how to:How to Begin Using Facebook for Advocacy and Organizing
Facebook is a social networking website where users can add friends, send them messages, and share information about themselves and what they are doing.
It boasts about 500 million users, 70 percent of whom are outside the United States. If it were a country, it would be the third largest in the world.
There are many other social networking sites out there, and depending on your country, Facebook may not be the most popular. But enough people are using the site to get information that, if you'd like to reach them, it makes sense for you to be there too.
Create a personal Facebook profile if you don’t already have one, and invite people you know to be your friends.
Create a Facebook fan page or group for your organization. Which should you create? Groups are not good for very large-scale interactions, but they can be more personal. Here are some differences. There is a good chance you will want to create both a group and a page, each with different goals.
Understand your privacy settings. What kind of information can the world see? Often, Facebook publishes information about its users without users realizing it. Check your privacy settings, and make sure your supporters do so as well. To start, use these tools to make sure you know what you are sharing and what you aren't:
And be sure to browse through our guide to protecting your privacy on Facebook.
Invite people to "like" your page. Start with friends who you think might be interested in your cause and then ask those friends to spread the word by asking their friends. Why won't approaching your entire list of friends get you as far? Because a fan who liked your page out of genuine interest will much more engaged and valuable than someone who liked the page just to be nice!
When finding new friends on FB, it’s often not a great idea to friend someone with whom you have had no association or connection with whatsoever.
Push beyond your network to spread the word. Once people outside your network have joined, you can even suggest that people change their Facebook profile picture to the image you have chosen for your cause. You can broadcast a message from your fan page account, but remember: The best way to get people to respond is by sending an individual, personalized message over Facebook, email, or both. Think about why they might be interested in the group and mention it in your message.
You can write a note about your new initiative and tag people in the note to get their attention. Pages can also now take them selves in pictures.
Post cool stuff on your page or group's wall. Posts should be brief—try to stay within 200 characters. Don’t bother posting boring content like press releases. Instead, post pictures and videos, invitations to events, interesting news stories about your cause, and blog posts from your website. And don’t automatically feed blog posts or news stories from your site using RSS; a Facebook fan page is not an RSS feed and your fans will get annoyed if you treat it like one.
Post during the week when people are more likely to check their Facebook accounts: in the morning, the evening, or during down hours during the workday like lunchtime or late afternoon. When sharing, make sure you use the Facebook “links” app so that people can easily share your posts with their friends.
When you tag other people and pages in your updates, a link to your page will appear on their walls. That way, new audiences will notice you.
Directly engage with your fans. If you post a link to a story, ask people what they think. When fans write on your wall, try to respond to them. It shows you’re listening and that you care about creating a two-way conversation. Also, be ready to respond to critics of your campaign who may post messages disagreeing with your cause. Have a plan for what to do if conversation threads get out of control and argumentative.
Send messages, but not too often. You should post on your wall freely—up to five times a day is perfectly acceptable—but try to limit messaging to once a week at most. Many people view Facebook messages as similar to e-mail, and they won’t want you to fill up their in-boxes with solicitations.
Grow your fan base. The best way to get more fans is to post interesting content that your fans will want to share with their personal networks. Another great way to attract more fans is to reach out to influentials on Facebook—for example, administrators of fan pages that are similar to yours—and ask them if they’ll join and/or recommend your fan page. And make sure that your information is fully filled out and is integrated with your other online presences…especially your website.
Don’t forget to drive action off of Facebook. While your tone on Facebook should be more social and conversational than on your website, don’t forget to ask people to take actions. Your action requests should direct people away from Facebook, whether it’s asking people to sign a petition on your website, post flyers, donate to your campaign, or attend a protest. Clearly define your goals, but also let supporters come up with their own tactics for achieving those goals.
You can also use Facebook to find and engage with people offline and drive them to your campaign. Claiming a place, whether it's your campaign headquarters or a relevant event space, allows you to encourage supporters to check in there, which shows up in their friends news feeds. Their friends will see mention of your organization/place/campaign in their newsfeed and may click to find out more about you.
To claim a place you have to access the Places application from a mobile device that supports it. Within Places, click "Check in" and then "Add." Enter a name or description and then check-in. Back on the Facebook website, search for your new place in the general search bar at the top of the home page and it should appear.
Let the media know if you’re successful. The media loves to cover stories about successful digital organizing. If your fan page is growing rapidly, send an e-mail, tweet, or Facebook message to prominent media figures and let them know about your success. If you get covered in a prominent publication or media outlet, you’re likely to attract a lot more fans.
Beware of hackers or other individuals who may not agree with your campaign or cause. When a group of women in India started a Facebook group to protest a campaign against unmarried couples celebrating Valentine's Day, it was hacked repeatedly.
Back up your Facebook data in case anything happens. You should be recording every event you hold, from a protest to a day of handing out fliers, on different mediums. You don’t want to lose this media, so make sure you back it up.
You can use sites like:
SocialSafe, a $2.99 Adobe Air application that downloads your profile, social graph, and photos onto your hard drive
What should you do if your Facebook account gets disabled or blocked? First, ask yourself:
Did you recently start using any new applications?
Did your online behavior change drastically?
Did you change the settings on any new applications?
Still not sure what happened? Send an e-mail to email@example.com, write from the e-mail address that is associated with the disabled Facebook account, and include a brief description of the issue. If they don't respond, write them again (and then again).
Do not delude yourself into thinking that a Facebook group or fan page, no matter how large, is a on its own social movement. You should always have an action that you want every member of your new community to take in the back of your head, and be sure to also link that action to whatever larger, offline goal led you to take to Facebook for activism in the first place. To succesfully link your efforts on Facebook to a larger movement for social change, check out our guide on planning a campaign strategy.