Using social media for social good with Amnesty International USA

By: Francesca Hannay

October 23, 2018


#DMWF - Featured - Social Marketing -

iStock 479088130 1

Social media is a hugely valuable marketing channel, but as one in a constant state of flux – at the mercy of algorithm updates, regulatory changes and emerging new platforms – it’s never been an easy area to hone.

While not many are more experienced in social media strategy than Amnesty International USA’s social media manager, Amanda Alampi, balancing breaking news on human rights in a turbulent political climate with pre-planned activism campaigns means every day for her team is like a “puzzle”.

To find out more about using social media for social good, and to draw parallels between Alampi’s daily work and that of the more mainstream marketer, we caught up ahead of her appearance at #DMWF North America.  

Hi Amanda, let’s just start with a bit about your background and your current role Amnesty International USA…

Amanda Alampi: I specialise in social media for social good and a lot of my work focuses on storytelling and designing content that helps advance the causes we all care about. Currently, I am the social media manager for Amnesty International USA where I oversee social media along with creative and brand for our U.S. membership. Previously, I worked for Sunshine Sachs, a communications firm where I oversaw a portfolio of nonprofits, corporations, and celebrities who care more about different causes. My past clients included the Center for Reproductive Rights, Malala Fund, Alicia Key’s Keep a Child Alive and Law and Order: SVU’s Mariska Hargitay. I also am on the adjunct faculty at Fordham University in their department for New Media and Digital Design. I have two classes each semester where I teach social media and digital strategy for cause marketing.

How do you use social media at Amnesty International USA?

AA: So there are two ways to think about social media at Amnesty International USA. The first is through a traditional marketing lens. Social media is really top of the funnel work to introduce our brand to new audiences who potentially could become members by signing a petition or donating. When we do this work, we are thinking about how to introduce people to our brand and our work, educate them on human rights issues and encourage activism on issues they care about. Alongside that work, we are also working to advance our campaigns. I work with campaigners to help design what our work looks like online and to find creative ways to encourage our membership and the public to take action to free people or to stop bad bills, for example.

Did you always hope to use your social media skills in an organisation like this?  

AA: Absolutely! I always wanted to use social media and creative to help people. Now my focus is specifically on human rights work and it is a really important time to be leveraging digital tools to advance our work. I think that’s an exciting part of social media. We can do this type of work at a speed and scale that we haven’t been able to do before.

What kind of social media trends have you observed emerging this year, specific to your sector?

AA: Influencer marketing is playing a bigger and bigger role in digital campaigning and advocacy. At Amnesty USA, we are working with mommy bloggers, for example, to educate the public about family detention and separation. We also recently launched a mommy blogger program to promote our research on gun violence as a human rights crisis. There are two main reasons people in our sector are using this tactic more often. The changes in the algorithm definitely pushed marketers towards influencer marketing. Brands are being pushed down in people’s newsfeeds. It’s hard to get our content into the right hands. The other piece is that influencer marketing helps to bolster trust between our brand and our audiences while also conveying authenticity in our marketing. Influencers validate the work and so it’s easier to educate the public about human rights, for example, through that third party.

How does your approach to social media marketing differ from, say, a global retail brand?

AA: Day-to-day, much of our work is similar to corporate brands. I’m just selling activism to audiences instead of lipstick or sneakers. The major difference in my work from my peers is that I have to teach people about a variety of complicated and nuanced issues before they want to take action. So for example, in our family detention work, we decided to invest heavily in storytelling that helps to build empathy and illustrates why separating mothers from their children and then putting them in prisons is not how we, as Americans, should treat people fleeing violence in their countries. On top of all that, the U.S. government is violating their fundamental rights in the process. There are a lot of layers to that messaging. We have to find creative ways to educate them on the issue, inspire them and empower them to act

In your role at Amnesty, what’s been the biggest challenge and how have you dealt with it?

AA: The most challenging part of this role is that, at any time, Amnesty International and many other human rights groups have several compelling and urgent cases and campaigns for us to promote. So each day, we have to prioritise certain work while, at the same time, accommodate for breaking news on social media. Every day feels like a big puzzle that you are trying to solve while the table is moving. It takes a lot of practice. And in the Trump administration, the news cycle is changing quite quickly and since there’s a lot of news that’s distracting us from the real issues, we have to be creative about how we bring attention to human rights abuses. But in this challenge, I’ve gotten to try a lot of different tactics I hadn’t used before and built on some old ideas to reinvent them. We do a lot of projections to put a literal spotlight on certain issues like online violence against women on Twitter or the impact of the Muslim Ban. We also use guerrilla marketing tactics like sidewalk decals and digital vans, which resonate well on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat because it’s shareable content.

What’s your advice for anyone looking to specialise in social media marketing?

AA: My best advice is to try everything and learn as much as you can. Social media platforms will come and go. The industry is changing very quickly and so we need to prepare ourselves professionally. If you can build up comprehensive communications, marketing, and strategy skills, you can withstand those changes and thrive in the face paced environment.

Find out more about #DMWF North America and register here.