Programmatic Social Media Interventions - Citizen Research Centre
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This is the apex of our work, and the area in which we are able to achieve large scale social and behavioural change.

The research work for this process is conducted through the Citizen Research Centre, but all digital activist training and dialogue on social media is conducted through our sister NPO, the Citizen Dialogue Centre (NPO number – 2017/232838/08 – website pending, expected August 2017).

Our goal here is to intervene in conversations (eg: xenophobia, racism, HIV/AIDS, irresponsible drinking) and through the use of digital activists and real time engagement change the nature of the conversation while engaging in dialogue with relevant protagonists on social media.

This is work for which we seek funding directly from donor organisations for – although we also work on individual programmes with relevant NGOs.

While we do run programmes over a 6 month or a year long period, all our programmatic social media interventions are designed to be ongoing projects. They require substantial funding – but have a very high chance of effecting meaningful and large scale change.

The nature of the Programmatic Social Media Intervention process varies depending on the subject – some are based around dialogue with people expressing objectionable views (eg: xenophobia, racism, homophobia, sexism), some are more nuanced (eg: HIV AIDS risk factors, diabetes).  Some are more information based, and some are more dialogue based.  All, though, follow the same process:

1. Research

The first step is the research – this comprises a full categorised report on the subject of interest. A reference point is our Xenophobia report: here.

The research provides us with:

  • A full overview of the social media conversation over the last 5 years
  • Exhaustive categorisation of the conversation over the last 5 years
  • Category trends over the years
  • Year by year analysis
  • Spike analysis – anatomy of an incident work.

The research allows us to:

  • Provide benchmarking (conversation on a category as a proportion of total) on a five year basis, and allows us to both predict and assess future data.
  • Produce extensive reporting on the nature of the conversation within each contributing factor over the last five years – how they have changed over time, what the discussion in each of the categories have been about and so on.
  • This categorisation is important – both for reporting and for use in the implementation phase of the project. Different categories will be responded to differently – depending   on the nature of the conversation.
  • The public face of the programme can be established through this work. Easily digestible data and trends can be communicated to the public – both via traditional and social media channels.
  • We are committed to reflecting citizens views back to them, and challenging them on these views – and Digital Advocacy can assist in spreading positive messaging and change oriented challenges to citizens.

Once this is in place – typically 4-5 weeks into the process, we move to the Reflect, Identify, Create and Strategise phase.

2. Reflect, Identify, Create and Strategise

Here, for 3-4 weeks we:

  • Reflect on the nature of the conversation we have uncovered
  • Identify and ‘clean’ our bank of digital activists with which to engage (see: engage)
  • Create:
  • Develop material for our digital activists (The Mycorrhiza)


  • Monitor the live daily feed, and consider our implementation strategy
  • Construct engagement strategies for the various categories uncovered
  • Train dialogue facilitators on the process

3. Engage

The Engagement Phase is Ongoing; usually 3-4 weeks of Engagement is necessary before moving to full Implementation.

Here we engage with our bank of digital activists and carefully curate, maintain, upskill and refresh the digital activist community

  • While we construct the Boolean (an exhaustive series of if/then constructs) search terms for the various contributing factors/categories and report on them over the last 5 years, we engage in a parallel process that is crucial to the project.
  • As we look at conversations, we are able to identify an exhaustive list of ALL the people that participated in those conversations – twitter handles, Facebook profiles, Instagram accounts and so on.
  • We are also able to rank these participants according to their level of influence in the conversation.
  • While we are look at the conversation within each category, we uncover three strands of conversation:
    • Those that are ‘persons at risk’ and
    • Those that advocate positively around the issue in question
    • Those that have tackled the issue in question with a positive outcome
  • It is individuals from the latter two groups of people that become our digital activists.

We call this network of digital activists ‘The Mycorrhiza’ after the Mycorrhizal Network:

  • This is an underground hyphalnetwork created by mycorrhizal fungi that connect individual plants together and transfer water, carbon, nitrogen, and other nutrients and minerals. These are networks in a forest that help trees and plants that are in need– by distributing nutrients to them.

In the engagement phase, we categorise The Mycorrhiza, using whatever demographic data we can glean. The goal is to (as much as possible) link peers in the Implementation phase.

We then engage with them on social media, asking them to join the network, and make material available to them on hidden web pages to ‘arm’ them for the work that follows.

This with a view to engaging and activating citizens in a vast network of ‘citizen society’ – with the intention of effecting social and behavioural change around key issues.

4. Implement

The Implementation Phase is Ongoing.

  • In the Implementation phase, we construct a ‘live environment’.
  • This allows us, within the given conversation, to see in real time all social media posts of interest.
  • By this stage we will have developed categorisation protocols, with a range of responses ascribed to each. NOTE: we do not know until the research phase is complete the volume we will be addressing.
  • At its heart, the live environment relies on a bank of dialogue facilitators engaging with those that are at risk, and ‘tagging’ in appropriate digital activists.
  • We propose asking the more engaged digital activists to follow 10 ‘persons at risk’ and engage with them outside of our direct intervention. This will allow for a cascading effect. We expect that the digital activists, once they have been brought into the conversation as Mycorrhiza, will engage in conversation themselves without our direct intervention.
  • The Mycorrhiza network itself will be represented on a website. This will serve both as a public landing page to absorb attention, as well as a private space to inform and upskill our network of digital activists.

5. Monitor and Evaluate:

Our programmes offer an extraordinary level of Monitoring and Evaluation information. The M&E Phase is Ongoing.

Social Media Evaluation panels:

We offer two M&E social media panels to track progress:

  • Mycorrhiza Panel:
    • We will place all our Mycorrhiza in a bespoke social media panel, evaluate their level of engagement with the topic in question before our intervention, and then track it on an ongoing basis.
    • This will allow us to show the level of increase in engagement on the topic in question from the Mycorrhiza as a whole – this to a statistical certainty.
    • In time we will also be able to report on changes in the tonality of the conversation generated by the Mycorrhiza themselves.
  • ‘Engagee’ Panel:
    • All the people we engage with on social media will be place into a bespoke social media panel.
    • We are then able to retrospectively and in real time evaluate all their social media behaviour. This allows us to monitor their ‘progress’ in real time and assess to what extent our interventions have had an effect – at least in the social media space.
  • Reporting:
    • Monthly reports with considerable detail can be compiled on the ongoing work we do in Implementation.