How Obnoxious Should You Be For a Good Cause?

This is a tough, tough question for the average non-profit or social good practitioner to ask. When you really believe in a cause, you feel there is no point at which you are being too obnoxious, and no amount of asks are too much. Often, causes have touched their representatives personally, in deeply emotional and often physical ways. I understand. This cause, whatever your cause is, has become a touchstone for you. You don’t understand why it isn’t more important to more people. You have no fear when it comes to being pushy about it, and you have good reason. I get it. We all get it. We may not share your exact experience but we, your audience, as it were, understand. Even so, there is a point at which it is too much volume. At some point, even if we like you personally, or like your cause, or have friends, colleagues or relatives affected by your cause, we, the general public, tune you out.

How then, do you know when it is too much? This question becomes even more difficult, and more important to figure out, on social platforms. Whether your cause is politics or cancer, AIDS research, helping abuse victims, or any of a million causes in between, it only does your cause a disservice to not know the answer.

They key is to differentiate global influence from localized support, and interact accordingly. If the average user sees a few updates per day from you about said cause on various platforms, and is not being asked for anything, but helped to understand what is going on, that will begin to give you traction. That’s great, you need awareness and the general desire to help to increase before you make your ask. If you then make your ask, after establishing your depth of knowledge about the cause, and do so multiple times a day, there is a point at which people will no longer “see” you. People are hard wired to filter that way.

There are some who limit the ask to two times a day or even one – that is much easier for the average user to absorb. In general, experienced cause advocates know exactly how much, and when, to push or to push a little extra. The problem begins when you get a handful of folks who think they are helping by pushing a constant, unending stream of updates about the cause. If your cause comes across the average user’s radar 180 times in a day, by 100 – 180 unique sources (the key word being unique), while some people may find it obnoxious, they can still see the number of varying touch points and recognize they are seeing your reach – your global influence – in action. Mentally, they are more forgiving of seeing your cause appear that way. They may even be more likely to want to join in supporting you as a result. Conversely, if they see 180 updates regarding your cause from the same 5 people, so to speak, you know your cause will be passively filtered out as people think those people are too noisy, or actively filtered out by silencing your keywords using various online tools like Tweetdeck and others like it. You don’t want that to happen!

How do you, as a champion of your cause, prevent that? One way is to avoid strictly numbers based drives, such as “xx number of tweets, Facebook updates, etc will be dollar matched” and encourage modified versions, such as “xx number of UNIQUE tweets, Facebook updates, etc will be dollar matched”. Another way is to be unafraid of pulling aside your more avid, and occasionally more obnoxious, supporters and asking them to space it out a bit for you, for the greater good of the overall goal. Yet another is to encourage a more in depth way to participate, that isn’t update based at all – perhaps a blog post drive or other information based effort. However you choose to handle the issue, it will keep your cause form becoming part of the social media noise and give it a better chance at succeeding long term.

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  • Well, this is very timely for me. I've just spent the weekend and lots of tweets for #tweet4ywca. I feel it's a great cause, but the length of the campaign has made it difficult to sustain. I know the tweets reached quite a few people and generated a great discussion about domestic violence issues. My main focus is on cancer related causes, but was very interested in seeing how this campaign played out. I'm taking lots of notes and really appreciate your insightful comments!! Thanks for being a wonderful voice in the social media space.

  • Yes, the Tweet for YWCA cause was one of a total of three this weekend that sparked the post. Taking that one under account for now, since you replied, I'm someone who advocates heavily on domestic abuse issues, and even though it's a topic near to my heart, a few things happened: 1) *I* tuned it out after one RT for it due to volume coming from only a few of the same folks and not a variety of new folks, and it's a cause I care about, so that's rare 2) I started seeing more folks complain about the hashtag volume than there were talking about the cause 3) I started to get annoyed, and that's from someone who is used to seeing a repetition of topics online. Imagine how someone who isn't was feeling. It occurred to me it was a simple issue to solve for the future, so I jotted off a little post I hoped would be helpful 🙂

  • (and it makes it doubly hard to find yourself annoyed at a cause spearheaded by someone or someones you consider a friend, at least for me) 🙂

  • — one last comment too! I was very surprised by the number of DMs I received asking why I was supporting a domestic violence campaign. Apparently, lots of tweeps thought it was odd that I was supporting something other than a cancer cause. Interesting feedback! Thanks again for your thoughts!!

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