FIRST, A BIT OF CONTEXT.

I don’t think social media tools are the magic bullet! If you’re in doubt, read Malcolm Gladwell’s article “The Revolution will not be Tweeted“.  Gladwell argues that facebook, twitter and other online tools build weak ties between a lot of people.   But what we need for revolution, Gladwell argues, are people who are willing to sacrifice a lot, and sacrifice depends upon deep ties with people.  Chances are you won’t risk your life for a facebook friend.

Now I agree with the general premise of Gladwell’s article, but I think he’s a bit too black and white.  Online tools can help a lot of people participate a little – which is in itself important. (Think online petitions!) Online tools can and DO help people move up the ladder of the engagement so their online work translates to effective offline activism. And third, online tools have proven to be fantastic at sharing information and coordinating high-risk offline actions.  The occupy together movement is doing a great job with their meetup website  which shares information and helps people and the media connect with on-the-ground actions.   Ignore social media at your own peril.

For those who are delving into social media, check out these six fantastic websites geared specifically for activists and non-profit types.  Thank you to Moveon.org‘s Robin Beck for suggesting some of these resources.

1. ECHODITTO

Founded by organizers who met on the groundbreaking Howard Dean campaign for president, Echoditto helps political groups harness the power of online organizing. Here are some useful web resources I found at Echoditto.org:

2. IDEALWARE

Idealware is another consulting firm with a huge amount of resources on their website, including:

(I am quite a fan of mailchimp.  I like that it’s free for groups with 2000 subscriber or less.  I like that mailchimp tracks my click through rates and other relevant information.  I like that I can design and choose the colours of my email and sign up page. I like that it gives me code to put a “sign up” button my website (although the button is ugly.)  I like that I can send test emails. And I like mailchimp’s easy-to-understand guides.)

3. GROUNDWIRE

Groundwire is yet another non-profit consulting firm, this time based in Seattle.   Groundwire is geared to helping environmental groups, but their resources and blog posts are relevant to all activisty types.

  • Check out Groundwire’s article on best practice writing for the web.  Think concise, catchy, with lots of HEADINGS, links that integrate into your sentences (in other words, don’t write “click here“), BOLD, bullet points, pictures and videos.
  • Groundwire’s article on the six stages of engagement is super popular.  This article outlines how you can move people up the pyramid of engagement, from “observing” your organization to “leading” your organization.  Groundwire understands that your offline organizing and your online organizing must complement each other.  I agree with this article’s premise that online and social media tools are great at engaging a lot of people a little bit, offering them the opportunity to find out more about your organization, send a letter, or attend a free meeting.  The higher levels of engagement require more staff time, face-to-face interaction, and deeper relationship building; online tools are perhaps less important at these higher stages of engagement, playing more of a information sharing (“here’s a reminder about our next event”) or coordination role (“post details of your event on our online calendar”).
  • This quick Surfrider Foundation video neatly outlines how groups can apply this ladder of engagement to their offline and online work.

 4. DEANNA ZANDT

Zeanna is a great social media trainer and consultant.

5. KIVI MILLER

Kivi runs the website nonprofitmarketingguide.com.   This website is geared to the fundraising side of non profit work.  Kivi’s website is a bit heavy on the “BUY NOW” hard sell (but what did we expect giving her niche is fundraising), but there are some very useful articles in here, including:

6. BETH KANTER

And then there’s Beth Kanter’s blog.  Beth is a serious guru in the world of social media and non profit advocacy; she is one of North America’s most sought after speakers on social media.  I mean this lady has half a million twitter followers, and I’m definitely one of them.

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