Facebook and Twitter Keep Changing The Rules: Prepare For Digital Advocacy Platform Uncertainty

We’re Adapting our Global Digital Advocacy Strategies, and You Probably Should, Too. 

For foundations and organizations that drive advocacy campaigns globally, Facebook and Twitter have been a driving force for change.

Particularly in lower-middle-income countries (LMICs), where the rise of a connected populace leapfrogged email- to-website-action advocacy, social media platforms have been the primary means to effectively educate and mobilize grassroots audiences as well as directly reach key opinion leaders and decision-makers.

Until now.

In 2013, Facebook and Twitter changed the rules by drastically reducing the reach of non-paid content from organization pages. Our metrics on organic reach for advocacy campaigns in over 25 countries are so low that we have all but abandoned building Facebook followers all together. Organizations were forced to rely on ‘feeding the meter’ and continually using advertising to promote regular posts just to ensure they reached critical mass among their own followers and advocates.

Now—the rules are changing, again.

With (rightful) scrutiny on social platform advertising abuses, Facebook and Twitter have thrown the baby out with the bathwater—making it extremely difficult for organizations across the globe to rely on paid advertising to promote advocacy-related content. Twitter recently announced a total ban of advocacy paid content, only to walk it back just a bit.

Even if you want to play by the rules, restrictions now put too much responsibility and visibility on specific individuals in organizations who operate as a social media manager. Advocates are forced to upload their personal ID as well as confirm a physical address via the platform, with no assurances of what happens to that information should interested parties come knocking at Facebook’s door. Many of our partners in India, Indonesia, Vietnam and elsewhere are balking at this process given the potential risks it places upon them personally.

These platforms are still vital because that’s where the people are. But with such a shifting landscape it’s important for global advocacy campaigns and foundations supporting issues across multiple countries to ensure they have a diversified advocacy platform strategy.

Because the only certainty I know is the rules are sure to change yet again.

Here at Global Wave Digital, these are the strategies we’re chewing on with movements across the world on what comes next:

  • Influencers, Brand Ambassadors and Key Opinion Leaders: What’s Real and What Works: Think less Instagram Model and more Ambassador for Change. We encourage partners to develop networks of highly visible individual influencers who can act as advocates to drive awareness, mobilization of action and engagement with key decision-makers via their own large communities. The programs focus on a broader ‘brand ambassador’ program where campaigns recruit organic influencers as well as a Key Opinion Leader influencer program that focuses on 1-2 specific individuals—who sometimes receive sponsorship funds for their time to participate in campaign events, develop content etc. Organizations can’t just go ask Neymar and Lady Gaga to come with—you need a plan, a commitment program and ongoing support.
  • Direct Action Platforms: Online organizing beyond social-platform based actions can help trade quantity for quality in action. While email is generally a poor tool for outreach in the Global South, platforms for more direct communication and action among grassroots advocates are aplenty: Radio-to-SMS mobilization, WhatsApp Groups, crowdsourcing tools like Ushahidi or Facebook Groups can be effectively utilized to drive a smaller core group of advocates to action. For well-resourced organizations in the right countries (I’m looking at you Brazil and India), traditional CRM-based email programs are worth another look, too.
  • Use Facebook and Twitter Under New Rules, But Differently: Given these platforms are ingratiated into local culture nearly everywhere, we don’t see them going the way of MySpace in LMICs anytime soon. There’re still ways to squeeze life out of your social posts.
    • Broader public awareness content on Facebook and Twitter is still hugely useful to drive issue urgency. Specific advocacy asks are restricted, using ads to drive urgency around the problems and need for a solution without calling out the legislative context on Facebook and Twitter remains a strong option that does not require any registration.
    • Grow Twitter Community with Follower Ads: there is still value in growing the follower count of Twitter profiles via general paid ads and leveraging non-paid posts on advocacy asks relying on the organic reach of individual tweets. Especially since Twitter strategies in most countries are focused on profile-based engagement of grasstops targets.
    • Play By the Rules. Encourage Facebook Registration: in countries that feel comfortable having staff details on file with Facebook, we guide groups through the authorization process to run advocacy content in paid ads. We are also exploring using digital agency accounts, centrally or in-country, for the authorization needs.
  • Use Traditional Online Paid Advertising: traditional paid advertising channels online are an opportunity to drive urgency, awareness and action as well, posting online ads on content advertising networks, search engine ads and key news/blog site ads will drive campaign visibility among target audiences
  • Supporting Digital Capacity among Media: Supporting journalists and media houses efforts to build their own digital capacity via training can help inject critical information about a campaign into social platform conversations. This is training and guidance journalists rarely receive, but as the source of content they are a huge potential source of sparking issues.
  • Using the Global Agency Network Hack: in preparation for the Adpocalypse, Global Wave Digital has developed in-country agency partnerships in over 20 countries. Having a network of agencies that can be managed to support your in-country efforts is an above-board way to coordinate a global movement. We’ve got the infrastructure in place to help to manage a global movement among consultants and agencies in our networks that are authorized to run advertising.

Want to do more research on your own? Here’s the latest on the impending rules change from Twitter:

Original tweet from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

Twitter will run some political ads, just not from politicians. It seems well-intentioned, but might get messy. (CNN Business)

Twitter details political ad ban that is coming next week (Ad Age)

Twitter unveils final details for political ad ban, but it’s still looking murky (CNBC)