RUNNING A GROUP

Publicising Your Group

Published 4th September 2020

IMPORTANT NOTE: This page is not a guide to spreading EA ideas beyond growing your own group. It doesn’t advise on talking to journalists or producing articles and other media meant for wide distribution. If you are planning to conduct broader outreach, read this guide about talking to journalists and we recommend getting in touch with Sky Mayhew, the current media liaison at CEA at media@centreforeffectivealtruism.org for advice.

This page covers publicising your group, and was compiled by EA Cambridge, the EA Resource Hub team and several organisers. Specific advice on advertising events can be found here.

There’s no point in running events if no one hears about them! Make sure people know about your group and what it’s doing. Because people often judge a community based on first impressions, it’s important to get publicity done right. Whether it’s in person or online, favour quality over quantity.

This resource mostly caters to large groups with time to do promotion. If you are a small or new group, you may not have the capacity or need to do many of these things.

Contents

General Tips for Promoting Your Group

Talking about EA accurately and appealingly

  • EA topics can be complicated, sensitive, and require nuance to express accurately. Poor communication can give our audience a narrow or imprecise picture of EA that’s hard to correct.

  • However, group or event advertisements are too small to represent the complexity of EA. Instead, advertisements should aim to:

    • Encourage sympathetic viewers to participate in group activities. Once they’re engaged, they can experience a more in-depth explanation of EA ideas.
    • Avoiding creating a bad impression of EA for people who aren’t interested. To do this, avoid controversial statements or images, even if you believe this would get more views.
  • Promotion should be welcoming and inclusive, as these are core values of the community.

Avoid jargon

  • Consider your audience’s level of familiarity with EA terminology. If you do use technical terms, do so correctly and explain what the words mean.
  • Check out these suggestions and the glossary of terms.

Avoid controversy

  • Sometimes, EA events have sparked controversy, usually with negative consequences. Julia Wise wrote a guide to handle controversies to help you if they do arise.

Use tidy and consistent design across your platforms

Stay updated

  • EA covers a wide range of causes, ideas and values which evolve continuously. To promote EA most effectively it helps to stay updated with the ideas being discussed in the broader community. Ways to keep up to date include signing up for the EA newsletter, using the EA Forum, or keeping tabs on EA Facebook pages.

Responding to messages and requests

  • Prompt, friendly communication can help make people feel welcome to your group. Make sure you know who in your group is responsible for communications such as

    • Emails
    • Facebook messages to your page
    • Requests to join Facebook groups
    • Approving Facebook posts
  • To save time, you can set up standard messages to common requests and make small changes to personalise the message.

Platforms for Promoting Your Group

Most groups publicise using Facebook, but we recommend using other platforms as well as not everyone is on Facebook. A wider variety broadens your reach and increases inclusivity.

Different platforms are popular in each country, and with each age group, and social media use changes rapidly. So the advice below will probably need to be modified for your group. The content below is based on the experiences of predominantly city group organisers in the US, UK and Australasia, so is mostly focussed on Facebook and Meetup, which are popular platforms with non-students in those countries.

It may be useful or necessary to incorporate other platforms depending on the demographics of your audience. For example

There may also be other social media tools that are specific to your country, location or university that might be useful to use. Other popular social media sites are Pinterest and Foursquare

If you have corrections or additions for this page, please make suggestions or comments on this Google document.

Facebook

Groups of any size can use Facebook as a public-facing platform. It’s useful for promoting events, sharing articles, and prompting discussion.

There are two main ways to represent a group on Facebook: a Facebook page or a Facebook group. We weigh the pros and cons of each format below. For many groups, the best balance might be a private, visible Facebook group or messenger chat for discussions and a Facebook page for announcements.

We recommend you send friend requests to Facebook users in your EA group. This will make it easier to invite them to events and to communicate with them over messenger.

Some groups have created Facebook profiles for their group. Organisers can use the group profile rather than their personal profiles to send friend requests and meeting invites. This might suit organisers who don’t want a large number of Facebook friends, or if they’re going to pass the profile over to another organiser in the future. This might go against Facebook’s terms as profiles are intended for individual use only.

Facebook Groups

Facebook groups are designed for discussion between members. They allow anyone in the group to post.

Private groups vs public groups and visible vs hidden groups

  • Public groups (less valuable if you have a Facebook Page):
    • People can find the group by searching on Facebook.
    • Anyone can view the group member list and discussions.
    • The openness allows people to decide whether they like the group before joining and makes new people feel more welcome.
    • Posts and comments made by members may appear in their Facebook friends’ newsfeed. More people might discover the group, but members may feel less comfortable about posting and commenting.
  • Private, visible groups (probably best for most groups):

    • People can find the group by searching on Facebook.
    • People have to request to join the group.
    • The group member list and group discussions can only be viewed by members.
    • The group will be discoverable by people who are not that familiar with EA.
  • Private, hidden groups:

    • Hidden groups are private groups that can’t be found through searching on Facebook. People can only access the group upon invitation by a current group member.
    • If you use a hidden group, you might miss out on finding other EAs in the area.
    • You can control who becomes a member without having to reject people who want to join.
    • Hidden groups might work for subgroups, such as an advanced reading group.

Regulating private groups:

  • Strike a balance where newcomers feel welcome, but existing members can comfortably have advanced conversations.
  • You can set up the group so that people requesting to join must answer up to three questions. The questions can help you gauge their understanding of EA, interest in a one-on-one, and inclinations towards specific cause areas. With this information, you can:

    • Connect new members to others with similar interests and career paths.
    • Give a friendly welcome that allows people to ask questions.
  • Scan for potential spammers

    • You can be more confident about people with mutual friends and groups.
    • People with hundreds of groups, especially related to finance or money-making, are a red flag.
    • If there isn’t much data, they probably have protective privacy settings, which isn’t necessarily a bad sign.
    • Having admin approved posts means that even if they are spammers, you’ll find out before they publish a post.

Admin approval for posts

  • If you have admin approval turned on, one of the admins or moderators has to approve a post before it is seen by the rest of the group. This gives you control over conversations to check they are on-topic and useful.
  • It requires attentive admins available to promptly approve posts.
  • The size of the group will affect whether admin approval is needed. Many small groups seem to manage well without admin approval for posts. Large groups often require admin approval to avoid having too many irrelevant posts.
  • It can be challenging to decide whether a post is too low-quality to approve. Reduce the burden on admins and moderators by asking posters to describe why less-obviously helpful posts are relevant.
  • When deciding whether to approve a post, consider whether it will prompt valuable discussion, lead people to update beliefs or encourage people to take action.
  • Keep in mind that disapproving posts may discourage people from submitting posts at all.

Tips for groups

  • Ensure your group has a tidy and appealing cover image.
  • Facebook crops your cover image differently on computer browsers and mobile devices, so ensure it looks good in both formats. The ideal dimensions are 820 pixels wide by 462 pixels tall.

    • On a computer, the top 48 pixels and the bottom 48 pixels will be cropped off.
    • On mobile devices, the entire image will be visible.
  • The graphics section of the EA Resource Hub has logos and images you can modify and use, including designs based on Facebook’s suggested image dimensions.

  • Write a friendly description for your group.

  • Once you’ve created the group, you can change the URL to include words rather than a string of numbers. This will look better when cross-posting to other FB groups.

  • Aim to engage the audience by asking questions and replying to posts from the community.

  • Important messages can be marked as “Announcements”, which will mean they’ll appear at the top of the group’s page.

Facebook Pages

Generally, pages take less effort to maintain than groups. Only admins can post, and posts aren’t tied to Facebook users. The benefits include:

  • People can message group organisers more easily. Facebook Messenger has a page managing feature (to access this click on your profile picture in the top left, then ‘Switch Account’), or use the Facebook Pages Manager app which has a notification system that you might find more reliable than using Facebook Messenger.
  • Posts can look more professional as they are coming from an organisation, not a person.
  • Pages can be turned into official charity pages. This allows for fundraising directly via Facebook.

Tips for using Facebook pages

  • Ensure your group has a tidy and appealing cover image.
  • Facebook crops your cover image differently on computer browsers and mobile devices, so ensure it looks good in both formats. The ideal dimensions are 820 pixels wide by 462 pixels tall (same as for groups), however the top 75 pixels and bottom 75 pixels will be cropped off when viewed on a desktop. The entire image will be seen on mobile phones. The graphics section of the EA Resource Hub has logos and images you can modify and use, including designs based on Facebook’s suggested image dimensions.
  • Add a logo that is 360 pixels by 360 pixels.
  • Write an “About” section for your group.
  • Once you’ve created the group you can change the URL to something that is words rather than a string of numbers. This will look better when cross-posting to other FB groups.
  • Use your Facebook page’s ‘Insights’ tab to track the times of day at which posts get the most engagement, and which types of posts attract the most attention.
  • You can schedule posts on pages to be posted in advance, so you might want to schedule many posts in one go. However, it’s good to post more recent articles as well so members have a sense of what is happening currently in the movement. Facebook pages can join groups, and then post on the groups, so you could get your Facebook page to post important announcements on your Facebook group to increase the chances the announcement will be read.
  • Aim to engage the audience by asking questions and replying to comments.
  • Aim to update regularly, especially during key times of the year such as around the holiday season when people are giving, before hosting bigger events, or for uni groups during the semester. Important messages can be pinned to the top of the page.

Information about advertising events on Facebook.

Meetup

Meetup is a platform for creating groups and hosting events, aiming to create communities and bring people with common interests together. Meetup groups are easy for people to discover by browsing the groups in their city.

  • Meetup is useful for getting newcomers and people who may not use Facebook
  • Meetup does have a cost for group organisers which can be covered by CEA through General Group Support Funding.
  • Some groups find Meetup useful, and others do not. This probably depends on how popular Meetup is in your city, and the size of your group.

    • New groups find Meetup a good way to get new people to discover EA.
    • Some large groups find that advertising on Meetup results in a lot of new people that are just searching for a social event.
    • It may make sense to only put events on Meetup for larger talks or newcomer social events where you will have the capacity to talk to lots of new people.
    • Meetup can be good for finding other groups to coordinate with. For example, most locations seem to have a philosophy based Meetups that EAs can join to network with their members.

Tips for using Meetup

  • Add a friendly and descriptive headline and description.
  • Under “Manage the Group”, edit the appearance to change the colour palette, banner image. The ideal size for Meetup banner images is 820 pixels wide by 462 pixels tall. Meetup doesn’t crop the image.
  • Add topics to your group to help people find your group, using the “Manage the Group” to find “Group settings” Under “Manage the Group” you can add social media links under the “Optional Features” section . You can add up to 15 tags to your page (the maximum possible). You may wish to include the following phrases: effective altruism · Charity· Philanthropy · Charity Events · Philosophy ·Altruism · Altruistic Endeavors · Rationality and Reasoning · Critical Thinking · Exploring Career Choices · Strategic Philanthropy · Social Philanthropy · Less Wrong· Intellectual Discussion

  • Add a personalised welcome message to appear to new members in the “Your members” section.
  • You can email members of your Meetup group through “Group Tools”
  • Check out other EA Groups Meetup pages to see how they advertise their group and events.

Information about advertising events on Meetup.

Mailing Lists

Mailing lists are ideal for keeping members who are not on social media up to date with activities and news.

Tips

  • There are platforms you can use to manage your mailing lists and newsletters. Advantages of using a platform, rather than your regular email client:

    • You can create a form that people can fill in to join the mailing list (you can also automate a welcome email that informs people about Facebook groups and other useful sites)
    • The platform tracks open rates and clicks
    • Members can unsubscribe in one click if they decide they don’t want to remain on the list.
  • Mailchimp is the most popular mailing list platform, and most groups only require a free account. Check out EA Cambridge’s guide which covers

    • Importing Subscribers
    • Tips for Composing Emails
    • Example Email Schedule for a large group
    • Useful Mailchimp Features
  • Your group can get an email address with an EA domain name. Guide to getting EA email addresses and websites.

  • Don’t spam! If you send too many emails people will unsubscribe, so aim to send emails at a maximum of once every two weeks.

Newsletters

Newsletters are good to keep members up to date with events, job openings, and what the local group has been up to. They also allow people to feel part of the local community even if they only turn up to events infrequently.

Newsletters are recommended for larger groups where organisers have the time to write them, and enough mailing list members for whom reading the newsletter would be meaningful. In smaller groups, you could share links more informally via a group chat or Facebook group, or just send emails to announce events or when you have an influx of new members to the mailing list.

You can also encourage people to sign up for other EA newsletters.

How to find content

Tips for newsletters

  • Have the most important link at the top of the email
  • As your group grows in size it might be wise to think about avoiding your email being marked as spam: Make it easy to unsubscribe, and have double opt-in (when people sign up to your newsletter using a form, they are sent an email to confirm they do want to join the newsletter).

Websites

Websites are particularly good for large groups and national groups, to create a professional online presence that can be found through a Google search.

  • Many groups get by using only Facebook and Meetup, so your group may not need a website or a personalised email address.
  • If your group is part of a national group, you could ask whether it’s possible to have a page on your national group’s website.
  • By creating a website you are committing to keeping your website up to date.
  • CEA can assist you to create a website
  • You can link your newsletter signup form to your website, and set it up to send a welcoming email to everyone that signs up with links to useful introductory videos and articles, and relevant groups.
  • Check out websites from other groups to get some ideas of what to include.

Twitter

  • Check out Rob Wiblin’s guide to promoting ideas on social media for some pointers.
  • Use your own twitter to publicise stuff about EA to your followers.
  • If you want to use a Twitter account for your group: regularly post short statuses / quotes / one-liners / links and so on (similar to updating a facebook page). Shorten links using the bit.ly website or similar.
  • Follow people who have a large following in similar fields, and engage them in conversation or retweet them. This allows their followers to discover your Twitter account.

Coordination Tips

  • Platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn can be synced up with Facebook so that posts on one are duplicated on the other. See instructions for syncing with Twitter here and with LinkedIn here.
  • If you are regularly posting to multiple social media platforms you can use a social media management platform such as Hootsuite which allows you to manage multiple twitter and facebook accounts and to schedule future posts. Sign up for a free account and use the box in the top right to schedule future facebook and twitter posts

What to Share and When

Rob Wiblin’s guide to promoting ideas on social media covers what to post, how to share it, and a few do’s and don’ts.

You can find articles to post from these places:

Articles relating to trending topics tend to get more attention, but consider if they are relevant to EA. You may prefer fewer clicks but from people who are more interested (and having them become more inclined towards EA), than for lots of people to engage, but only superficially.

Expanding your Reach

Joining other groups

EA groups often grow through personal connections. One way to expand personal connections is for group members to join groups that they are interested by, and are likely to have members that could be interested in EA. Mentioning EA ideas in conversations during events can help recruit group members. Some potential groups to join include

  • advocacy groups such as animal, climate or human rights groups
  • philosophy groups
  • humanist groups
  • rationalist groups
  • skeptics groups

Remember that EA ideas can come across as judgemental, so members hoping to recruit people through attending other groups should only join groups they are strongly interested in already, and be especially careful to avoid coming across as critical of what the group is doing, and to check out some good ways of communicating about EA.

Other mailing lists

Other local organisations or clubs may be willing to advertise some of your events on their mailing lists and social media platforms. Some may request that you do the same for their events in return, but it would be best if you only agree to do this for events that are EA-aligned and won’t result in you overrepresenting a particular cause area.

Groups are only likely to want to occasionally advertise your group, so only ask when it is most likely to have an impact. For example, when there is a high-profile speaker of interest to their group, or to advertise an introductory fellowship.

A good place to start is with groups that you have connections with. Beyond that, you can also cold email other student groups explaining why you think their group members would be particularly interested in your fellowship or event and asking them to send something to their group members.

When reaching out, include something they can easily copy and paste to email to their group’s mailing list. If you are sending them a Facebook message, include a post from your Facebook page that they can easily share onto their group’s Facebook page.

Co-hosting events

Co-hosting events with other groups with overlapping interests will expose other people to EA. These events are most appropriate if you have arranged a speaker to talk on a topic relevant to both groups, however, some groups have arranged co-hosted socials. You can offer to include their logo with your promotional material, invite them to any related activities like meals with speakers, and give them a chance to pitch their group at the start of the event.

Tips

  • Approach the other group prepared with a concrete event idea and how it relates to their group . For example, an event on moral uncertainty could be appropriate for a philosophy group, an event about meat alternatives could be appropriate for vegan or animal rights groups.
  • Plan ahead. Reach out to groups at least a month in advance, and for uni groups as early in the semester as possible, before other group leaders have finalised their plans. Remember, it may take days for them to respond to you and even longer to actually plan the event.
  • Be flexible where possible. You might need to work around the other group’s schedule.
  • Be willing to do the work. Groups are often more than willing to co-host relevant events because it’s less work for them. However, the actual coordination can be difficult because it depends on the group leaders to make things happen.
  • Ensure the speaker has credibility with the other group, as their status will reflect on EA.

Pros

  • Exposes new people to EA through a targeted group who may be more inclined to EA than the general public.
  • May significantly increase the number of people attending the event. For example, EA Cambridge has found in many co-hosted events that the majority of event attendees come via the co-hosting group.

Cons

  • It can be time-consuming to coordinate with other groups. Also, if it is your idea to run a co-hosted event, your group may have to do most of the organising so it is likely to take more time than a regular event.
  • The wrong kind of event for the wrong group may put people off of EA. This might be the case if the speaker or members of the EA group are negative about some of the other group’s activities. It is worth talking to the main organisers of the co-hosting group about what EA is and what you intend the event to be about, before confirming the event. That way you can test their reaction to EA and your plan before inviting the whole group.
  • People from the other group may not be excited about joining EA after the event. To make your group appealing to attendees who might like EA, ensure you spend a few minutes explaining what EA is (see the short talks in the intro events page) and explain what your group does.

Giving Introduction to EA Talks

If you are a confident presenter, hosting an Intro to EA talk is a great way to promote both your local group and movement as a whole. However, you should take caution to follow the guidelines under General Tips, be well versed in EA and how to represent the movement accurately. Check out our more detailed page about giving introductory presentations.

If you don’t feel comfortable presenting you can also have an Info Session where you screen a video of an Intro to EA presentation. After the video you can talk about what your group does and answer any questions people have.

Word of Mouth

Invite people from your personal network who you think would be a good fit, send them a personal message, and ask them to bring friends. And ask your group members to do the same. For example, some uni groups ask fellowship graduates to refer friends to the next fellowship.

In many cultures it is common for people to be private about their altruistic acts, which makes it hard to normalise altruism. Talking with regular members about the reasons to be public with their giving may encourage people to share their actions.

For tips on talking about EA, check out this guide.

Of course, the best way to encourage your members to recommend the group to their friends is to have content good enough that they want to!

Journalists and Broader Outreach

If you are approached by a journalist or are interested in writing EA articles for wide distribution read this guide from CEA about talking to journalists, and “The fidelity model of spreading ideas” then get in touch with Sky Mayhew, the current media liaison at CEA at media@centreforeffectivealtruism.org for advice.

University Specific Promotion

Clubs Fairs and Tabling

Most universities host fairs where clubs can attract new members, and some universities allow groups to set up a table in a communal area at other times of the year (tabling). This page provides guidelines on how to run clubs fair and tabling events.

Some group leaders have successfully asked professors to make an announcement about their group during class. Most reach out to professors they know or those that teach relevant subjects like economics and philosophy, but mass cold-emailing might also get you some results. They will often say yes if you’ve made the effort of writing a personal, high-quality email to them. Some professors will also allow you to make a short statement at the start of a relevant class.

Asking the Career Services Department

If you are planning a careers workshop, university careers departments may be interested in advertising your event, but this seems to vary a lot from uni to uni. Some EA groups have encountered some resistance from Career Services, possibly because EA career workshops are run by people without training in careers advice, or may be viewed as not providing impartial advice. The first step would be to make a time to chat with a careers staff member and show them 80,000 Hours materials.


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