Egyptian blogger from Cairo.
Revolutionary Socialist.
Partner & Creative Director at ThePlanet.

How to create a basic awareness campaign with Social Media; a live case study

Stop Marks & Spencer

Design by Taha Belal

When you want to carry out a campaign to raise awareness about an issue, and/or encourage action, Social Media should be one of your main tools. In this post, I want to share with you how a group of colleagues and I are putting together (yes, as we speak) the campaign to raise awareness about Marks & Spencer’s support to Israel and Zionism, in an attempt to disrupt its plans to open new branches in Egypt later this year. With limited time and resources, we wanted to do the basics, and build on it from there. Many find themselves in similar situations, and therefore, I wanted to share you with the case study live, as it is happening.

This post assumes that you have done your research and have your facts ready. Ideally, you would have some sort of strategy, but let’s assume that there’s nothing set in stone, and we want to get as much out there as possible.

With each step, I’m referencing our ongoing campaign against Marks & Spencer.

  1. Domain and web page
    It’s absolutely necessary to have a web page (if not a full fledged website) with its own domain. You could sign up for a subdomain with WordPress or a similar service, but having your own domain would be significantly more effective. In this case, we bought (as well as the .com that forwards to the .org). The advantage here is that, with time and a bit of work, the page could very much come up in search results for M&S in Egypt. Moreover, it’s a domain that M&S themselves would want, which makes it even sweater!
  2. Designing and developing
    No branding is necessary, but you should have some sort of logo to make the campaign recognizable. It is best to ask a friend who can draw in Illustrator or Inkscape to come up with something simple in 30 minutes – anymore, and you’re risking time loss. Remember that it is important to keep the momentum.
    If you have the time and the dedication, make it a blog (using WordPress, of course. You can see my tutorial on setting up your own website/blog with WordPress). However, if you don’t think you’d be able to keep up (and in most cases you won’t be able to), then a static website/single web page is gold. Make it straight and to the point – no one wants to read much (and you can always add links to the sources for those who doubt you). With the M&S campaign, we’ve listed 15 facts with a link at the end of each one. We might put together a simple video illustrating the points, which would obviously be even more effective.
  3. Ability to share page
    If sharing is three clicks away, then it’s a waste of space. Visitors must be able to spread the title of the campaign, as well as the URL, with a click of a button. With M&S, we’ve added the tweet button, and the Facebook share, positioned at the left of the browser constantly. At any point, users can send out a tweet (mentioning the twitter account – discussed below), or make a wall post on their Facebook profiles. You might feel tempted to provide links to all of the social networks out there, but who are we kidding? All you need are the two big boys, don’t waste time/space on the rest (remember that simplicity is key).
    It would be a smart move to make the first image that appears in the HTML of the web page be the logo/header of the campaign. That way, when people share to their Facebook walls, the thumbnail automatically selected by Facebook is an appropriate one.
  4. Links to Social Network profiles
    After creating a twitter account and Facebook cause (see below), you ought to place corresponding icons to your profiles on each. That way, one someone visits the website, they immediately know that they can follow you on twitter and/or your cause via Facebook. You’ll notice that we’ve placed the twitter and Facebook icons at the top right, next to the header.
  5. Create a twitter account
    While you could use an already active twitter account, it is best to create a new one solely for the campaign. That way it is specialized and gives you the privilege of  asking for support without providing valuable content in return (as would be the case with any normal twitter account). Moreover, it encourages people to follow your account so that they can take part in the initiative, as oppose to supporting someone who happens to be doing it.
    Make the logo the avatar, write a concise bio and link to the website. Give yourself the freedom to blatantly ask people for support, after all, you’re part of a cause, not trying to fool them into buying your product. Also change the colors and background so that it doesn’t look generic (takes a minute). Our twitter page @MarksSpencerEG has followed those guidelines closely.
    Generally speaking, start following those who you know personally, as well as the ones who would seem to be interested in the cause. Also, follow everyone back, it’s a neat little thank you for choosing to follow you. When your number are close to each other, this means that a) you’re likely to reach more followers, and b) it implies that you tend to follow people back, which will act as a motivation for people to follow you.
  6. Create a Facebook Cause
    From your Facebook account, search for ‘Causes’ (an application), and create a new cause. Fill out all of the information and add the logo you already have. After that, invite the friends you know are most likely to join (adding a personal message to ensure it), and allow it to publish to your profile. This should create enough buzz to get you 20 or so members to start off with. After that, invite 75 every day (the daily limit) until you’ve gone through all of your friends. Check out our Facebook Cause.
  7. Tweet, post and spread the word
    Tweet 4-6 times a day. Any less and you’re not taking advantage of the direct connection you’re established with the people, and any more and you might repel people who’d feel their timelines have been cluttered.
    Share the website on your profile every 2-3 days, and you could consider making your status link to the website, and changing your profile pic to the logo of the campaign.
    More importantly, use traditional means (emails, phone calls, SMS, etc.) to reach out those you know and ask them to tweet the page, follow on twitter, share on Facebook, join the cause, and spread the word.

The more time and effort you invest, the better. But generally speaking, the points above are relatively easy to implement and can get you up and running in little time.

Now don’t forget to visit, follow on twitter @MarksSpencerEG, and join the Cause on Facebook!

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November 23, 2010

This campaign has the words “trademark infringement” all over it. Get ready to get sued :)

Tarek Shalaby

November 23, 2010

@aelsadek: Thanks for your encouragement and support. It’s obvious that you spend hours daily thinking how you could make this world a better place, and there’s no sign of envy in your words at all! Revolutions are made by enthusiastic, passionate and sincere intellectuals such as yourself. On behalf of millions of Palestinians and Arabs who are suffering from the Israeli government: Thank you.

Andoni Al-Khoury

November 23, 2010

Some notes to be put into consideration:

1- have a default image be defined as the default sharing image for Facebook, right now on your site when you click share you get the twitter logo or Facebook to share the news. put this somewhere in your header with the link to the image (must be 130×110 pixels ratio) . I don’t need to tell you that this small image should be well designed to attract people to read & share the news.

2- design some universal banner size ads & buttons for the cause with ready made html for site owners & webmasters to put them on their sites, make sure to have an alt tag that responds to your target SEO keywords you want to attack, this will give you free back linking & bloggers will have something to put on their sites…

3- Have a like button for those lazy ones that don’t want to share…

4- I know you have done a cause for Facebook (which is the right thing to do), but I strongly recommend having a fan page because Egyptians like to use pages & groups but they are not too serious about the causes and they will never go viral.

5- you should also add on that page a request to take action in big, after I finished reading I didn’t find anything that would encourage me to “take action” and nothing about what action should be done other than facebook share and even that is put on the side in small. finish your page with a big conclusion to let people SHARE & spread the word… ;)

If you need any help please let me know how I can help…


Tarek Shalaby

November 24, 2010

Hi Andoni,

Thank you very much! VERY helpful for all us.

1) I thought the header will be included in the Facebook wall post, and didn’t understand why it was taken, until you just explained it now. So thank you! I’m not sure how I can change that, it’ll be a bit complicated.

2) Creating a badge for people to use is a great idea, but I’m worried about adding more elements to the web page. We like how it’s extremely simple. We already planned sharing a large version of the logo for people to use on websites and as FB profile images

3) Good idea, but wouldn’t that dilute the visitors? I always like to consolidate as much as possible so as not to disperse the efforts

4) Actually, I was just thinking about that today. Pages are A LOT easier to go around, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to have both. More importantly, it’s nice to have a sincere, dedicated Cause, as oppose to a page competing with pop stars. Also, causes show how each person has contributed by recruiting, so it’s adds motivation

5) We have a strategy that we’re sticking to. The first 2 weeks: awareness only. We don’t want to clutter it, and we want to simplify the task for everyone. After that, we will add an ‘action’ page that shows the steps you should take to help

Again, thank you very, very much! I’ll be following up with another post soon to update on the case study.

Andoni Al-Khoury

November 24, 2010

google: link rel=”image_src” you will get the code to put the default share image in the header ;)

Good luck


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Scott Baker

February 2, 2011

Tarek, I just saw you on “Democracy Now!” at the site of the demonstration in Cairo. I wish you and the forces of democratic reform all the best. As an American of Jewish ancestry, I still have some misgivings about the equation of the entire nation of Israel with the brutality of their current administration. Do you realize that the main reason the world was content with Mubarak in power was that prior to this week, it seemed the majority of Egyptians were also content? The instant the demonstrations began, that was no longer a wholly credible belief. The instant Mubarak’s thugs started to beat protesters, the notion completely flew out the window. The instant it was clear that violent prisoners (a sort of biological weapon of sorts, actually) were released for no reason at the same time the police were told to take a holiday, it was clear Mubarak was indeed a tyrant and not worthy of one more day in power.
But now I’m reading about your support of the campaign to stop M&S in Egypt and I am seeing a lot of anti-Israeli sentiment (correct me if I’m wrong) and a lot of anti-Jewish sentiment as well (correct me if I’m wrong).
Please know that the main fear that the average American has about the ouster of Mubarak is that Israel will face a mad rush of Islamist zealots coming from a country that was just recently an ally.
I understand that the desire for change in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not merely based on Zionism versus anti-semitism and Islamism. Many reasonable people, myself included, want to see Israel show the mercy toward Palestinians that for hundreds of years was missing for the Jewish people world wide. But this will not be possible if the new democratic government of Egypt is anti-Israel.
I think it is very important for you to consider creating an awareness campaign to delineate, in clear, unambiguous language, the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-semitism, if there is one. Can a person be anti-Zionist and still respect the Jews and their religion? Is it possible for a kind of pan-Arabic declaration of peace and brotherhood toward all Jews coupled with a strong condemnation of the reactionary and racist elements of the Zionist movement? I am not a Zionist myself, so I cannot speak with certain knowledge on this, only what I have heard others who call themselves Zionists have told me, which is that the goal of Zionism is to create ONE place on Earth that the Jews can call their home. Just as all other peoples have a right to declare one place their own. As I understand it, Palestine was a political region created to prevent Arab unity by the British during their colonial occupation of ARAB LANDS. The Arab people outnumber the Jews by the hundreds of millions, and they have vast amounts of land that they claim as their ancestral home. I have heard many anti-Israeli activists concede that at one time, Arabs and Jews were one people and that they did, in fact, share much territory and lived in peace. So fine, let’s figure out a way for the Jews to have SOME land to call their own, and figure out a way for all who call Jerusalem their holy ground to share it, as any just and merciful God would want us to. Perhaps, just as Native Americans are being shown greater respect in the U.S., Jews can be shown respect by Arabs and be granted the lands of Israel as a sort of “reservation” for their people. IN America, it is unrealistic to turn over all the territories from which we drove the Native people so long ago. The current political situation simply cannot permit it. But we can show greater deference to Native American concerns, allow Native Americans to have a voice in American government (since we have a strong voice in what happens to them). Perhaps a new respect can be found that allows everyone to live in dignity, prosperity, and peace.
Must it always come down to “US vs. THEM”? Right now, the whole world is watching Egypt. Can we not try to use this new democratic movement to start a new level of negotiation, with Arabs united to bring a deeper level of peace and security while they build a more egalitarian landscape for the Arab people? This is what I’d like to see, but as so many wise people have said these past several days, it’s not for others to decide. This is a time for Egypt and the people to decide what kind of nation they will build.
If God is God, then there is only one God. May he watch over you and your people and guide you to the right path.

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