Spitfire Strategies

Making the Most of National Attention

Ellie Klerlein

By Ellie Klerlein
Senior Vice President

Ten of the nation’s leading foundations joined the Obama Administration to launch “My Brother’s Keeper,” a public-private initiative to expand opportunities for young men of color. Spitfire was tapped to help coordinate messaging and social media responses.

Social media was a core component of building momentum for the initiative, and seamless coordination was critical to success considering the number of parties involved in the launch: 10 foundations and their grantees, numerous corporations and federal agencies, and the White House. Below are our recommendations for others considering a similar event.

Research Your Hashtag

Before embarking on a social media effort involving Twitter and Facebook, conduct thorough research of existing hashtags, or conversation groups marked with a pound sign (#). In our case, there were many existing hashtags to consider for promoting the initiative because numerous organizations focus on issues affecting boys and young men of color.

We needed to select a hashtag that was short enough to pair with an existing hashtag about the issue and catchy enough to ensure consistency of use across multiple groups.

Initially, we considered #BMOC (“boys and men of color”) for the hashtag but soon discovered its existing popularity among college students for the meaning “big man on campus.” After reviewing several options, Spitfire advised the foundations to use the hashtag #YMOC (“young men of color”). It passed the test for short and catchy and directly tied to the focus of the initiative.

To avoid confusion about the meaning of the abbreviation, we encouraged the foundations to include the phrase “young men of color” in their posts so users could easily understand the meaning. Choosing an abbreviation for a hashtag isn’t always advisable, but can be used effectively if paired with other language that brings additional meaning.

Produce an Appealing VisualBMOC 1

Graphics increase engagement on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. They are also a great way to give your audiences something to share during an event. Spitfire captured a screenshot of the live announcement to provide the foundations with a timely , appealing graphic to use on social media. Spitfire added a quote to the graphic, which helped push the initiative’s core messages as it moved through social media.

Monitor, Monitor, Monitor – Then Analyze

Spitfire and the foundations were particularly interested in how the announcement was being discussed in different conversation areas on social media. There are many online tools to monitor social media traction, such as Topsy, Social Mention and Radian 6, a more robust paid service that we used. Familiarize yourself with the tool you choose before the event so you can use it to effectively assess your impact and stay abreast of the conversation. It’s best to monitor well before an event so you have a good baseline of activity to measure against.

One challenge is that most groups want to gauge the sentiment of the conversation, not just the extent. Many social media tools use a complex algorithm to decipher positive or negative sentiment around a topic or conversation, looking for words that would normally be associated with positive or negative feelings. However, an algorithm can’t always determine tone. A tweet could potentially use words associated with negative sentiment, but the message could still be positive (for example, tools cannot pick up on sarcasm). Cross-check by looking at a sample of tweets and posts and getting a sense for the language influencers are using. Once you’re done, take time to listen to your metrics to see what worked well and what didn’t to integrate what you learned into future events.

“This is a truly transformative program and there is no question that it is preparing leaders to be courageous communicators.”

- Colleen Bailey, Executive Director, The National Steinbeck Center

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