community on Facebook

How to create an engaged community on Facebook

Founded in 2002, Daily Kos is the premier online political community, with 5 million unique visitors per month and 300,000 registered users. It is at once a news organization, community and activist hub. Well-known Daily Kos contributors have included President Jimmy Carter, then-Senator Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and dozens of other senators, congressmen and governors.

But it is the community that really makes Daily Kos run. Hundreds of thousands of voters have used Daily Kos to amplify their voices, share information and organize for progressive change.

Faith Gardner has worked at Daily Kos since 2009. She currently manages their social media accounts.

How has your strategy / options about Facebook changed over time?

We used to post staff content only. We now post a lot more frequently and a lot more community content and some graphics. New tools like ActionSprout have widened our options and enabled us to reach our audiences in new and different ways.

What do you find most challenging about your job and the cause(s) you support?

No matter how much data you have or how much you think you’ve learned, your audience always surprises you. A story you think will get shared, based on all the evidence you have, will bomb. And sometimes a story you think won’t be shared at all will take off. It’s often unpredictable.

Another challenge is translating online activism into real-life activism. It’s so much harder to get people to show up to a rally or political event than it is to get them to sign a petition.

How do you use social Actions, from ActionSprout, compared to traditional form-based actions on your website?

We use them pretty similarly, but select only certain actions for the Facebook Page that seem appropriate for that audience. Sometimes we create Actions for Facebook only. We focus a little more on the image or graphic with ActionSprout Actions since it appears much larger on the Page, sometimes creating a shortened shareable meme that people can share as a picture rather than a link. Also, we don’t do targeted Actions on ActionSprout—actions that target a specific congressional district based on the signer—as the platform isn’t really made for targeting.

Tell us about a successful Action(s). Can you tell us what went into creating the Action(s)?

After news broke that Bill O’Reilly lied on numerous occasions, we put a petition together asking Fox News to suspend him. We thought this would be a good action because Brian Williams had recently been suspended from NBC for basically the same thing. The petition would not only target Fox News and Bill O’Reilly, but would point out the hypocrisy of Fox in continuing to let O’Reilly remain on the air after so many outright lies. We put together the petition language quickly while the news story was still big, found a good image for it and shared it a few times over that week or so, when the news story on O’Reilly was still being widely shared and talked about.

What did you learn from this success more broadly? Is there anything you do differently now?

It’s important to listen to your audience and take note of what stories they’re discussing and sharing most so that you can find actions that resonate with them. If a story is big in the news, it’s a good idea to ask yourself how to create a successful action around it.

It also confirmed that pointing out hypocrisy and double standards is important to our readers.

Do you have any advice for other nonprofits based on your learning?

Take note of what subjects and stories currently resonate with your audience and build actions based on that. If something doesn’t work, don’t consider it a failure—consider it a learning opportunity!