Using social media to advance a cause

In a world where it seems everyone has something to say, how do you get your cause at the top of the list? Social media is one viable way to do this! Social media is a great tool that enables people and organizations to have a voice and connect with others who also share similar interests.

Several years ago, I was lucky enough to find a social cause worth getting behind. The cause is congenital heart defects (CHDs). I have a daughter who was born with a very rare form of CHD in 2012. Lucky for me, I had the proper training (and education) to conduct sound research to prepare myself, and my family, for the arrival of our heart warrior.

a word art illustration of social media typeHowever, many people rely on the internet for help, where they may find it hard to decipher the good from the bad information. It can also be a bit overwhelming and in many cases misleading.

When people are in this situation and want to know more and learn from others, they turn to social media. Whether it is about a personal issue or a business issue, social media provides a link to your target audience. My experience is not unlike what others have experienced; I was just lucky enough to have the research skills needed to decipher the medical jargon.

I found in my research that information was everywhere and seldom in one location—nor was it easy to understand. So with that knowledge under my belt, I sought out to create what wasn’t there, a site that was a one stop shop for other heart warrior families. However, one should not just jump into social media without a well thought out plan, or your efforts will quickly fall into the “confusing and overwhelming” category.

There are several things to keep in mind when using social media.

  1. Mean what you say – people can sense your passion and motivations through your shares, posts and tweets. Don’t make the promise – be the promise.
  2. Be factual – link to other reputable sources.
  3. Speak to your audience at their level.
  4. Share your information in 2 separate ways – what they need to know and what they want to know (these are vastly different). 
  5. Leave bread crumbs – find ways to link different platforms when applicable (e.g., post a Facebook update using hashtags that clearly promote your cause).
  6. Keep information fresh and current – you can’t maintain followers if you are sporadic in your information sharing.
  7. Remember virtual words can often be forgotten, but they can never be taken back – so leave a virtual footprint you can be proud of in the future.
  8. Track and measure! Don’t just put words out there, be sure you are tracking your stats, data, and measuring it against your goals – this speaks to having a purpose.

In my efforts to educate other families and friends about CHDs, I created a blog in honor of my daughter To date, the blog has reached more than 8.3K people in 10 countries! The only forms of social media promotion I have used are Facebook and Twitter.

I think it is important for anyone who is looking to use social media to promote a cause or sell a product that you do your research. Find your niche and be informed, know who your target audience is, be discoverable, and know what forms of social media they are using. When I started my journey, I read a great book by Aliyah Marr titled Bird Seed: How to use Social Media to Advance Your Cause, Yourself, or Your Business. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to explore the realm of a virtual footprint on social media.

Dr. Lee Ann Walker is the Academic Program Manager for the Marketing MBA Program in the Malcolm Baldrige School of Business at Post University. Walker holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of North Florida, a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from American InterContinental University and a Doctorate of Business Administration from Walden University. Walker has targeted, professional experience in marketing, advertising, graphic design, corporate branding, social media branding, and customer service in both for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

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