How to effective policy reform through Facebook

Since 2011, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (CCPR) has organized, energized, and empowered people to stand up and advocate for reform in cannabis policy. They work with the public and legislators, developing responsible solutions through legislative collaboration, public education, and ballot initiative campaigns.

Alex Shashlo, from Joe Trippi & Associates, currently advises CCPR on their social media strategy and campaigns. We recently had the chance to sit down with Alex to talk about giving activists a voice, how he engages supporters from all walks of life, and influencing policy reform through social media.

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

Alex: Facebook has always been a great place for sharing—and now, more and more people get their news from the platform, especially their political news. I wouldn’t call it a shift; users are still excited about taking a stand for the causes they believe in, but the growth of Facebook as an information platform beyond just a social network is exciting.

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

One of the most interesting parts about campaigns like this is always: how do we deliver our message most effectively to our target audience? That means figuring out three buckets: the message, the audience, and the delivery method. It’s a fun puzzle to put together. And with CCPR, we’re fortunate to have such a strong base of support that wants to hear from us regularly.

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

The big difference with ActionSprout is that we’ve got our audience right in front of us with Facebook, and our supporters don’t need to leave the platform to help us grow.

We love your poll actions. Can you tell us a bit about them?

One of the biggest developments in the past few years in the movement has been the clear signal from both California and the rest of the country that a majority of us are ready for change. Poll numbers—like the growing percentages of Californians and Americans nationwide supporting legalization—are a great way to show progress. And people are excited to be part of the growing movement.

How did you measure the success of these actions?

Alex: We love seeing social shares—beyond what we put out—because it means people buy into our message enough to put their names to it and share it with the people they care about in their networks.

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

It’s important to see your supporters as an organic, diverse movement rather than a monolithic base of support. They’re here because they believe in the cause, but they each have their own reasons for that belief. It’s our job to engage them by connecting with them on their terms.

Facebook strategy from the content expert

Sarah Burris knows her way around viral content. Sarah has managed many viral campaigns such as PaulRyanGossling, co-created Class War Kitteh, #HugAThug, #UnionHugs memes, and, which she calls “hacking pop-culture”.

Over the last 10 years, she has worked on campaigns for candidates across the country. During the intense 2008 Presidential election, she was named one of the five Rock the Vote Rock the Trail Reporters, and reported on the election from a youth perspective. She attended the conventions, debates, and interviewed elected officials on the impact of the youth vote.

Recently, we had the pleasure of reconnecting with Sarah and chatted about social strategy and audience engagement.

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

Facebook changes every year, it seems like. Profiles were the start, then Pages, then the power Pages have been diminished, making profiles more important again, so it’s been about being nimble and able to take what curveballs Facebook throws you and switch up your strategy quickly.

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

We don’t do traditional form actions anymore. I’ve done them for places I’ve worked before, but when we started using ActionSprout, there was no reason for us to go back to the old way of doing things when our audience is on social media. Why should we make them leave social to weigh in on something?

What are the top ActionSprout features you use most often?

We use the petition functionality more than anything. We’ve completely replaced the normal petition tool with AS and it works for us!

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

The best ones are ones that are evergreen. When we can reuse an Action based on what is trending in the news and redo the headline a little or tailor it to the latest issue, it allows us to keep it going. One is our Boycott for Birth Control, another is our Citizens United petition.

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

Testing is key. We do this with our articles too. We know our audience pretty well at this point, and we know what they like and don’t like. The trick is to know when to give them something they want—like a digital dessert. While other times they need to know about and take action on something they SHOULD care about, but maybe don’t know about yet. That’s like giving them vegetables. So many organizations just want to farm people for names and emails. We want to enact actual change. We want to help spread the word, get people involved, inform, educate, inspire and more. So we have a delicate balance of the two types of petitions. The other thing is we get our writers involved. We aren’t a huge operation; we only have a handful of staff, so if a writer has an idea, we let them try it. If it doesn’t work, we see how we can change it to learn from what we test and try it again.

What did you learn about your audience from this success?

We learned that our audience loves their pet issues and they respect us for pushing issues they don’t know about. It makes them appreciate us more and builds a stronger more dedicated relationship beyond just a random click or email address where they’re going to unsubscribe in droves. We treat our audience with a lot of respect and appreciation—sadly you don’t see that much from our competitors.

How did you measure the success of this action? What metrics did you focus on?

We don’t just look at an action signer, we look at the quality of the action signer. So, it’s about someone not only signing the action, but getting an email from us and staying involved. If someone signs an action and then unsubscribes and ignores the page and doesn’t care anymore, that’s not a success. A success is a new friend—a real friend—of BNR that appreciates us as much as we appreciate them.

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

Be creative. Try everything. Don’t be so hardwired that you think the only way to do something is the way you’ve always done it. Try new things, try new formats, try new headlines and buttons and graphics. Test everything. Test it again. Wait a while and test it a third time. Be comfortable in evolving your strategy and perceptions about what works best. Things change so quickly in digital media, and if you don’t evolve with it, you’re dead!

Can Facebook activism be used to protect the environment?

Founded in 1968, the Oregon Environmental Council (OEC) is a nonprofit, non-partisan, membership-based organization aimed at protecting the health of Oregon. As such, their work champions clean air and water, a healthy climate, unpolluted landscapes, and sustainable food and farms.

Recently we had the pleasure of sitting down with Simon Tam and Michelle McGrath of OEC to ask them about their digital strategy.

Simon Tam is the current Marketing Director at OEC, and a prominent figure in the worlds of social media and digital activism. His approach to activism through the arts has been highlighted in thousands of media features such as BBC World News, NPR, TIME Magazine, TED talks, NBC, and the New York Times. He also designed one of the first college-accredited social media certificate programs in the United States.

Michelle McGrath is the Membership & Engagement Manager. She is a passionate advocate for conservation, climate action and food justice. Her diverse strengths include community engagement, outreach, direct marketing, fundraising, design, content development and digital strategy. She also sits on the board of directors for the Montavilla Farmers’ Market.

How long have you managed social media communications and where did you get your start?

Simon Tam: I often tell people that even though I have a few degrees in business and marketing, everything I learned about the subject comes from being a rockstar. I’ve been managing social media communications for nearly 20 years now, especially if you consider the first type of online communities through America Online channels. I began writing code for sites like Geocities and Angelfire, mainly to develop websites for local nonprofits and artists. When digital marketing shifted into “social media”—at the onset of Friendster, Xanga, and Myspace—I immediately began using those sites to market my music. Social was a great way to learn key concepts like storytelling, online engagement, and brand awareness without a budget.

A few years ago, I began running social media for higher education institutions and started writing on the subject for sites and magazines like Huffington Post, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and the National Council on Marketing and Public Relations. As I began doing freelance work for organizations, I could gather data at a much larger level and used that information to develop one of the first accredited social media and digital marketing certificate programs in the country.

Michelle McGrath: In 2011, I started learning about social media as a tool for non-profit marketing—frankly, because I love social media. I’m an outgoing person with an aptitude for sales, outreach and relationship-building, and when I saw that brands and organizations were able to meet goals in these areas via Facebook, I wanted to achieve that too. During a three-year tenure at a small, local food non-profit organization, I was able to use Facebook as a space for online dialogue and to harness co-marketing opportunities. Our brand reach in the community was significantly amplified as a result. Since then, I’ve been helping small farmers’ markets, farmers, and food justice groups to improve their Facebook strategy on lean budgets.

As my passion for social media has grown, I’ve taken courses in digital marketing, and I am earning my graduate certificate in digital engagement from Oregon State University. I seek learning opportunities in this field whenever and wherever I can.

Today, I’m focused more on engagement and conversion rates than brand awareness per se. I know people care about making the world a better place, and I’m looking at how to get them to engage with a post or an email so we can help empower them to be that change they want to see in the world.

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

Simon: Since Facebook’s IPO, there have been constant and drastic changes to the effectiveness of Pages on the site. The biggest reason is financially-driven: promoted posts are an extremely reliable source of revenue for the site, especially if marketers don’t want to run an entire keyword-based advertising campaign. Additionally, the algorithm continues to change, making it difficult to consistently engage with followers. However, several key trends persist: the lean toward mobile-friendly content and video. As Facebook continues to fight for market share, they’ll focus on technologies that increase user time—and auto-playing video is one of the most effective ways to accomplish that. For Facebook Pages, the way to capitalize on that is uploading directly to Facebook, rather than YouTube or Vimeo.

Michelle: A colleague I know summed it up nicely. Facebook lured non-profits in with hopes and dreams of amplifying their voice, and now Facebook is punching them in the gut repeatedly with the new algorithm. It’s still a tool for social change, but there is a huge cost to accessing that tool now. Small non-profits are having to develop larger marketing budgets as a result. It’s not good.

What’s something you wished you learned sooner in terms of social media?

Simon: The under appreciated but vital role of Google+. Though the site is almost useless in terms of reach or engagement, it is extremely vital in terms of search engine optimization and prioritization of YouTube content.

Michelle: Something I’m still hoping to learn is the integration of Facebook engagement metrics with our Customer Relationship Management software. Being able to recognize and develop relationships with hand-raisers is important for grassroots engagement.

What organizational goals do your Facebook efforts support?

Simon: Facebook supports a number of areas: strength of the brand, online donations, membership engagement, grassroots lobbying strategy and outreach to new communities.

Michelle: Metric-driven grassroots engagement goals are somewhat new for OEC. I’m looking at Facebook to drive action, web traffic and new fans of the organization. Most of these goals are measured with a conversation rate metric of some sort.

What kinds of social calls to action do you use?

Simon: Commenting, sharing, liking, clicking, watching, signing, retweeting. Social media is just one channel out of an overall integrated marketing and communications strategy, which involves variations of all of these calls to action.

Michelle: We’ve used many calls to action successfully (and many unsuccessfully), from hashtag campaigns to petitions and beyond. For my job, I’m most concerned with getting our audience to sign petitions, make a donation and contact legislators.

Tell us about a recent successful social campaign or series of posts.

Michelle: OEC has struggled to earn donor support through digital channels in the past. I’m not really sure why that is, but we were able to run a successful campaign for #GivingTuesday in the winter of 2014. We used email, Facebook and Twitter to distribute the campaign. We had powerful images and a fun meme—”Two Is Better Than One”—to highlight the gift match we were offering that day. The emails highlighted stories, and we took advantage of cross-promotional opportunities through our social media.

For example, we gave away prizes throughout the day and tagged the organizations providing the prize, who then reshared our posts. The most innovative gift was a custom digital playlist. When we posted about the playlist we tagged all the featured musicians, which increased the visibility of our post. A fundraising thermometer also helped us drive gifts, and we asked some of our influential social media fans to reshare. It was an experiment, but it worked for us.

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

Michelle: I’m pretty concerned about the rumor that Facebook’s algorithm is punishing pictures. Engaging images were the key to this campaign’s success. We only spent $60 on the #GivingTuesday campaign. Although Facebook advertising is still pretty cheap, we’ll have to increase our budget for the next online campaign we do. We’ve done a campaign since then that had a more abstract ask (become a monthly donor), did not use a fundraising thermometer, had no matching gift and was just less intensive overall. It did not work.

What did you learn about your audience from this success?

Michelle: They appreciate deadlines and goals! It’s an old-school fundraising tool, but it’s universally successful.

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

Simon: Don’t focus on vanity metrics like follower count; instead, focus on a more comprehensive look at what a picture of success looks like. Marketing doesn’t always have quantifiable measures of success, with some return on investment on a much longer timescale than simply the immediate aftermath of a campaign. There should also be qualitative goals and as such, strategies to support those goals as well. Goals should be SMARTER.

Nonprofits should also have better listening and brand reputation management systems in place. These kinds of tools allow for a real-time marketing strategy. I recommend 5 free tools here.

Learning the language and trends of social media can be challenging. I often tell nonprofits to treat it like learning any kind of language and applying techniques from code-switching.

Also, nonprofits should learn how to talk with personality; more like a person and less like a brand. It’s part of an important strategy.

Michelle: Don’t shy away from emotional, urgent language and images. It’s really human nature to be more engaged with that type of content. If acquisition is your goal, which it is mine, this type of content will help you reach that goal through improved engagement. Build a narrative that can embrace crisis or celebration as a unifying point in your campaign, and then when that crisis inevitably hits, be ready to strike with great posts and content!

Finding the secrets to community engagement on Facebook

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) is a nationwide federation of state and territorial affiliate organizations, with nearly six million members and supporters across the country. Formed with the idea of uniting sportsmen and all outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts behind the common goal of conservation, they act as unified voice for wildlife. They are fiercely dedicated to protecting habitats and inspiring the next generation of conservationists.

Recently, we had the honor to sit down with Dani Tinker, NWF’s Community Manager. An amazing inspiration to environmental social media managers everywhere, we got to discuss strategy, community, and how to educate and move supporters to action.

How long have you managed social media communications and where did you get your start?

My background is a strange combination of outdoor education and digital communications. When I was teaching back in Oregon, I remember a good friend of mine, Danielle Brigida, lured me into the world of social media by saying, “Imagine you get to lead a classroom of thousands, instead of ten.”

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

We’re always adjusting and testing to find the most effective ways to engage with our community. As an extremely visual person, I’m obsessed with finding photos that creatively communicate our message. This became a lot more fun (and time-consuming) when Facebook changed the layout for multiple images appearing in a single post. Two of my favorite examples of using multiple image posts were the monarch life cycle and a fox diving into the snow. This is just one of the many changes over time I’ve personally enjoyed adapting alongside.

What’s something you wished you learned sooner in terms of social media?

Play. I get a lot of questions about what is the best time to post or the best practices of what to post. And the truth is that while there are a lot of great suggestions, each community is completely unique. One of the best ways to keep an audience engaged, time and time again, is to get creative and try new things. This scared me at first. Feedback is immediate and public on social media—positive and negative. I had to change my mindset. If you know your community and make decisions with them in mind, that is a success. Some things may not resonate, and you have to take that feedback, learn from it and move on to the next idea.

Tell us a bit about your Facebook Page (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do they enjoy, how often do you post?)

Our Facebook community is inspiring. We’re a community filled with gardeners, biologists, teachers, sportsmen and animal lovers. Our connective tissue is wildlife. And let me say, I’ve learned (from experience) how sharp our community is. There were a few times when I first began where I’d post a photo, and a few moments later would be corrected on the species. I loved it! They push me to be my best, and for our organization to be its best.

Our community enjoys content that teaches them something new, challenges them or gives them the opportunity to take action for wildlife. They appreciate it when it’s relevant to current events, as well. For example, a suggestion to recycle your pumpkins for wildlife in the spirit of Autumn and Halloween helps them associate their daily activities with wildlife. The Superb Owl during the Super Bowl took them to a blog post that helped them learn more about owls and gave them the opportunity to help protect them. And the most popular day of the year on Facebook is by far Squirrel Appreciation Day, which reminds people to live together with wildlife.

Another thing that our Facebook community enjoys are community photo albums. This is when we provide a prompt, people post photos, and we add them into an album. It’s a fantastic way to build a sense of community.

What organizational goals do your Facebook efforts support?

We want to spread the message of wildlife conservation in a way that includes as many Americans as possible. When we remind people why they care about wildlife regularly, and then ask them to take specific actions to support it, we are cultivating lifelong conservationists to help us care for the wildlife around them. Our Facebook efforts support specific strategic campaigns that direct people to specific actions, including signing up for events and activities, and donating to our priority campaigns.

What kind of social calls to action do you use?

here are a variety of different calls to action we use on social media. We have traditional “take action” posts, asking folks to sign a petition, send a message or tweet their decision-makers. With our educational posts, we want people to pass along and spread the knowledge. Specifically with our Facebook community, we’ll occasionally ask them to share photos and upload them to a community album. We recently had a great response for our Bald Eagle Watch Month community album. And we’ll mix in a few fun or unique calls to action as well, like our engagement quizzes.

Tell us about a recent successful social campaign or series of posts.

One of our big goals right now is raising awareness about the rapid decline of the monarch butterfly. Building a social media strategy revolved around content. We thought through all of the types of content we could provide, including:

  • News: An article from our magazine explaining the decline.
  • Engagement: Quiz – Can You Tell Monarchs From Their Look-Alikes?
  • How-to: Find and Choose Native Milkweeds for Monarchs
  • Education: Visual Journey Through the Life Cycle of a Monarch
  • Political Action: Send a message to protect native grasslands for monarchs
  • Individual Action: Take the pledge to plant a garden for monarchs by becoming a Butterfly Hero

We worked alongside the USFWS, contributing to their #savethemonarch conversation on Twitter. Partnerships and building relationships like this allow exposure to a new community. We can share their content, and they can share ours from time to time. We also launched our own campaign supporting the White House’s call for action on pollinators, Butterfly Heroes, to engage kids and families to get involved in helping monarchs in a fun and easy way.

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

Quality content and strong visuals are critical to success. We developed content that is relevant and useful. We also found strong visuals to inspire folks to protect the monarch butterfly. As a result, our posts were shared far and wide.

We also learned our audience wants to be informed, learn something new and act. If we can provide resources that empower them to do all three, we’ll be a powerful force for wildlife.

How did you measure this success? What metrics do you focus on?

This particular campaign had a goal of raising awareness. We focused on Page views for our content and shares. Shares carry a lot of weight for me, personally. If people find our content valuable enough to pass along to their friends and family, that is a success to me. Ultimately, for folks to be more informed about the issue and how to take part, we need them to see our content. For a campaign like Butterfly Heroes or an Action Alert, we measure the number of pledges or actions taken.

Fighting for Justice through Social Media

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.

Leveraging social media for good

Planned Parenthood is currently the largest U.S. provider of reproductive health care and offers a wide range of services including: cancer screening, HIV screening, counseling, contraception, abortion and more.

Recently, we had the honor of being able to sit down with Emmy Bengtson, who manages Planned Parenthood’s advocacy and political work on social media. As you’ll see, the passion she has for her work is tangible.

Tell us a bit about where you work. Why did you want to work with Planned Parenthood Action?

Why didn’t I want to work with Planned Parenthood Action?! Planned Parenthood has always been an organization close to my heart—I went to Planned Parenthood for basic health care as a teenager, have rallied with Planned Parenthood for reproductive rights, and saw PPAF’s (Planned Parenthood Action Fund) president, Cecile Richards, speak at a Women for Obama rally on the campaign, about how badly we need people in office at all levels who will protect our rights.

I think it’s rare to see an organization that is doing such amazing work on so many different levels: Providing critically important health care to millions of people who need it (and in many cases, have nowhere else to turn), changing a culture with actual, fact-based education on everything from sexuality to stigma, and fighting for reproductive health and rights from state legislatures to the White House. It’s pretty incredible. I’ve always been a feminist and someone who believes in the basic idea that women should have the right to control our own bodies and lives, and I also love social media, activism, politics and the whole shebang. This was a perfect fit.

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

Because Facebook has reduced our ability to get a lot of eyes on our content, we have to be smarter about how we get people to share our message. Content has to be a lot more personal, urgent and informative in order for it to get the kind of engagement we want—we have to constantly be thinking of how to empower supporters to become satellites and spread the word about issues and campaigns we’re working on.

We have to be much more intentional about why we’re using Facebook—as a way of tapping into already existing, meaningful, personal social networks of people who share our values—rather than just using social media for the sake of using social media. And we have to bring something to the table: a strong voice, a meaningful way to take action and be engaged with these issues, and a way to feel like you’re actually making a difference. Otherwise, we’re just yelling into a void.

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

The most challenging part about this work is just how relentless our opponents are. It actually takes my breath away sometimes to see the lengths anti-abortion politicians and groups will go to—inserting restrictions into totally unrelated legislation, coming up with new angles to restrict access, and just at a constant, incessant level of action in almost every state. We have to be incredibly fast, nimble, and smart to fight back, and we really need people to pay attention and to care enough to want to call these attacks out. Obviously, a lot of my job is about informing people and giving them the tools to fight back and protect women’s rights, and it can be just a ton for our audience to deal with. I can understand how for our audience, it can be really overwhelming and discouraging. But overall, I am constantly amazed by how fierce and unflappable reproductive rights advocates are—and more of them show up every single day. It shows that this is a cause worth fighting for, and that we’re on the right side of history. I have no doubt about that.

Tell us a bit about your Facebook Page (What’s the audience like, what kind of content do they enjoy the most, how often do you post?)

Our Facebook fans are AMAZING. We literally have folks who hang out on our Page every single day, interact with every post, and are powerful ambassadors for us and this movement. They’re a real community. In general, it’s an audience that really knows their stuff, and cares about the whole range of issues in our space: not just abortion access and birth control, but also sex ed, equal pay, health care reform, feminism, LGBT rights, etc. And they’re sharp and informed on all these issues—the content they engage with and share the most is content that will help inform their friends, push back against misconceptions, and make cultural change. We try to post about a diverse range of issues and always try to bring a unique, values-driven perspective, and that’s what I think makes our audience come back and engage with us.

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

We’ve been using ActionSprout when something really big happens—whether it’s a terrible new bill being introduced in Congress or someone denigrating the word “feminist”—and we really want to give our audience something to do about it, fast. It can be time-consuming to launch actions, and ActionSprout is a super-quick tool—both for us to launch, and for people to take action. We can set it up in minutes, and for users, it’s a single click without leaving Facebook, and they can make their voice heard and join our community.

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

We had an action recently in response to a Fox News host making some outrageously offensive comments about campus sexual assault that were just the definition of victim blaming. We wanted—and felt pretty sure that our audience would also want—to send a message not just to Fox News, but also to society at large that victim-blaming is unacceptable. We took the quote and asked folks to sign on and tell Fox News to stop blaming victims, and our audience responded really strongly to it.

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

I think the most important thing is always to move fast. For better or worse, the media cycle moves incredibly quickly, and when something grabs people, they want to be able to do something about it right away. The Fox News action, and a lot of our other most successful actions, have been successful because it was up right away.

What did you learn about your audience from this success?

Not just from this action, but from our audience and from this work in general: All of these issues—from reproductive rights to consent—are intertwined. It’s all about the idea that every person deserves to have full control over their own body, safety, and well-being. Our audience gets that, and they’re willing to learn about and get involved in issues even if they’re not the main issue that brought them to our page. I think that’s key, also, to an intersectional approach to this work and building a coalition of people who are all on the same side. We can’t have true reproductive freedom if we only ever work on protecting access to birth control and safe and legal abortion—we also need to end different forms of violence, promote consent and fact-based sex education, ensure economic security and opportunity for all people so they can truly have access to the health care they need, and more.

How did you measure the success of this action? What metrics did you focus on?

First, and most importantly, the engagement rate on this action was exceptionally high: of the people who saw the post and clicked through to the action page, a high percentage of them were moved to actually take action, which is, of course, the goal. I also watched the number of people who shared the post (showing they were moved by the content enough to share it with their own friends) and the conversation that popped up around it. Especially for an action that was a bit outside of our wheelhouse (and therefore something of an experiment to see whether our audience would respond well), this told us it was a success.

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

Understanding the types of topics your audience will respond to is a key way to understand what your brand really is. Talking about other issues in our general advocacy area and getting a great level of engagement with them is an important way to reach new supporters—again, maybe people who aren’t as fired up about abortion access but people who really want to support efforts to expand comprehensive sex ed, or fight rape culture, or learn more about feminism.

And we push our audience sometimes to consider issues or perspectives they may not be familiar with, or even agree with 100%. The more you can build that coalition, the wider your support network is. But, you still have to have a specific and unique voice, and know who your people are—we never dilute our central personality and mission for the sake of clicks or viral content, and we’re selective about the type of content we share. We have a really strong personality and an even stronger community, and we stay true to them.