Can Advocates Learn from Social Media Week?

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This week, people in cities as far flung as Bangalore, Milan, and New York, will converge to talk about one thing: social media. This semi-annual meeting, known as Social Media Week, spans four continents and features thousands of experts talking about the power of digital engagement. The theme for this year, Reimagining Human Connectivity, got me thinking: what makes digital advocacy different from your typical social brand engagement?

When we talk about social media, we often focus on our capacity to connect organizations to people. But what about the organizations that wish to connect their audiences to a campaign? For brands or organizations that want to raise awareness of an issue, you can find advice and tips all over the internet. However, when you go looking for guidance on digital advocacy, you'll probably come up shorthanded.

With multitudes of voices offering digital advice, why not just make do with what you can find? Here are a few reasons why the standard social media and brand advice won't help advocates:

  • Success means more than numbers - Brands may pour money into advertising to persuade people to purchase, or sometimes just share, their content. For digital advocates, success means moving the needle on a policy, or finding a way to amplify the exact right voice. Bottom line: the tactics used to bulk up followers may not always work in a world where quality matters more than quantity.
  • Policies have a lot of stakeholders - When digital advocates answer the question "Who are you trying to reach?" their answer rarely focuses in on one audience. Persuading lawmakers to take action often requires communicating with a wide array of stakeholders. Organizations undertaking a digital advocacy campaign can almost never use a one -size-fits-all approach.
  • Risk-taking isn't always in the cards - For the health sector in particular, advocates have a lot of personal, privacy, and regulatory considerations to keep in mind. These restrictions mean that organizations can't always follow the latest trends without spending some time thinking it through.

Although the online and offline conversations surrounding Social Media Week will certainly provide organizations with a lot of ideas, not all of them will work for those in the health sector unless we adjust them to fit a digital advocacy mindset. Over the next couple months, we'll continue this conversation by providing ideas, concepts and content uniquely suited to digital advocates.

Wondering why creating a hashtag requires more than just putting a pound sign in front of a word? Curious to know why Pinterest may or may not work for your strategy? We'll cover it all. Check out the Digital Advocacy Institute LinkedIn page to get the latest.