Social media is something that often gets abused. We strive to share worthwhile things with others. Sometimes though, especially when it comes to advocating a cause, we aren’t sure where to draw the line between inviting people to take part in something and inadvertently shoving something down their throats.
The biggest mistake organizations make is divorcing themselves from their online presence. What happens online doesn’t stay online. What you do online is a direct reflection of your organization. Your identity and your rules for interacting with people cannot be different for online versus offline.
The hard part is when it comes to advocating for your cause, or when people ask you to advocate for their cause. This particularly happens to people who begin to garner large online followings. Other organizations will start asking them to please “share this on your Facebook page” or “please share this with your Twitter followers.” While the intent behind this is noble, there are two problems with this.
Firstly, it is focusing on favors, not friends. An online following is essentially an online community. You only build it by being honest, by sharing, and by offering something of value. In return, people begin to respond and interact with you. This is why the lifeline of large community blogs is always the comments section. The community factor comes in from the interaction that takes place.
By trying to rapidly get a message out there without putting in the legwork is focusing on favors. While it is true that your plea may get a couple of thousand more impressions, it will be short lived because people did not have a vested interest in getting involved. This is the nature of the online interaction. The focus must be on cultivating friendships first, not asking for favors.
Secondly, give yourself the living room litmus test. Before you post something online, ask yourself if you would go to someone’s living room and say the same thing. There’s no disagreement about helping each other in righteousness, but everything has parameters. It’s important that we identify the etiquettes of helping one another in the online space. When an organization builds a large following, it came through a lot of work, and a lot of value that they provided to others. When you ask someone to promote something for you, think of it like this: Would you walk into someone’s living room and say, “Can you please go and tell every single person who trusts you to raise money for us”?
Keep your online world the same way as offline.