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Digitise It | Chapter Three

Campaigning through Facebook


THE BASICS

Facebook is a giant community, and a great place for communication and debate. Over half of all users log into their accounts every day, giving any organisation an excellent reason to occupy Facebook real estate. By creating a Facebook Page (see Facebook Fast for a quick overview on how to do this), organisations can raise their profile and share their information with millions of potential users, without much effort.

One of the major advantages of Facebook is that users willingly spend time there. Instead of having to attract visitors to your website, organisations can go to where people are congregating, and use mostly free tools to customise a campaign. However, Facebook has some flaws: it was not designed to support activism and it will not necessarily guarantee a successful result. This guide will outline the advantages and limits of campaigning via Facebook.


Why Use Facebook in Campaigning?

Creating a Facebook profile for your organisation or for a specific campaign will depend on your strategy. Regardless, it is a good idea to begin by creating a space on Facebook to make sure you “own” your organisation's name and unique URL.

Once you determine how this fits into your campaigning strategy, make sure to set clear objectives. Do you want to build a network/supporter base? Is the goal to disseminate information and encourage action? Do you want to drive traffic to your website? Know whom you want to target and develop a plan to reach out to those individuals and groups.

For more information on developing a social media strategy, see Introduction to E-advocacy.

THE STEPS

STEP 1:

Choose a Page or a Group

You have the option of creating a Page or a Group. In most instances, a Page is more appropriate because it allows you to customise the look and feel of the site and provide your own branding. It is not recommended that you start a profile for your organisation as a personal page.

Facebook Pages
Facebook Groups

For commercial use

For non-commercial use

Unlimited number of individuals who "like" the page

Unlimited number of members

No messaging capabilities

Full messaging capabilities

Your page’s updates will appear on the news feed of individuals who “like” your page.

You must be friends with the people in the group to get their news. This limits the amount of news being shared.

Create events (organise a critical mass of people, promote panel discussions, conferences and key political moments)

Create events

Custom applications can be installed (useful for specific campaigns, i.e. take-action activities like petitions and letters)

No options for customisation

Personalised Facebook URL

No vanity URL option

“For public dissemination of information to anyone interested in following your organisation or campaign”

“For internal collaboration and sharing information with teams”

See Facebook Fast for more information on how to create a Facebook Page and options for customisation.

STEP 2:

Designate a Facebook Page administrator

Identify experienced Facebook users to administrate your Page, and allow them to take the lead on organising your Facebook campaign. This will help ensure that the campaign runs smoothly and it also should be less time-consuming.

Ensure that the content you display on your Facebook Page relates to your overall campaign objectives.

Once you are happy with the content and the look of your Page, decide how you will publicise it. How will you promote the Page on your website and in other publications, products or social media sites?

Facebook will help you track the reach of your campaign by emailing administrators weekly statistical updates including the number of people who visited the page and number of new people who “liked” the page. Facebook’s Insights tool also allows you to see more detailed information about the people who are visiting your page, such as their language or country, and if they are talking about you.

STEP 3:

Watch for pitfalls

While social media sites thrive on interconnectivity and debate, make sure you are always in charge of the conversation. This means allowing for debate, but also knowing if or when you will restrict comments if they become offensive or inappropriate. There is a fine balance, and your guidelines on moderation should be clearly defined in your social media strategy.

Security may also be an issue for your organisation. Know that you are using Facebook, which is not a secure site, at your own peril. Users can hack into your account and retrieve data on the fans of your Page. Include a disclaimer, and discourage the sharing of personal information.

In the past, government agents from countries where the right to free expression is restricted have been known to join the Facebook Groups and Pages of free expression organisations in order to find information on the individuals who “like” the Page. Given that most people use their real names and identities, some users may be concerned with the lack of anonymity. They might be in political danger if their information is found, so make sure that you make this explicit on your Page.


TIPS

  • See what other organisations are doing and how they have presented their campaigns on Facebook. It is a great opportunity to see how other strategies are working, and what you might be able to replicate.
  • Set up a system where you can measure your Facebook campaign’s fulfilment of its goals and objectives. Evaluate inputs and outputs regularly. Your Page is like a television channel, and you can decide how you will direct the content.

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