Activities and ideas for building social media advocacy

I’ve been working with a number of teams lately to help them build social media advocacy: non-communications colleagues who want to use social media in a personal, professional capacity.

Social media advocacy is a great move if you want to encourage more networking and ‘working in the open’. It’s also the best long term plan to bring more credibility and add variety to any organisation’s social media activity.

This is a list of the types of activity our team has been involved with. For each I’ve identified some tips, and the type of things that work – and don’t work.

Offline events

Keep the emphasis on learning and doing, not just celebrating social media for the sake of it.

These sorts of events should be about building capability and confidence of your colleagues, not showing off your initiative to the rest of the world.

Keep things focussed on practical skills by setting challenges that get people doing things:

  • Interviewing each other about their job and posting it online
  • Connecting with colleagues on different networks
  • Reviewing different types of social media activity and assessing what people would and wouldn’t click
  • Thinking about upcoming projects and how these might appear on the organisation’s feeds. I’ve had a lot of success using templates like this, to get people sketching ideas in teams:
  • Be prepared to tackle the tricky topics head-on. These might include social media policy or personal privacy.

Also think about bringing in some senior support. If you have a leader in the organisation who uses social media well they can really help assuage people’s fears and legitimise what you’re trying to achieve. Ask them to present something short and snappy on:

  1. Why they use social media
  2. How they got into it
  3. The mistakes they’ve made
  4. The opportunities they’ve had, as a result

I used to be sceptical about this approach but I’ve seen it work well, even in very cautious government departments.

Finally, talk to your local reps for the big social media platforms and see if they will support your event. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn all have in-country reps who would like to do more business with your organisation. Their training resources are usually great, and in my experience they will send you stickers and stationery without necessarily expecting a sales pitch.

Social media surgeries

One-off events can be great, but keeping the momentum is what counts. However, you probably aren’t paid to do full time social media training. The challenge is finding ways to support people that are sustainable with your other commitments.

Social media surgeries should be open to any colleagues in the office building, or on Skype, to speak with you at a fixed time each week. So, rather than handle lots of enquiries on email randomly throughout the week, you can ask people to come and join you, and whomever else turns up, at a fixed time each week.

I ran these for several years in an organisation of 3500 people split across 3 sites. Sometimes no-one would turn up, sometimes a few people, but more often than not there’d be 10-12 different people often with similar questions or ideas.

Pick a day, time and location and stick to it, however slow business might seem at first. Consistency of availability is key, and it builds trust and referrals.

Keep the sessions informal, only as long as you can afford and consistent: ‘I’ll be in the canteen between 10 and 11 every Wednesday. No question too big or small.’

This approach really helps overcome any perception that no-one’s doing or supporting social. I also found lots of ready-made social media advocates this way, and avoided a few odd or crazy ideas that were brewing in other teams.

Training the trainers

Hopefully you start to build enough momentum that events and surgeries are oversubscribed. Success looks like social activity being planned early on in projects, and your advice being sought at the beginning.

This means your next problem is capacity. Having others volunteer to run events and surgeries could be an answer.

Stick to these rules and you could build yourself a good support network. New trainers must:

  1. Be regular social media users themselves
  2. Be prepared to speak to the experiences they’ve had – good and bad
  3. Listen to the concerns and needs of individuals. They’re not there just to sell social
  4. Not try to be an expert on everything. Vulnerability encourages confidence within others.
  5. Be prepared to continually encourage and support the people they train, online
  6. Keep training practical: get people set up with accounts there and then, take photos, create graphics etc.

Books and reading

For all my obsession with helping people to just get on and press some buttons and share content, I accept that for many, having something to take away and read is really important.

For the purposes of the activity described above, I’ve assumed people need a bit of persuasion or inspiration.

Here are some suggestions, for starters:


The single most important activity is your own, online. I’ve seen companies flounder with social media advocacy because they don’t have a central person or team who is really well connected with staff and demonstrably enthusiastic about social media.

Make sure your colleagues can find you online, and that you are ready and waiting to support them. Your colleagues need to see that you are accessible but also immersed in this world – a source of expertise but also practical help. An advocate for social media in your workplace.

How could we help you?

If you’re still lacking inspiration or would like someone to present at your next surgery or lunch-and-learn, we’d be happy to help. Get in touch: [email protected]