Social Ignition SparkNotes: Half in Ten

February 28, 2012

Part of our SparkNotes blog on social media.

One of our favorite organizations to talk social media with is Half in Ten.  A project of the Coalition on Human Needs, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Center for American Progress, the Half in Ten campaign's goals are clear and ambitious: strengthen families, support the creation of good jobs and reduce U.S. poverty by 50 percent in ten years (hence it's name).

As befits their forward-thinking agenda, the group has shown some serious innovation and success in using social media to inform and engage users about poverty in the United States. 

I spoke with Half in Ten’s social media manager Katie Wright to learn more about how they do it.  Thankfully, it’s not magic, and she gave some great tips that we can all learn something from.

Half in Ten's Social Media: Who, What and How

Building (and Keeping!) an Audience

Half in Ten's stats:

Facebook: 2,100+ likes, 1 post/day.
Twitter: 5,900+ followers, 3-4 posts/day.


One of the most helpful steps in building their audience, Wright says, came in the form of interns.  These days it’s easy to find young people (hello, fellow Millennials!) who are dedicated to finding interesting content and are excited about pushing out in social media networks.

Wright also said that Half in Ten works hard to connect with other organizations that are using social media well.  “We identified a few specific organizations with a lot of followers and built relationships with them,” she says. Being strategic in who you are making efforts to connect with can really go a long way. “We create an echo chamber for the other great work out there."  This creates solid ground for partnering and potential help in campaigning down the road.

Know thy audience: “Our website, Facebook, and Twitters each serve different purposes and reach different audiences,” says Wright. “A wonky policy person may not be on Twitter, but they may be on our website to read great articles.”

Once you have an audience, the challenge is to retain them. So, Half in Ten takes care to post content in formats that get used and shared. "When people consistently see you posting tangible resources that engage them," Wright says, "it gives them a reason to follow."

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? In our experience, it's where a lot of good strategies fall short. If your numbers are going the wrong way, take a look at your content. Is it clear enough? Is it in a compelling format? For more on that, read on.

What They Post

Half in Ten’s overall strategy guides its social media. "We want to serve as a platform for disseminating news and advocacy tools," Wright says. “We think about social media in everything that we do. When we email an action alert, we’ll include sample tweets in those newsletter.  People love getting sample tweets and posts ahead of time.”

Some content formats translate better to social media than others. For Half in Ten, they get a lot of traction with interactive quizzes, state-by-state information, maps, infographics of side-by-side comparisons, Top 10 lists, action alerts, and social media training for advocates. 

Also: their story map. “Spaces to create new narrative—like our story map—were successful on social media because they help people feel connected, and not like their voices are lost in the fray," Wright says.

Why these? Besides being visually interesting and fun to play with, these sources are also useful for a big part of their target audience: states.   “We create these kinds of resources so people on state level can use them,” said Wright.  With the recognition that state advocates were a big part of Half in Ten’s audience, this is a great example of how picking posts with an audience in mind is key to a social media strategy.

Demystifying wonky policy-related materials is also key to Half in Ten’s social media. "We take wonky stuff and translate it into layman’s terms," Wright says, because social media should be "something that is understandable to people.”

How They Post

Since social media is concise (you only get 140 characters on Twitter, after all), Half in Ten found it to be a good platform for little factoids and tidbits of data.  For one, Wright told me, they love to incorporate data into tweets because data is straight-forward, easy to understand and even easier to share.

Applying some basics of messaging also play a big part in Wright’s social media strategy.  If you look at their tweets and Facebook posts, you’ll be pulled in by interesting hooks and intriguing content, like top 10 lists.

Lightning Round

Alison: If you had to pick just one social network, would you use only Facebook or Twitter? Why?

Katie Wright: “We’d pick Twitter if we had to use one, because you can share more information and it can mobilize in real time.  But people have different preferences. Thankfully we have both to use, because it’s important to meet your audience where they are.”

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned in using social media?

“I think understanding how powerful it is was my biggest lesson. Coming into it, I was a skeptic. 'Why do it? It’s a lot of extra work,' I thought. But with all the successes we've seen, it's clear how powerful social media can be. You can always get people on your email list, but you might get more people to donate or take action if you reach them through social media as well.  It helps you expand your reach in a pretty easy way.

We've also seen how infographics or a push-back on a post or tweet by an organization with differing views can create a conversation, fill a void, and address things that you normally wouldn’t discuss on other mediums.  Many issues and commentary wouldn’t have a whole paper devoted to them, but they have a place on social media.  It’s a malleable medium that is so powerful.  But you have to figure out your goals to let it be that powerful for you.”

Your parent organization recently took over the Facebook page of a U.S. Congressman by getting people to flood it with wall posts, and it led to positive action from that Congressman.  Why was that successful?  

"First of all, we can’t take credit for that—that was all the Center for American Progress Action fund.

"We saw in that how Facebook is good for advocacy because it’s public. When you send an email showing concern for an issue to a Senator or Representative, for example, a Congress person can easily claim that an email or letter was never received, since there is no way to document that action.  However, if you pose something publically, they almost have no choice but to respond.”

Do you use any software to manage your social media?

"We use Tweet Deck. I like it because you can be into it as much as you want to be, or you can do the bare minimum with all its options—and it’s still so strong."

For More Information

Check out Half in Ten's toolkit: Harnessing the Power of Social Media: A Grassroots Training for Advocates and this slideshow full of more tips and Half in Ten's social media strategy:


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Alison Waldman is SparkAction's Editorial Assistant and coordinates our social media. She is curating a blog series on social media. This is the first post in the Social Ignition segment, focused on innovation from our fellow nonprofits..

Share your social media challenges, successes and lessons with her at or in the comment section below!

Alison Beth Waldman