these as basic social media hygiene:

Post regularly so people know your accounts are active, and to keep followers engaged. Aim for a minimum of one post per day per channel.

Check your accounts at least twice daily (AM/PM) to monitor comments and reply to followers who engage with your content. Direct message engaged followers to show that you see and value their support.

Create Twitter Lists on Twitter to make it easier to engage with key topics, people, journalists, and organizations. You can also follow Lists created by other people or organizations.

Tag people, organizations, and locations in your posts. If a post mentions another person or organization, tag them. Tags encourage more engagement and reshares.

Use relevant hashtags to tap into trending conversations that are already happening on social media and that appear in popular searches.

Keep it growing

That’s it! That’s the basic formula:
  • Set up your accounts
  • Follow people likely to care about your cause
  • Share compelling content
  • Engage with your network on a regular basis
For more detailed guidance and downloadable worksheets, we invite you to download our complete 30-day social media quick-start guide. It covers some additional topics, like how to create an editorial calendar and structure your social media team, helpful tools, and specific steps you can take ahead of a campaign. Best of all, it’s completely free to use and share with your network.
Download the 30-day social media quick-start guide. →