September 11, 2017

8 Tips for Preservation Advocacy on Social Media

Action Center screengrab

The National Trust's Action Center is the home for all our current advocacy actions.

For any organization, creating a social media following involves building brand awareness and directing followers into your membership or donor pipeline. But individuals and smaller organizations can use social media platforms more broadly to advocate for saving places. We’ve compiled eight tips you can use to help secure a preservation win in your community using social media.

1. Create a home.

Begin any social media advocacy campaign by creating a place where you will send all of your traffic. Every social media post can then refer your advocates back to that landing page. This can be very comprehensive like the Trust’s historic tax credits page, which features a summary of the issue, a link to an online petition, and a media toolkit—and suggests other ways in which our supporters can create buzz in their communities about this vital preservation tool. Or you can create something simple like the Trust’s Elkhorn Ranch petition to the governor of North Dakota. If you don’t have a website management tool that supports petitions, you can create them for free on sites like Change.org or Care2 Petitions.

2. Choose your platforms.

Facebook and Twitter are traditional advocacy distribution platforms, since they have larger audiences who often see advocacy-related content coming through their feeds. But, as Instagram grows in popularity, it's starting to play a larger role in the world of social media advocacy. Instagram is still limited because links usually cannot be added to individual posts. Be sure to include any links related to new posts in your bio, and mention that in each new post to give your followers clarity.

3. Make it visual.

It’s important to create visual elements for your social media posts. A good visual can be as simple as gathering and posting a few different pictures of the site you are trying to save. A more advanced approach is to shoot a 15-30 second video or create a collage. These flashier visuals will grab the attention of audiences scrolling by your feed.

Down to the Wire campaign image with towers depicted

A designed image used in the Down to the Wire campaign for the James River.

4. Draft and plan.

The next step is to draft a few different versions of your primary message, so you can send out a variety of communications with different audiences in mind. To stay organized, create a campaign calendar so you know when you are going to post, what message you’ll be using, and on what platform. (A Google spreadsheet is helpful for this, as everyone involved in your preservation project will be able to access it.) Campaign calendars save a lot of time, since you won’t be trying to remember when and where you posted which messages as you carry out your campaign.

5. Identify policymakers.

If the mayor is the ultimate authority on whether your site is saved, be sure that you are following their official Twitter account, as well as those of their important staffers and of city council members who might be able to help your campaign.

If your campaign addresses a state or federal legislative issue, follow the committee chair and members who will hear relevant bills, as well as any representatives from your site's district or from key districts nearby. Hopefully, with your follow, the officials or staffers who run those accounts will follow you back, giving you a direct route into their news feeds on a daily basis.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell, Congresswoman Terri Sewell, and Brent Leggs

photo by: Mark Sandlin

Our advocacy work in Birmingham involved outreach to Mayor William Bell (left) and Congresswoman Terri Sewall (center), shown here with Senior Field Officer Brent Leggs (right).

Preservation Leadership Forum: An Evolving Approach to Social Media

Forum's series about social media in preservation will dig deeper into community management, storytelling, advocacy, and more. Have questions? Reach out on Forum Connect!

6. Engage elected officials.

Publicly thank an official who says something in support of historic preservation or something related to your project. A simple “Thanks @ElectedOfficialDoe for your support of preservation in Anytown!” can go a long way to garnering favor the official or their social media staff.

This strategy also applies to new co-sponsors of important legislation or newly sworn-in officials who you can congratulate and welcome to the job. Exposure to you and your cause through a like, retweet, or reshare from elected officials is always a good thing.

7. Make it easy for your fans and followers.

While it's helpful for your organization to follow and engage elected officials for advocacy, you can also motivate your own followers to take action. Use your campaign calendar to send a steady drumbeat of messages that encourage your followers to take action. If you're sending your followers to your site to learn more about an issue and email an official, be sure to provide language and all the contact information they’d need to do it.


8. Communicate the results.

Follow up with your audience after an issue is resolvedregardless of the results. If you get a win, celebrate! If the issue is a loss or setback, make sure your audience knows what happened. Often, the worst outcomes in preservation can motivate your followers to take more actions that will prevent a loss from the next place!

These eight tips are just the beginning of social media advocacy. If you follow them, we're sure you’ll be able to add even more tips to the list in no time at all.

By: Tim Mikulski

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