by Rachel Moss

How many followers do you have? What are your engagement statistics? Do you get more likes or retweets?   When someone is evaluating social media, these are the numbers to which they turn.

Social media is measured in numbers, and these numbers provide a great service in letting consumers know who is relevant.  For example, popular conservative personality and CBLPI speaker Michelle Malkin has 2.05 million followers on Twitter, while popular liberal personality and founder of Ezra Klein trails behind with 1.76 million.  These numbers show that more people are interested in hearing what Malkin has to say on Twitter versus Klein.

However, follower counts, engagement statistics, and even website clicks are the not the most important numbers needed to effectively measure social media as political advocacy.  The deeper effects of social media as advocacy are seen when looking at the numbers of e-mail sign-ups, new volunteers gained, and donations brought in through the efforts of social media.

While conservatives have amassed high numbers of followers and huge levels of engagement, they have not completely mastered the effective use of social media as a tool for advocacy.  Conservative activists and organizations often attempt to use Twitter to engage with those who disagree with them.  For example, conservative activist Milo Yiannopolos would regularly respond to Twitter users who disagreed with him, attempting to persuade them of his viewpoint.  However, Milo failed to convince these users of his policy positions, and his controversial tweets resulted in his ban from Twitter.

Leveraging Social Media’s Advocacy Power

Social media is an amazing tool to leverage the supporters one already has, not to try to draw supporters to one’s side.  Social media is not the place to attempt to convert someone’s position on a policy.  Instead, conservatives should focus on realistic goals such as boosting name recognition, soliciting donations, and building a volunteer base.  Conservatives hoping to advocate for a specific policy, cause, or organization can utilize the following guidelines to hone their social media sites into platforms for advocacy.

Firstly, conservatives should not engage in fruitless debates on social media. 

Debating on social media often makes one look like a bully, especially if the one debating is well-known.  Rather, the focus of someone advocating for a specific cause should be to share things they want to bring to social media user’s attention. Simply, share your position; do not debate it.

Secondly, advocates should solicit donations through social media for their organization, charity, or cause.

Twitter’s $Cashtag function allows users to contribute to an organization with a simple click of a button; use it in your tweets. Another strategy is to post links to donation sites on every social media platform, accompanying various styles of tweets and instagram posts.

Thirdly, never miss a chance to link a post to one’s website when appropriate.

Every social media post related to the cause or policy you are promoting should have a link that either helps the supporter get involved or helps them learn more about the cause.

Fourth, advocates should use social media as a means to gain data.

Most social media sites allow businesses to glean valuable demographic information about their followers such as age, sex, and location.  Conservatives can use this information to churn out more social media posts that will make followers more likely to donate or volunteer.  Check demographic statistics regularly, and alter your content to reflect a changing audience.

Fifth, use social media to boost name recognition.

Share what your organization is about and why people should want to know more about them.  Take advantage of the information-sharing aspect of social media.  Medium, a fast-growing social media site, is perfect if organizations want to write longer-form content about what they do.

Lastly, advocates should encourage users to volunteer on their social media sites. 

Not every conservative needs to make a social media site to get new volunteers, but links to a volunteer page, or videos about the fun of volunteering can be effective.

Conservatives clearly are winning in numbers; they just need to learn to use social media as a tool to leverage those numbers.  If they begin to utilize social media in the right way, social media could rival conservative’s success on radio.  Conservatives have a chance to drive their movement with the proper use of social media, moving from large numbers digitally to large numbers making a difference in the real world.

Rachel Moss is a 2017 Summer Fellow.