I’ve been around the block a bit with this old thing we call the internet. Since 1996 I’ve been helping clients to make themselves heard online and It’s not always been about making money. I may have a bunch of financial services clients on my CV alongside big consumer brands, but more recently my work has been leaning towards the third sector.
Currently I’m freelancing for the Scottish Government and getting a good understanding of the public sector. Prior to this I was Web Communications Director of The Graphics Company, a design agency focussed on the Third Sector. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t eschewed the commercial sector, rather I’ve added a new layer of understanding to what I can offer both groups.
With that bit of context, I’ve been thinking about cause-based campaigning using social media. It’s an area where it’s clear that a little bit of SM savvy would yield great results. The problem is that, for the most part, campaigners have not got on board.
There are a lot of good people involved in campaigning. Often people with a solid background in politics or social marketing. Often people who have had dramatic results in the past and don’t see any reason to fix something that aint broke. That’s fair enough but the goalposts have moved. There is not an unlimited number of supporters out there and it’s supporters who are the real currency of any cause-based campaign. If other, equally worthwhile but similar campaigns do get onboard the Social Media train then that supporter pool gets at best diluted but at worst it’s drained.
So what are the quick wins for campaigners wanting to make the most out of Social Networks?
It’s the obvious first step, and to be fair it’s the step that pretty much all of them have already taken. Get yourself a Twitter account, set up a Facebook fan page. These are the bare minimum. Once you’ve done this set up a YouTube channel, a flickr account and a good, old fashioned blog.
You can’t just build your presence and expect people to magically flock there. Simply listing your Twitter page and inviting people to become fans will only bring you the audience that you already have. The ones who you are already getting the message to.
You have to find new supporters and this takes work. You need to utilise all the channels you have available. In the first instance get a video up on YouTube. Find a celebrity supporter or film some voxpops, it’s easy with the technology you have on your computer these days so there’s no excuse not to do it. Don’t wory about productions standards. It’s YouTube!
Take some photos. Take your digital camera to one of your rallies. Snap some volunteers at work or just capture the pile of correspondence on your desk. It’s all interesting. Tag it up and release it onto flickr.
Then write about it. Tell your existing supporters how the campaign is going. Give some behind the scenes gen on what’sbeen going on. Speak about the broader context of what you’re tying to achieve.
All of these things give more ways for people to find their way to your cause at the same time as adding real value. The more content you put out there, the more conversations you will stir up. It’s these conversations which will grow your supporter base online.
Use Twitter Search to find out who is talking in your area (both geographically and metaphorically). Start following a few of the more interesting chats that you see. Chances are that you’ll begin to see a couple of names cropping up more than others. Keep an eye on these tweeps and one or two of them will emerge as influencers. People who can help form opinions. Engage with these people. Get them onside and they may help promote you to their own list of followers.
Having said all that, the traditional model of campaigning does have one great advantage over much of the social media activity on the web: real human interaction. Getting out there and meeting people, letting them know what’s going on and where to get their hands on all your carefully crafted content is what it’s all about.
I’ve stuck to the big Social Media sites here. There are other ones that you may find relevant depending on you target audience. If you’re aiming at kids or musicians then by all means include Myspace. Also, there are other channels that shouldn’t be ignored. Email is tried, tested and easy to measure for instance and should already be part of your strategy while iPhone apps are less established but bring their own possibilities. I guess you need to do a bit of reasearch…