Tips for building a successful digital advocacy campaign for gender-based violence.

Introduction to Digital Advocacy

WHAT – Digital advocacy is the use of digital technology to contact, inform, and mobilize a group of concerned people around an issue or cause.

WHY – The purpose of digital advocacy is to create enthusiasm amongst your supporters to take action.

WHEN – Digital tools have become a central component of almost any movement. Some of the most-used digital advocacy tools include websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, email, and WhatsApp. Literally hundreds of social media applications exist that could be used for digital advocacy.

HOW – Most importantly, your overall strategy, based upon your knowledge and expertise of your cause and your followers, will determine how you use which digital tools and what follow-up steps you will take to spur on your community.

Tip One: Know your existing audience

The first step in building a winning social media campaign for your niche audience is knowing exactly who your audience is and what is important to them. Many organisations make the mistake of slapping together a social media campaign that focuses solely on the benefits of their own products and services. Your followers don’t only follow your cause, they follow numerous causes and one of them, being the centre of attention at the moment is GBV. So by you advocating for GBV, makes you more attractive to them – find out more about what ELSE they engage with other than your cause. The same for people you want to reach that aren’t necessarily following your movements on Social Media. 

What language do they speak? Not only English, Afrikaan, isiXhosa, Zulu – do you need to simplify your content or up your game? Are you targeting lawyers or accountants as they will want figures & stats. If they are psychologists and you need to add content that shows them you’re interested in the why’s and wherefore’s and behaviour patterns or do they run shelters, support shelters or give money to certain causes.

Nonprofits with limited budgets can take advantage of free resources to learn about online audiences. For instance, Google Analytics  & Facebook insights can tell you a lot about your community.

SUMMARY: Once you know who your audience is and what they care about, you’ll be able to reach them more effectively through a social media campaign. Not only will this target market research inform the types of content that you use in your campaign but also your approaches to reaching and engaging these consumers.

Tip Two: Know where your audience hangs out

Now that you know a little bit more about what your ideal customers care about most, it’s time to learn where they hang out online. There are so many social media channels available to us who want to connect with our audiences. However, because we are trying to make this task simple for you, taking into account the lack of time etc, your organisation doesn’t have the time or resources to effectively be present and engaging on all of these channels, we’re going to focus on a few that hopefully you’re already familiar with. It’s essential to strategically choose the channels that make most sense for your target audience.

Organisations also fail to take into account the audience’s challenges and needs. And this can result in wasted time, resources, and budget.  If some of your followers and supporters don’t have access to social media platforms like facebook and Instagram, but have access to emails and whatsapps – that’s the way to go – don’t forget about them!   From past experiences, do the people you’re trying to reach respond to your email, bulk SMS’s, whatsapp, through your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter or do they contact you or support you via your website?

SUMMARY: It’s like a radio station – different DJ’s and music attract different people

Tip Three: Use the right tool to engage

Firstly, do what is right for each SM Channel.  Each social media channel has different best practices that you’ll need to consider when using them as part of your social media campaign. It’s best to follow the social media rules for Facebook and Instagram as well as any other channels you want to utilize in your campaign. That way, you are able to maximize your results by using each channel to your advantage and stay out of trouble.

After you’ve decided on which channels to use, you’ll have a better understanding of how you can promote your campaign content on each channel. Some social media channels have unique features that will allow you to publish different types of content that work to engage your audience. For example, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube all have live video streaming options that allow you to connect with your audience in the moment.  In the past when you’ve posted videos, how many people viewed and like your post?  1? Then maybe you need to work on content or research your audience!

Don’t forget that you can also take advantage of paid advertising opportunities as part of your niche social media campaign. (Sam chip in here).  Though organic content and engagement can go a long way in helping you build relationships with consumers, paid advertising on platforms like Facebook and Instagram can help you expand your reach even further to connect with consumers who are right for your brand but may not yet be following or engaging with your content.

So what are the Campaign Tools available to us? Let’s talk about a few and chip in and tell us how you find each:


No matter what new social media platforms hit the market, Facebook remains one of the most popular networks across the board. With over 2 billion monthly active users, 61% of which are between the ages of 25 and 54, Facebook is typically a great social media channel for any campaign. 

When used correctly, Facebook is a great platform for showing the more human side of your organisation while building relationships with your contacts. In terms of user demographics, Facebook provides a nice even spread across the board. Which is another reason why we recommend that every organisation or cause have a Facebook page. 

Whether you are targeting men or women, teens or seniors, high income or low income, you will find your audience on Facebook. When it comes to Facebook, many different types of content are appropriate. You can post images and videos, quick text updates, share your content, post links back to your site, and even start a conversation in the comments section. 

The key to successful Facebook campaigning  is to post content that shows a different side of your business. Though Facebook does enable you to reach a large number of consumers, it also comes with a lot of competition, so you need to be on your A-game.


In the past few years, Instagram has truly become a force to be reckoned with in the social media world. Instagram’s audience numbers have steadily increased over the past 5 years, bringing current audience estimates to over a 1 billion users. 

And what’s even more important is that these users are active on a daily basis. Making the potential for engagement higher than many other social platforms. The nature of Instagram makes it ideal for organisations that have a visual product. For this reason, businesses in more artistic niches tend to excel on Instagram. But really any business that has a visual story to tell can attract and engage their audience here. 

Instagram’s platform relies on images and videos. But it also offers a variety of fun and engaging tools like Instagram Live and Instagram Stories that help brands offer a behind-the-scenes, more human look at their business.

To excel at Instagram for business, you will need to post quality images. It helps if you have someone on your team with photography skills or at least a creative eye for detail. These shouldn’t just be images of your products. But also images that help tell the story of your products and highlight different aspects of the lifestyle your products promote.

Since Instagram is a high engagement platform, you’ll need to make sure that whoever is posting for your campaign finds new ways to engage your fans and followers. 


Using relevant and popular hashtags on your posts is a great way to expand your reach on the platform.

Why must I use a hashtag?

Once you have added the hashtag to your post, other users in the challenge will be able to find your post and engage with it.  This is done by clicking on the hashtag while logged into Instagram.  When doing so, a separate feed will show, featuring all the challenge photo’s. 

Why does this work?

When people engage with your posts on Instagram (comments or likes), your account becomes more visible to new people on Instagram.  Overall, by increasing your activity on Instagram you will be rewarded with new engagements and visibility, allowing you to share your cause with a new audience!


Twitter remains a popular platform for those who want to deliver messages and communicate with their leads and customers in real-time. This platform is all about the here and now! Giving you the opportunity to put out news, announcements, and other important information in real-time.

Most of the users on this platform are under the age of 50, making it ideal for brands with a younger target audience. Pieces like how-to articles and listicles tend to perform well on Twitter. Other simple content like quotations, facts and statistics, and images also perform well on Twitter.

One of the most unique things about Twitter is it’s real-time messaging. This makes it a great social media platform for engagement. Some followers prefer to reach out on social media rather than email or phone. Twitter gives them a perfect opportunity to do just that.

While Twitter can be great for short-form content, it isn’t the best platform for every cause. If your content is highly visual, you may want to spend time elsewhere. If you regularly update your brand blog and enjoy sharing relevant third-party content with your fans and followers, then you will most likely find success on Twitter.

Ultimately, Twitter is one of the best platforms for quickly spreading the word about your campaign. Relevant hashtags can help you boost visibility. And when other users re-tweet your content, you can reach even more users. But if you use this platform, it’s important that you find a balance between branded content, third-party shares, and re-tweeting content from other users.

SUMMARY: Now that you know all about the different social media channels that you can use for your marketing, it’s time to answer the question – which social media should I use? In short, the answer to this will depend on which channels your target audience use most often and which social media platforms offer the greatest benefits to your brand.

Now it’s time to focus on your campaign ……

Tip Four: Hatch a goal and stay focused!

Before you can get started launching your digital campaign, you need to decide:

What are my goals and objectives for the campaign? 

Consider not only what you hope to get out of this specific campaign but also how these goals align with your marketing goals and objectives.

For example: Not just creating an awareness around the issue, but bringing in resources for sustainability. There are two broad types of campaigns to end GBV with different goals and you need to decide which one you fit into:

  1. Aiming for institutional and policy change, i.e. for effective laws, policies and institutions that prevent and give a consequence to GBV  offenders, and support the rights GBV survivors
  2. Aiming for change in individual behaviour and social norms and attitudes

Awareness- raising campaigns fit under both types as their aim can be to influence people’s behaviour, and/or be a means of attracting attention and generating public support – public awareness is always an important element whether seeking individual behaviour or policy change (or both).

The difference is in their call to action. (eg signing of petitions, marches, etc and the other donations, awareness events, fundraisers, etc)

In simple terms:  What do you want your audience to know? 

For the benefit of #16DaysOfActivism advocacy campaign, we need to define our core message and goal.  What and how you present your message is going to determine how far it spreads.

Before beginning to use social media, carefully consider your goals. For example are you hoping to:

recruit volunteers to come and help abused women; brand your organization as experts in the field of GBV; give out information about GBV; promote an event to raise money to help a shelter; get people to take particular action and attend a support group you’re trying to set up; tell stories about your work in line with GBV or real stories of hope

A campaign for a precise action to be taken by a well-specified group of people has better chances of reaping success than a vague call for an end to violence. Such goals may include:

prompting survivors of violence to seek support; securing funding for women’s centres that support GBV survivors; convincing legislators to translate international law on GBV into national legislation; persuading perpetrators of violence to seek treatment; It’s important to make sure that your goals are clearly outlined.

It’s also important to note that your specific campaign goals will play a vital role in your social strategy & your core business.  If you’re NOT in the business of counselling, don’t offer counselling, but have counsellors in your network aware that you are sending people their way and make sure they can cope!

Tip Five: The Message & Approach

An essential element in GBV prevention is to eliminate misconceptions about GBV. All elements of society, including public decision-makers, and key influential figures need to understand that GBV is a violation of human rights, regardless of when and where it occurs, and that not only should there be zero tolerance for it, but that swift and effective action must be taken to end it.

1.         Promoting multi-sector, multi-level approaches:

Virtually all sectors of society can contribute to addressing GBV – e.g. health services, education systems, courts of justice, police, armed forces, religious and other traditional authorities. An effective campaign needs to reach all sectors relevant to its themes and goals, and intervene at multiple levels so as to mobilize a wide range of individuals, local groups, government institutions and other decision-makers for change.

2.         Be gender-sensitive: 

Although evidence shows that, no matter the form and context of GBV, perpetrators are overwhelmingly men, GBV deeply affects all segments of society. It can destroy social networks and tear apart families and communities. Effective campaigns, therefore, must include and target not only women and girls.

Men and boys must be engaged as key allies in preventing violence—when provided with information and sensitization on the issue, many men can serve as important role models and spokespeople to promote gender equality in family relationships, and condemn the use of violence to resolve conflict at home and in the community. Men and boys can help to make clear that it is possible to prevent violence, in their own lives, and by exerting influence on their peers.

The evidence-base is growing on the positive changes associated with working with men and boys. In many countries, men have joined the struggle to end GBV, organizing all-male campaigns or participating in “mixed” (male and female) campaigns. An example is the White Ribbon Campaign, widely considered the first men’s campaign to end GBV. It was first launched by a group of men in Canada in 1991 to encourage men and boys to speak out against, and prevent violence from happening to women and girls. Today, the campaign runs in at least 60 countries in November and December of each year.

Tip Six: Move people towards engagement

Convincing someone to “like” your organization’s page on Facebook is easy;  same to a degree with sharing your content as it’s easier than them creating their own (which is a good thing!) convincing him or her to host an event at home to raise funds for your organization is hard. These are examples of the bottom and top rungs of what media strategists call the ladder of engagement.

By gradually asking more of your audience as it engages with you:

  • to opt in for email updates,
  • to make a small donation,
  • to attend an event,
  • to knock on digital doors for your cause (spread the word through their own social media)

you can convert an online bystander into an enthusiastic activist for your cause.

It is important to try different approaches and learn from the results. For example to test your audience, try the same message: 

first day of posting start off with a question:

Have you thought about where your food comes from?

and then post again the following day with a compelling fact about the previous post:

Fact! …  Processed foods make up 70 percent of our local community’s diet.

Whatever has better traction in terms of share, engagement and reach, is the approach to use. But you must always try new things, because digital behaviours move very rapidly.

Tip Seven: Spur your audience to act (call to action)

Know what it is you want your audience to do, and make sure the audience knows it too. Perhaps it is as simple as sharing your post on Facebook, Sign a petition or Attend a meeting.  But tell them!

If you’re asking for donations, think what it would take for you to actually take money out of your pocket and give it to someone.

  • Take Action – empower others, enable them, and cultivate a movement by calling your community to ACTION.
  • Campaigns on GBV tend to increase demand for direct support to GBV survivors, as people who have not dared to report their experience of GBV may feel encouraged to seek support. It is critical therefore that campaigns, and especially those that focus on awareness-raising, not be undertaken unless survivors and other community members have access to minimum services (health, protection and legal) or referrals to get the support they may need. In many instances, outreach or advocacy may result in a woman or girl speaking out about her abuse for the very first time, and prompt counselling and care should be made readily available, in line with ethical standards.

All you need to do to get started with your first social media campaign is to follow the steps above. The more research you do on your niche audience up-front, the more successful your strategy will be – which means you’ll have the opportunity to see the results you really want from your campaign.

Remember, social media is not just something you can set and forget. In fact, if you want your social media campaign to be effective, then you’ll need to engage with your fans, followers, and leads along the way. Monitor the different campaign elements throughout the course of the campaign to ensure that everything is going along smoothly. Once you can conduct a final analysis, you’ll have plenty of information to help you do even better on your next campaign.