Formed in 2009, Believe Out Loud is an online community that empowers Christians to work for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) equality. Reaching an average of 3–5 million people per month, they are the leading platform in Christian faith and LGBTQ advocacy.
Since the advent of the modern gay rights movement, many Christians have raised their voices for (LGBT) equality. Led by Jesus’ message to love thy neighbor, they are fighting hard against injustice of all who are discriminated against.
Timothy DuWhite, Program Associate of Believe Out Loud, is no different to those who came before him. As the primary social media manager, he is in the trenches day in and day out, working hard to maintain a safe place for people to talk about these sensitive and personal issues.
How long have you managed social media communications and where did you get your start?
I have been managing social media communications for about 5 years now. As a professional spoken word/teaching artist, a lot of my early experience stemmed from me creating an online presence for myself. Much of this personal work translated well into my position as the Program Coordinator at a nonprofit by the name of “Urban Word NYC”. At Urban Word, I was not only responsible for facilitating all programmatic responsibilities, but also for engaging with the youth we served via different social media platforms.
Today, as the social media manager for Believe Out Loud, all these previous experiences in navigating personal accounts, as well as relationships with youth, help to inform the way I approach this work now.
Tell us a bit about where you work. Why did you want to work with Believe Out Loud?
On the most basic and fundamental level, Believe Out Loud appealed to me simply because I am a queer man of faith who could use some affirming at times. On a more structural level, what I found fascinating about Believe Out Loud is how they used these various platforms to counter the non-affirming narratives that so many LGBTQ folks are forced to digest. A huge advantage of social media today is that it gives everyone an opportunity to have the sort of conversations that are important to them; Believe Out Loud exemplifies that.
How has your strategy / options about Facebook changed over time?
The most important key to successful online engagement is consistency. By remaining consistent, you are offering a sense of reliability to your audience members, which is imperative for maintaining them. With that said, strategies may vary given certain news updates or upcoming campaigns; however, things such as the time of day we post generally stay the same.
One of the changes that we have been instituting recently is how we choose to present “breaking news”. Some days, breaking news would look like a relevant picture with the news update in the caption along with a link to an article. Other days it might be a blog written by one of our audience members that expounds upon the personal narrative in relation to said news. It’s really contingent on the overall emotional/mental climate of our audience, and it is my job to pay close attention to that.
What’s something you wished you learned sooner in terms of social media?
The trick to being successful on social media is knowing your audience and knowing what it is they respond both well and not so well to. So in response to this question, the sooner you know this information, the easier your job is as a social media manager. Working with Believe Out Loud, I’ll say it took about three months before I was confident about the responses to the content I was sharing. On the flip side, it also took that amount of time for the audience to adjust to a new manager, whether they explicitly knew the work was handed over to me or not. So being able to expedite this process as quickly as possible would be most helpful.
What organizational goals do your Facebook efforts support?
Believe Out Loud was originally created as a response to the non-affirming messages being spread about the LGBTQ community and the Christian faith. The popular narrative one would often hear about with regard to these communities is that they cannot be one of the same—that being an LGBTQ-identified Christian is in some way an oxymoron. The paradigm BOL works within, is the belief that sharing stories and cultivating nuanced dialogue around such misrepresentations would help to incite action and change. Our Facebook efforts support this notion in that it gives us the opportunity to test out our theory. On Facebook we are able to ask questions, share experiences, and shape discussions in ways that deviate from this widely consumed narrative.
What kind of social calls to action do you use?
As of late, a lot of our work has been based around the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA). Our goal is to rally supporters in particular target states to lend their voices to ending legal discrimination on the basis of religious freedom. The majority of our excitement to begin using ActionSprout is to see how your tool could help us in propelling this campaign and movement.
What did you learn from this success more broadly? / Is there anything you do differently now?
The majority of the success from these posts comes from the relevancy of the information. RFRA is something that is currently affecting and has the potential to affect the lives of all LGBTQ folks across this nation. Getting people to engage with content such as this isn’t difficult. What I spend most of my work focusing on is tailoring the conversation. What we are interested in seeing is our audience thinking critically about this issue instead of the reactionary “this is horrible”—and that is it. So what I make sure to be cognizant of, from post to post, is how a particular caption on a news story framed the conversation that followed it. By paying close attention to this, I can toggle back and forth between the sort of dialogue I am trying to inspire.
How did you measure this success? What metrics do you focus on?
Personally, as the one primarily responsible for the cultivation of dialogue on our Page, I measure success in the richness of audience responses. If we can get audience members to write more than just an “Amen” or a “that’s horrible” on a piece of our content, then we are successful. Aside from that, regarding metrics, we focus less on how many “likes” a piece acquired and more so on the post’s reach. This number is what best helps us gauge how far a piece has spread.
Do you have any advice for other nonprofits based on your success?
I think some of the best advice I could give a nonprofit is to stay consistent. As I said before, consistency is how you remain reliable in the eyes of your audience. Also, a big key to success is knowing your audience—who they are, what they want, what they need—and then later finding out how to accommodate all of these things while also challenging your audience to think critically. Focusing on these few things would be the foundation to building success.