Paris, France, June 2020 – The LOUD (Local Young Leaders for Inclusion) project delivered its third online webinar on 20 May with a presentation by Kelsey Bjornsgaard, Senior Adviser at the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) specialised in the prevention of extremism, on how to fully use the potential of social media to boost an alternative narrative communication campaign.
> What makes a campaign effective?
Kelsey Bjornsgaard stressed that social media are an excellent tool when communicating with young audiences who are the core target of alternative narrative campaigns. She recalled that any communication campaign, independently from the characteristics of the target audience, relies on the following points:
- a clear, nuanced understanding of your challenge that is based on evidence
- in-depth knowledge of your target audience
- a clear picture of the existing ecosystem surrounding your challenge
- clear goal and objectives
- a clear message and credible messenger.
But other aspects are also important:
- relevant, engaging content/deliverables
- a unique brand that is identifiable, relatable and trustworthy
- a comprehensive promotion strategy.
> Branding your campaign to give it a distinct identity
One of the most important aspects of any campaign, whether on- or offline, is branding, in other words the different ways in which we can give the campaign a personality, a voice and other attributes that render it distinctive and attractive to people. How to do this? Through a series of well-established communication tools: a name or slogan (e.g. “Black Lives Matter” or “Yes We Can”), which is also translated into a hashtag (e.g. #BlackLivesMatter), the graphic design of the campaign (font, colours, graphic style), the story it tells, the personality (e.g. is it upbeat, dramatic, carefree…?) and its voice (how does it deliver the key message, in what tone?). Once all this is decided and created, it is essential to maintain consistency throughout, not only so that the audience can recognize the campaign and identify with it, but also so that your team speaks with one voice.
> The power of social media
Social media can drastically increase the reach of a campaign and have specific advantages over traditional media:
- their reach is both vast and targeted (i.e. lots of people reached, but also precise information on them such as age, place of residence, socio-economic characteristics, etc.)
- you can use social media to support and showcase your offline activities
- they allow you to build a network and connect with potential allies
- they can be a repository of your project activities.
Social media also have a key advantage over websites in that they enable the campaign promoters to go to their audience’s space (i.e. their own Twitter or Instagram feed), rather than having to attract the audience into their own space (i.e. the campaigners’ website). “On social media, your audience is on a platform where they’re already segmented into groups. Also, they’re already actively looking for content, which is very important.”
> Some essential guidelines to thrive on social media
The LOUD webinar gave a series of practical recommendations to local authorities on how to best use social media’s advantages:
- Choose the right platform for your audience and for your content. This means doing a bit of research (including using existing surveys) to know what platforms your audience uses most.
- Don’t overstretch yourself! Be aware that each platform has a certain type and style of content and that you don’t need to use all of them. “It’s better to be in fewer platforms well than not so well in all of the platforms,” said Kelsey Bjornsgaard.
- Post at the right time and not too often. This means posting whenever your audience is online: do a bit of research and experiment to see how they respond to your posts.
- Use the whole platform and not just your own page.
- Be responsive. For example on Facebook, “make sure you get the ‘quick responder’ badge, and check it every day, morning and evening.”
- Change often what you post, but always be consistent.
- Be social! Social media are not websites, they do not need to be static, quite the contrary. There is no need either to be too formal in your communication style and language.