Live Blogging: Online Strategies for Grassroots Advocacy

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Updates below as the morning goes along. ***

I’m spending the morning today at the US Chambe of Commerce at the “Online Strategies for Grassroots Advocacy” workshop being put up by our friends at Adfero Group. (http://www.adferogroup.com/)

I’ll be live blogging my own notes as each speaker shares their strategies, tips, and techniques for using social networking, and viral marketing for grassroots advocacy.

Right now, Chris Kelly, Vice President of Corp. Development at Facebook.com is speaking about how Facebook has been a tool for political or advocacy campaigns.

Whats important:

  1. User Control
  2. Authenticity: Ability to interact with others as themselves
  3. Accesability: Facebook is becoming part of people’s daily life.

Their users are encouraged to connect with a group.

9:25AM: The next speaker is Tim Fullerton from Oxfam America, and International relief organization.

He answers the qestion, “Why use social networks?”

  1. Inexpensive way to reach and engage a broader audience (low cost)
  2. People like to feel they are part of a community
  3. your supporters are using it, and so are their friends.
  4. …I didn’t catch the last one.

He is showcasing the Oxfam MySpace page. They are embeding videos, and they have had more than 1000 people sign up for emails from their sign up box in MySpace!! Wow.

From experience, Tim says MySpace doesn’t seem to be effective for fund-raising. The other panelists seem to agree.

They are using Flickr.com to post pictures that link back to their main website. This is specially effective when you have pictures of a celebrity, since it will be higher on the search frequency. An interesting and valuable tip.

Tim gives some tips on where to begin:

  1. Pick one social network site that works best for your work
  2. Promote to your supporters
  3. Update, update, update (at least once a week, if not more!)
  4. Be patient.

9:34AM: Jamie Riehle, from Lycos.com is next on the panel.

He’s going to talk some about web 2.0, about what lycos is doing, and provide 5 tips for your organization to best use the web to support your message.

In case you have been wondering what Web 2.0 is, its basicly a web site that grows and improves as a direct result of user’s contributions and participation. Usually, it entails the use of technologies like Ajax, RSS, and video embeding. But, the key factor is the user interaction and involvement in the key features of a website.

9:44AM: He’s showing a video from “CitySessions” to demonstrate Lycos Cinema. Lycos can host your organization’s PSA or other video, and it could be a good way to drive traffic back to your website at no cost.

Five Tips for Winning in a Web World:

  1. Identify your audience. Who are you trying to reach and what do you want them to do?
  2. Use viral friendly content. Photos, wallpaper, SHORT videos, songs, or audio, quizzes, anything that makes it easy to share your message.
  3. Keep it fresh. Update. Staleness will kill your social networking program or campaign.
  4. Re-circulate your own traffic, and utilize a number of different sites. Link, link link…send people around your whole netowkr.
  5. Easy of use, high level of ineractivity, build your site to be easy to navigate and get around. Usability.

He’s done…now the panel is going to answer questions from the moderator. (I won’t write the names, just share the tips and ideas that come out…)

A messaging tools must NOT turn into a spamming tool. Any messaging system has to be carefull about not being to aggresive.The key is to find people of like-mind, and work to form them into a group.

Take pictures and videos of your offline events (videos: fun and edgy), and upload it to a MySpace profile, Facebook, or Flickr.

Manage the campaign. You have to keep going back to the people that came by your social network page, visit their profiles and their pages, and leave comments on their pages. This brings in their friends, and is a sort of “link farming” to increase awareness and visibility of your campaign.

Following up with people is one of the weaknesses of many non-profits. You have to cultivate the relationship, and work at it each level of the relationship. It takes work.

How much time or money do I need to invest? Its fairly easy to re-purpose content. If you already have a blog, you can include it in your Facebook profile using RSS. Facebook will push this content out to your friends network. There are easy ways to get out re-purposed content.

Levaraging your assets, your networks of friends you have recruited, to get your message out.

Use interns. They are usually more tech savy, and its a great way for them to learn, while providing low-cost help to a non-profit.

Blogs form a network online, and are essential to spreading a message.

Reaching out to blogs: Find blogs that will be supportive of your cause. Don’t just send press releases, but instead cultivate relationships.

You have to be prepared to lose control when it comes to user generated content, and online advocacy.

The risk or challenge is in the accountability that results from having everything in your past recorded, and can and probably will be brought up. An example that keeps getting mentioned is Allan’s “Makaka” incident.

10:00AM: Ok. Most of the answers seem to be re-hashs of what has been said…. I’ll ad more notes as I hear noteworthy stuff.

I’m running out of baterries, so I’ll try to keep good notes and blog more about it later.

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