The Organizer’s Guide to the Galaxy: Social Media

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Editor's note: we wrote this resource in partnership with Texas Freedom Network Education Fund (TFNEF) as part of our work to develop a Civic Engagement Manual. So while the examples here are about Texas, and directed towards students, we hope they're helpful to organizers, young and old, across the country. 

Social media is a game changer, plain and simple. Facebook and Twitter allow you to share information in real time and collect data from individuals to build your base. Whether you’re creating a Facebook event for an upcoming rally, live-tweeting quotes from speakers at that rally, or posting pictures of your group’s awesome rally signage on Facebook (wow – you really got behind that rally!).

There’s no denying social media’s ability to keep your core members informed and engaged while reaching a larger audience as a means of building your base. What’s more, it’s free. But as the old saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Remember: the Internet never forgets! Once something is posted on a social media site it lives on the Internet forever thanks to screenshots and caches, no matter how quickly you delete it.

Just like you need to be focused when creating your message, you need to be equally disciplined when conveying your message through social media. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts to guide your posts, likes, comments, tweets, re-tweets, and everything in between.

  • Do create a Facebook page for your Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter. Facebook provides administrators of your page with metrics and tracking tools through Facebook Insights to help you evaluate your page’s performance in terms of traffic, shares and likes. All Texas Freedom Network student groups use a similar format for the name of their page. Here’s an example: Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter at UT Austin
  • Do exercise restraint in determining who is an administrator for your Facebook page. Administrators are able to create pages for events and post content on your group’s page. Like we said, once something has been posted online it lives on the Internet forever. Forever and ever. Having a well-intentioned member place an offensive post on your group’s page is a liability that damages your group’s credibility and can alienate your membership or other groups. Only a few people should be administrators for your chapter’s Facebook page. Ideally, administrators will be you and your chapter’s officers (you’ll learn more about who these glorious folks are once we tackle the Community Organizing section of this guide). The same rules apply to Twitter. While it can be helpful to share your handle with multiple people to keep your Twitter feed relevant and chock-full of perspectives, share your Twitter password with only chapter members who have demonstrated they understand they are representing the entirety of the student chapter, and TFNEF, when they tweet from the chapter’s handle.
  • Do keep your pages and feeds active and relevant. While both Facebook and Twitter are free, maintaining the sites require time. We’ve all had the unfortunate experience of visiting a Facebook page only to discover it hasn’t been updated in months and there’s zero activity from followers. Underwhelming, no? Help your followers (and their friends, who are your prospective followers) stay in the loop by posting relevant information on a regular basis. How regular, you ask? Daily is best, although every other day or even once a week is still enough for your chapter to stay relevant. Any less and your chapter risks looking uninvolved and uninformed – the exact opposite image you want to project. If your chapter doesn’t have an event or campaign to promote, you can still generate content by sharing posts or events from the main Texas Freedom Network Facebook page or other like-minded organizations, posting news articles that address an issue your chapter cares about, or reminding followers about upcoming events.  
  • Do share content from other organizations and give proper credit when doing so. Though it’s always best to promote the work of TFNEF first, don’t be shy about sharing the work of other, like-minded organizations. As the old saying goes: sharing is caring. Occasionally sharing a post or two from another organization’s page can be beneficial to your own work. Not only are you showing your followers that you play nice with others, but often times those other organizations will reciprocate and share your content, introducing you to another audience and, ideally, boosting your own follower count. Be careful, though. As with anything on social media, exercise caution about what you share and who you share it from. Be mindful that sharing another organization’s post could be perceived as an implicit endorsement of what that organization stands for and believes in, and that may not always be the case.
  • Do reach out to and build relationships with social media managers from other organizations. You scratch their back, they might scratch yours. Got some awesome content that you think the whole world needs to see? By all means tell your friends and partners and other organizations to help spread the word. You’ll probably owe them a favor, though, so keep that in mind.
  • Do think twice before posting or tweeting on behalf of your chapter. Take a second to make sure the information you’re about to share with your followers is appropriate, accurate, and respectful. That’s not to say you shouldn’t express an opinion if you’re concerned about an issue. Quite the opposite – both Facebook and Twitter can be powerful tools in raising awareness. But an obscenity-laden misspelled post looks unprofessional and consequently makes your concerns easier to dismiss.
  • Do create a Facebook event for major events. We’re not talking about internal group events like every officer meeting. But if you’re screening a movie, hosting a panel, or celebrating a renowned activist’s birthday, go ahead and create an event to advertise your shindig, get an accurate headcount, and allow your fans to invite their friends.
  • Don’t assume that just because you have a Facebook page for your student chapter your personal profile is off limits. As a leader of a Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter, you and your officers will be the public face of the organization. What you post “privately” on your own profile is actually public to either all your friends or the world in general, depending upon your personal privacy settings. You and your officers will be associated with your student chapter, whether you’re acting in an official capacity by leading a meeting or minding your own business as just another student studying at the library. “Privately” post and tweet accordingly.
  • Don’t use Facebook or Twitter as a venue to hash out miscommunications between your student chapter members or leaders of other student groups – even if their values don’t align with your group’s. While it may be tempting to trash the radical right’s Facebook page, passive-aggressive or snarky comments won’t win any battles. In fact, they can belittle your own cause while further galvanizing their members’ opposition to you.
  • Don’t assume Facebook and Twitter are the end-all-be-all of “digital organizing” (that’s organizing jargon for using the interwebs as a way to engage your membership). Email can also serve as a powerful tool when organizing online, especially if you keep emails concise, with a clear purpose addressed within the first paragraph or two of the email. In fact, having an up-to-date list of email addresses you’ve collected from tabling and events is vital to the strength of your chapter because it allows you to layer your messaging. Remember how different audiences should hear different iterations of a core message because people react differently to stories? Similarly, some people are more likely to respond to an email invitation rather than a Facebook message. So if you want people to come out in droves, make a Facebook event, write a post (or two, or three) on your chapter’s Facebook page, tweet about it, and send an email (or two, or three) to your chapter listserv. The more ways you can access your membership, the better. 

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