How to use online petitions to create social proof in a social good campaign

Is there a cause you are passionate about that you can’t not promote?

Do you have a burning issue you’d like to raise awareness about?

All of the businesses I work with are motivated by more than the mighty dollar, but some want to make a bigger impact than others. At the moment I’m working on two major social good campaign strategies, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to share some insights with you.

The good news is that social media makes fighting for a passion or cause easy!

A little background

In my former life as a consumer advocate for the birth reform movement, I helped to organise many protests, media events and social good campaigns, but this was before social media was really in its prime.

How to use online petitions to create social proof in a social good campaign

Instead of social media, we used email, phone calls and the media. Nowadays there are many tools available to causes that can expand your reach exponentially. Below I outline a tool you can use to create an online petition in support of your cause or social good campaign.

Petitions are powerful tools for social change. If you want a petition to be admissible in parliament (in Australia) it needs to comply with certain rules and be real signatures. This means leg work is still an important factor.

Online petitions do have their uses though. While they don’t replace a political petition that can be raised in parliament, they can raise a lot of awareness about a cause and help to mobilise a community around that cause. A recent example of this is the #maykingfairgo campaign I’ve been working on with the Queensland Business Group.

maykingfairgo campaign

Just last week we discovered that QBG founder May King Tsang was to be deported by the Department of Immigration (read the back story here). Naturally, the 3000+ member group has reacted angrily and we quickly formed a strategy to raise awareness, gain publicity and accomplish our goal of keeping May King in Queensland. Part of this strategy has been a petition (You can view the petition here and if you agree, sign it).

Once you sign a petition on, you are then invited to connect on Facebook and send messages to interested friends to also sign the petition.

I urge caution with this feature. Only send to people for whom the topic is relevant. In my case, I sent it to others in the Queensland Business Group as well as friends of mine that I know would support the cause.

If you send petitions to people’s Facebook message boxes too regularly, they’ll start to ignore them… so make it count!

Some tips for drafting your petition

1. Make it clear what you’re aiming to accomplish and what you want people to do.

In the #maykingfairgo campaign we have made it clear that we are aiming our petition at a particular politician who can bring about direct change. Our aim is to show massive support for an individual and her impact on an entire community of Queensland businesses. Reading through the comments, I believe we are well on our way to accomplishing this goal. Within 2 days of formulating our strategy, we were able to get the attention of politician Teresa Gambaro and liaise with her staffer. Initially we were told this would be impossible because it was just after an election, but we knew we had to take massive action to get noticed and the petition not only helped us do that but it also meant we could identify who lived in Teresa Gambaro’s electorate (so we could ask them to contact her office on May King’s behalf).

letter to teresa gambaro for #maykingfairgo

2. Ask for the share!

Don’t assume that because someone signed the petition, they will also share it. It depends on how passionate they are about the issue.

So you need to ask for the share if they are not as passionate about the issue as you.

ask for the share

3. Tell your personal story about how the issue effects you.

It helps to share your story about why the issue personally affects you. People resonate with stories and your friends and colleagues will resonate with your story. Flash campaign graphics are not nearly as effective at conjuring support. Remember that social media is about connecting and being real. The more raw and personal your plight, the better.

maykingfairgo campaign

4.  Go through and like the comments by other people and reshare.

5. Make sure you establish a hashtag (#) using and @tag anyone you want to notice when you share posts… in this case politician Teresa Gambaro.

hashtags vs @tags

Image curtesy of Media Me’s Jasmine Birks.

Social communities can effect great change and tools such as make it possible to spread the word about causes we believe in exponentially.

What are you passionate about? What other social good tools or websites do you use? Share a comment below.

ps: massive kudos to QBG’s Phil McGregor who did the petition and had the brainwave to get everyone to post a thank you message on the politician’s comments on Facebook.