This summary is provided by the IPR Digital Media Research Center.

Nonprofit advocacy organizations must break through the deluge of messages on Facebook to reach their intended audiences and influence change. Drawing on social presence theory, the purpose of this research was to explore how LGBTQ nonprofit advocacy organizations use advocacy strategies and tactics on Facebook, the link between advocacy strategies and tactics and virality (in terms of likes, comments, and shares), and the types of relationship-building strategies that LGBTQ organizations use on Facebook. Implications for how nonprofit advocacy organizations can use Facebook to facilitate social media engagement and promote social change are provided.

This research employed a content analysis of 1,500 Facebook posts from 43 LGBTQ advocacy organizations. Facebook posts from January 2016 to December 2018 were analyzed for:

  • The advocacy strategies the organization discussed (Insider strategies are aimed at reformulating policies and involve working with government, bureaucracy, or corporations, such as lobbying or expert testimony. Indirect strategies occur outside of institutional systems, such as public events and actions like protests or media advocacy.)
  • The specific advocacy tactics the organization discussed (i.e. public education, grassroots lobbying, public events, voter registration, research, judicial advocacy, coalition building, media advocacy, administrative lobbying, direct lobbying, or expert testimony)
  • The social presence strategies the Facebook posts incorporated (Affective strategies are emotional expressions that may use humor, express opinions, or create feelings of warmth. Interactive strategies quote or reference others’ posts, such as agreeing with or complimenting what others have said. Cohesive strategies refer to specific publics by name, use inclusive pronouns, or serve a social, rather than informational, function.)
  • The numbers of likes, comments, and shares each post received

Key Findings

  • LGBTQ advocacy organizations used more indirect advocacy strategies than insider advocacy strategies on Facebook.
  • LGBTQ organizations most commonly shared Facebook posts about public education, administrative lobbying, media advocacy, and grassroots lobbying tactics.
  • Indirect advocacy strategies generated more comments and shares than insider advocacy strategies.
  • Both insider and indirect strategy posts received more likes, comments, and shares than posts that did not use an advocacy strategy.
  • Posts about public education, grassroots lobbying, voter registration and education, and media advocacy tactics were more effective at generating virality than posts about public events, research, or coalition building tactics.
  • Cohesion was the most common social presence strategy overall. The most common cohesion strategy was addressing publics by name. The most common affective strategy was expression of opinion. The most common interactive strategy was referencing others’ posts.

Implications for Practice

  • In terms of generating likes, comments, and shares on Facebook, indirect advocacy strategies are more effective than insider advocacy strategies for LGBTQ advocacy organizations.
  • Small—and medium-sized advocacy organizations that may not have the resources to engage in insider advocacy strategies may garner attention on Facebook by posting about their indirect advocacy strategies.
  • Though posts about some tactics may receive more social media engagement than others, it is important for advocacy organizations to share a mix of advocacy content on Facebook to maximize reach, engage various stakeholders, and demonstrate commitment to social change.
  • When advocacy organizations post about public events, research, or coalition building, rather than simply sharing facts, they should incorporate graphics or data visualizations to make those posts more visually appealing and attract more attention.
  • Nonprofit advocacy organizations can use social presence strategies on Facebook to create and foster relationships with stakeholders.

Mazid, Imran (2020). Virality of Social Change Messages on Facebook: A Study of Advocacy and Relationship Building Strategies of LGBTQ Advocacy Organizations. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 14(2), 105-121.

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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