Twitter Story: Advocacy

One answer to the “why” of Twitter: advocacy campaigns.

This past spring, a little issue popped up. You may even have heard something about it. “Health care reform” ring any bells? Sure, we all knew it was on Obama’s agenda, but we didn’t realize it was FIRST on his agenda. We figured he’d be busy settling in and house training Bo for a while, but the man can multi-task. Another concern? Kids and kids’ needs were pretty much being ignored. Seeing as NACHRI is an association of children’s hospitals, you can see how we might be a little worried.

Grassroots campaign to the rescue!

Now normally, in a situation like this, you fire up the ZIP-targeted direct mail for key Congressional districts and blitz people with email action alerts. Only our members are the hospitals. And it’s not like we could start calling up members and asking, “Hey, we know you’re really busy and stuff, but could you possibly send us the names, emails and snail mail addresses for every patient and her/his family you’ve treated in the past 3 years? Kthxbai.”

So how else were we going to reach people? Power of social media, aka Speak Now For Kids.

Twitter has been primarily a broadcast mechanism for the campaign to date. We didn’t have any connection to the grassroots, but there are a lot of medical people, a lot of moms, and a lot of journalists on Twitter. The Speak Now Twitter account has served as a great way for us to bring attention any time a key vote or action is going on. We can’t send you an action alert asking you to contact your representatives, but we can tweet it. It’s also a great way for us to get the word out when new videos, pictures, and written testimonials are posted to the site or to our YouTube channel. It also allows us to share quotable information like the fact that 17,000 kids have died in the past 20 years from lack of health insurance.

Sure, we’ve made some mistakes. First of all, the Twitter handle is probably too long – takes up too many characters in re-tweets and via and @ replies. Early on, we weren’t remembering to include the http:// on our URLs, with the result that they generally weren’t clickable. And we weren’t using URL shorteners to make our tweets easy to share. And we were using #speaknowforkids as the campaign hash tag (that’s been shortened to #hcr). It’s still mostly broadcast rather than conversation. But we’re learning and fixing things as we go. And Twitter had allowed us to reach 2200 people we otherwise wouldn’t have had access to and ask them to raise their voices in support of kids’ health.

How is your organization using social media to support your advocacy efforts?