The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) launched its #FemGen campaign at the start of 2016 calling for a breakthrough election for women to the 32nd Dáil. Social media played a key role in driving membership engagement, creating media opportunities and influencing politicians to commit to feminist policies, and reached 1 million people in a month, on Twitter alone. We sat down with Sarah Clarkin of NWCI to discuss the importance of social media content in activism.

Building an online community is crucial for furthering a cause. This isn’t merely about building up your followers, but it is about understanding what your followers want, and why they followed you in the first place.

Creating engaging content, and using a consistent and authentic voice is important for ensuring people will activate around the issues you are trying to promote. It means moving away from telling people about something, to being part of a dialogue and informing people about the substance of what you’re doing, as opposed to the only portraying the gloss of a launch. It also means engaging all the time, and not just when you are launching a campaign or trying to promote membership or ask for donations!

Social media [has] changed the face of activism. It means that brands, politicians and NGOs have access to a large online community, which can be used to test messaging, or mobilised to support a brand. This is a major change from 20 – 30 years ago.

We can reach more people than ever before, at a considerably lower cost, and followers can choose the level of engagement that suits them. However, this constant engagement with an online community can be daunting; the more familiar, top-down method of communication that was previously used meant have more control of the message.

Those who don’t engage authentically or consistently can lose control of their message quickly, and a Twitter storm or backlash can cause considerable reputational damage. Ultimately though, the principles of engagement are the same in the digital age as before.

There is a fine line between making sure you engage with your followers, and spending all your day responding to trolls. It is important not to be flippant – one tweet can be taken out of context, and used against you!

During a high level campaign, there will always be criticism. It is important that you respond appropriately, but this does not need to be immediate. Take the time to consider what you want to say, and seek advice.

Sarah will be speaking at Publish or Perish: The Content Conference on November 10. Click here for tickets to Ireland’s first dedicated conference content and further information on all of our speakers.

You can learn more about the National Women’s Council of Ireland here