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Five Tips for Effective Social Media

Heather Wilson
Smartphone graphic - credit iStock

As advocates for clean water, we are constantly working to get the word out about water quality issues and encouraging new people to get involved. Luckily for us, we have access to online platforms with billions of users and amazing sharing capabilities – and so do you!

Online platforms present an opportunity to build a community of like-minded individuals. Each post can serve as an invitation for your followers to join the cause.

Social media is an incredibly powerful tool that every person, organization, and Izaak Walton League chapter can use for event promotion and community building. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook are quickly becoming the first place that tech-savvy people will look to find events happening nearby or to research a topic of interest. Any organization that doesn’t have a presence on social media is missing out on valuable (and free) visibility.

Advocacy has made a home for itself on social media as well. Online platforms present an opportunity to build a community of likeminded individuals. Our job as clean water advocates is to seize this opportunity and inspire action among our followers. Sharing your Salt Watch findings, promoting an upcoming Save Our Streams training or simply educating your followers about a local pollution problem are all great ways to interact with your followers on social media. The best part – each of these posts has the potential to serve as an invitation for others to join the cause.

Example Instagram post - credit IWLAInstagram post provides interesting results, cause for concern and a call to action.

Five Tips for Effective Advocacy on Social Media

Whether you are a digital native or still getting the hang of social media, read on for five tips to get the most out of social media as a clean water advocate:

  1. Keep it short and simple
    We all know that attention spans are short when it comes to social media. Keep your captions concise to encourage your audience to pause and read what you have written. Avoid complicated terminology and remove unnecessary filler words when possible. If you have more to say (odds are, you will!), you can always insert a URL which people can click to learn more.

  2. Pictures!
    What better way to draw readers in than with an eyecatching photo? Some social media platforms, like Instagram, require you to share photos or videos with your post. Others, like Facebook, give you the choice to include them or not. Whenever possible, include photos or graphics in your social media posts to attract greater attention. Photos that include people do an especially good job at drawing audiences in.

  3. Example Facebook postPutting it all together, brief text, vivid images, hashtag and a partner thank you is a winning combination. (Click for larger version.)Use #hashtags
    Ever wonder what that string of words preceded by the # symbol is doing in a social media post? Those are hashtags, and they serve an important purpose. If I include #WaterQuality in a post on Instagram or Facebook, then anyone who types "water quality" into the search window on those platforms should see my post among the results. These search terms can be interspersed within your post or placed at the end. Try to use brief, common terms that are likely to be searched.

  4. Connect with your partners
    Hosting an event with a local partner? Using another organization’s site for a program? Tag them! If your partners are on social media, simply type “@” plus “their name” to tag them in your social media posts. On the other hand, if you are tagged in a post, be sure to share that post as well. Tagging partners and sharing their posts is a great way to gain new followers from other likeminded organizations. You can use your platform to amplify their message and expose them to new viewers, and vice versa. Perhaps more importantly, this type of collaboration helps to foster a sense of community and connectedness online.

  5. Call to action
    The most important part of any clean water advocate’s social media post is the call to action. This is where you invite the reader to take a step to further engage with your cause. The action could be simple – read a blog post, sign a petition, add your name to a mailing list – or more substantial – contact your representative, find a training near you. The important part is that you are asking the reader to interact with your cause at a higher level, converting them from a casual social media viewer to an active participant. This could be the spark that creates new clean water advocates and helps achieve our clean water goals.

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Top photo: The Clean Water Hub includes sites from various monitoring groups across the country. Sites monitored within the last year are shown as purple and sites monitored more than a year ago are gray. There are over 100 organizations, including Izaak Walton League chapters, that are submitting data to the Clean Water Hub.