Before I forget everything I learned in early June at a technology conference, here goes.
Use good content to build your audience (and encourage your members to share/make it easy for them to share) – you have to get out the “why” for your organization. Does your content touch people emotionally? Move people to action? Make them different? You gotta have stories and thoughtful analysis.
Sexy concepts like “efficiency and transparency powered by social media” (e.g. Facebook, twitter, etc.) do not replace the old school tools (phone banks, petitions, door knocking, lobby days and email campaigns). The point of online tools is to better connect people with what they need offline – online is not the end, online tools simply help you better deliver on your mission. Face-to-face.
And it’s not about the size of the list (not not not). It’s about – how effective are your supporters? 2,000 believers are better than 100,000 people (followers/fans/likes) who don’t really care.
What about mobile tools? Will “text” raise millions of dollars for your organization and magically build your group? Probably not.
Consider your audience when you build a mobile campaign – do your members rely more on mobile devices like cell phones with very limited internet access otherwise? Regular cell phones and smart phones are not the same – don’t treat them the same for a campaign. Make it easy to opt out (a simple “stop” to remove from the list).
If mobile suits your group, it can be very important to you for (1) list-building (a face-to-face ask for mobile contact information works best – that offline thing again), (2) communication and (3) reaching super volunteers. People at the conference spoke very highly of Mobile Commons. Mobile works for collecting questions (i.e. What would you ask Pres. Obama?) – but you’ve got to follow-up and show participants what you did with the questions, your follow-thru and report back, very important.
Mobile can be powerful. During a rally in D.C. with about 200,000 attendees – the hosting organization put up a big board for posting text messages from people too far away to attend – a chance to text in public support for the rally. 30,000 texts were sent in, how cool is that? Another neat idea is telephone town halls with zip code locate to help bring people together for small face-to-face house parties/meetups.
Don’t expect to gather much for demographics with a mobile campaign. You could make an offline offer (e.g. sticker) that could be useful for gathering demographic details (i.e. mailing address). (Now I know why I get those offers – and I just thought people were being nice).
When you’re building your group you have to be patient.
Sometimes paid ads are needed – you want to be one of the first three finds for a Google search related to you/your mission which means Google AdWords can be very important (especially to a nonprofit). AdWords gone rogue (see Kit Kat plus Greenpeace).
Listen. And treat people how you would like to be treated. Still, expect trouble makers (i.e. online trolls). Don’t expect to control the message top to bottom – social media tools sometimes mean you will lose control of the message as people engage and pass along. You want a balance between participation and police state.
Honesty. You don’t have to know everything.
Measure everything and keep doing the things that work.
Rule of thumb on everything you post/share/send out – keep it 80 percent not about you – I’m talking links, photos, videos and the like that are interesting and worth sharing, something that makes an emotional connection somehow because it’s sad, funny, silly, informative, etc. – that leaves you 20 percent about you (e.g. staff stories and photos).
Don’t drag campaigns out – people get fatigued with campaigns lasting longer than two weeks. Headlines and deadlines are key – if you can find combined relevance in news and your mission/supporters – use it.
Blogs. Nice checklist.
Now you know everything I know (it seemed like more when it was just in my head). For more on technology tools, see Personal Democracy Forum.
// CC
P.S. I love Google for making it possible for me to attend the conference (and giving me a cool yellow/orange hat which I had to give Billy as his New York City souvenir because I was so busy conferencing that I didn’t do any shopping). Next up . . . BlogHer in NYC this August (shopping mandatory).

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