Using Social Networking for Advocacy
NAMI advocates can use social networking to reach a large audience of existing supporters and potential supporters, inspire public dialogue around mental illness and influence key decision makers.
What is social networking?
Social networking focuses on building social relations between people who have similar interest using a variety of networks that are most often Web-based, so that network members can interact over the internet. Through social networking, ordinary people and experts, reporters, etc. can exchange ideas, debate issues and motivate others to take action by sharing media links, videos and other information.
If you are not using social networking, you are missing an opportunity not only to be part of the conversations related to NAMI and its mission, but also to be a recognizable, reliable authority on mental illness.
While there are many free social media networks, if you are just starting out, you may want to focus on three key, user-friendly networks that reach huge audiences: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
These social networking do not cost anything to use; you only need to invest some time into familiarizing yourself with each network to learn how you can best mobilize NAMI support.
We will walk you through some basic ways to use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to advocate on behalf of people affected by mental illness and reach the most people possible.
What is Facebook?
Facebook is a social networking website that allows users to create a personal profile and communicate with friends and others by sharing messages, photos, links and other information.
In addition to personal profiles, Facebook has a feature called Pages, or public profiles, which are specifically intended for organizations or public figures. Pages are public platforms that allow organizations to connect with members and other supporters in the Facebook network.
The breadth of Facebook's network is enormous: there are more than 350 million active users and approximately 50% of active users log on to Facebook on any given day.
Creating a Page for your State organization or Affiliate is a great way to raise NAMI's profile and bring attention to NAMI's advocacy efforts and other activities.
A Facebook Page allows you to:
- create a basic profile describing NAMI's mission
- make your community aware of your local NAMI presence
- post news related to important issues, such as mental health budget cuts
- alert supporters to NAMI advocacy efforts
- encourage dialogue through wall posts, status updates and newsfeeds
- share photos, videos and links
Getting Started on Facebook
Once you've created a page, you may want to check out the NAMI National page by visiting http://www.facebook.com/officialNAMI.
Take a look to see the kinds of posts, events or links that are shared on the NAMI Page. You also will get a sense of the dialogue these posts can generate among our fans. Notice that fans will often engage each other, exchanging links to related information or sharing their personal experience in response to a particular news article. By networking with each other, they are helping to spread the word about NAMI within Facebook and ultimately, beyond the internet. Providing an interesting variety of posts will keep fans engaged and returning to your Page for more information.
In your first weeks, set aside some time to continue exploring other Facebook Pages and aim to post to your Page several times each week. Updates will keep people interested and ideally will drive them back to your Page routinely. You also can include links back to your NAMI Affiliate website or NAMIs site (www.nami.org) so that fans can find additional information.
Encourage Advocacy Efforts
- Post a news story about state mental health budget cuts
- Share a link to a video clip of a local TV news story about NAMI advocates fighting budget cuts
- Invite fans to a local NAMI event
- Upload pictures from your computer or phone of a press conference on the steps of the state capital building
- Encourage NAMI fans to call or write emails to legislators asking them to save mental health care in your community.
Sample Facebook Posts:
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a free microblogging and social networking service that allows users to communicate using "tweets," which are short posts of up to 140 characters in length.
Like Facebook, Twitter has millions of users. As of Sept. 2011, Twitter reported having more than 100 million active users.
Tweets were originally meant to answer the question: What are you doing? Over time, they have come to answer: What's happening? Individuals can update tweets, which appear on a personalized newsfeed. Tweets are then delivered to the person's "followers."
Twitter fosters its own interactive community because each Twitter feed is linked to a list of the user's followers, as well as the users that they in turn follow. Twitter users can easily identify others who share their interests, and smaller communities form around different priorities. Using Twitter is a great way to make connections and build a network.
To Tweet or not to Tweet
While Twitter may be used as an individual's personal newsfeed, it also can be a useful platform for organizations as well. Twitter can serve as a great advocacy tool that enables followers to stay informed about issues related to serious mental illness.
Using Twitter is as easy way to engage with individuals and other organizations interested in mental health. You can share information, offer feedback to breaking news, team up to spread the word about worthy initiatives and advance advocacy priorities. Tweets can help educate people across America; they also have the potential to influence key decision makers.
What is YouTube?
YouTube is the world's most popular online video community, where millions of users watch and share millions of videos each day. More than one-half of YouTube users visit the site weekly or more often.
Like Facebook and Twitter, creating a YouTube channel and uploading videos can help you connect with and inspire NAMI supporters and others. You also can post links on Facebook and Twitter that direct people to your YouTube channel of videos.
You can use YouTube to:
- Inform viewers about NAMI's mission, advocacy goals, etc.
- Post interviews with NAMI advocates or members sharing personal stories to underscore impact of mental health budget cuts
- Network with ally organizations
- Call an audience to action
- Create groups of videos on a NAMI channel
- Make Facebook or Twitter content more engaging
- Click on Create an account
- Choose a username and complete the other information
- Once you have an account, click on the gold Upload button in the upper-right-hand corner of the page to post a video file from your computer
- Click Browse to choose the video file you would like to post
- Select the file; click Upload Video
- While video is uploading, complete the description, category info, and tag the video with key words like "NAMI" or "mental illness" or "budget cuts." The more information you enter, the easier it will be for people to find your video.
- Click Save Changes
- Roll over your username and click on My videos
- Click on video link you would like to upload
Once you create an account, you will automatically have a YouTube channel where all of your videos can be posted. Your channel name will be www.youtube.com/user/username.
NAMI's channel is www.youtube.com/user/NAMIvideo