Often, the goal of a small cause is to seek more attention and to leverage media moments for greater visibility and to grow its supporter base.There are a wealth of ways for a small cause to use online techniques to boost its visibility. However, all of these techniques depend on a framework that must be in place first.
1. Theory of Change: Figure out how do we get from here to there? While this might be an overall strategy it also speaks to the specifics of any online technique. It is important to define why taking online action would yield desired results and to ask yourself “how will my action create change?”.
2. The Legitimate Voice: This part of the framework is concerned with who is speaking. It is important to be wary of the collective or organizational “we.” Usually, staff or leaders of a nonprofit are not the best voices; but rather the people who are most affected by the issue. For example, strong voices for a gun violence prevention group would be parents affected by gun violence, youth advocates, legislators, experts in other areas, or articulate activists that have a great personal story.
3. Harmony Between the Theory of Change, the Voice, and the Call for Action: Many times, an organization's call for action, such as a Facebook “Like”, can seem inconsequential to someone. A supporter might think “Why should I like this Facebook page? Why will it matter?” Asking for something more serious can inspire people to step up their involvement in the cause. This happens when supporters are asked to host a house party, to fundraise, or to commit to an in-person volunteership. Remember to be strategic about your audience and goals, and to seek and appropriate outreach technique.
4. The Narrative Arc: The Narrative Arc gives people a sense of where the organization or cause stands in real time, right now. This component is essential for a sense of momentum. Remember that your action may be part of a broader movement. This is particularly important when news reports are showcasing a series of media grabbing moments from around the country that relate to your cause. It is important to plug this into the narrative.
Once all the elements of the framework are in place, online actions can be taken; like creating targeted lists, writing the actual content, finding great video or image content, or thinking up a gimmick. The job of the core activists and staff is to extend the moment with calls to the press, bloggers, and “sneezers” who can help spread the word.
The list of online action possibilities is endless, but these possibilities are much less effective without a proper framework in place. All too often, folks who are passionate about something go in the opposite direction, starting from the bottom and working on up. Having this framework solidified will also strengthen other aspects of the cause such as organizational efforts and recruitment.