In the political tech space, NationBuilder is a very popular platform for building around online mobilization. I have used NationBuilder on campaigns and have completed the “Certified Expert” course. So I have had a chance to explore tool and its capabilities. Because NationBuilder seems to be the “go to” platform for political and advocacy campaigns at the moment, I thought I would offer some thoughts for those who are looking at building a site using NationBuilder or incorporating it into their digital advocacy programme. Read more
Since the November US election, there have been stacks of blog posts, news articles, tweets and videos about how the Obama campaign (and to a lesser extent the Romney camp) “changed the way we do politics”. Even in Canada, where political campaign budgets are a fraction of their US counterparts, talk of “big data” and “building new platforms” are the talk of digital strategists.
The disconnect I see between the Obama/Romney campaigns and, frankly, everyone else is that both campaigns had hundreds of millions of dollars to spend, countless staff and an army of committed volunteers. Engage’s Patrick Ruffini noted in his firm’s “Inside The Cave” report that Obama’s digital team numbered around 300. Most don’t have that many volunteers/staff across the entire organization. Read more
Last week on Facebook, you likely saw a number of your friends change their profile picture to a red square with a pink equals sign. These Facebook users (including yours truly) were doing so to show support for equality rights as the US Supreme Court debated Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Those folks were not alone. According to Facebook itself, approximately 2.7 million Facebook users changed their profile pic as well. Tremendous reach, but the question remains: did it have any impact? Read more
The latest Internet sensation hit the general public last week when a video about Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony produced by a not-for-profit outfit named Invisible Children caught the attention of the Internet in a big way – becoming the most viral video in history.
I’m sure sure your Facebook, Twitter or RSS feed was peppered with stories about the Stop Kony campaign, the celebrity endorsements and the power of social media to affect global change. Unfortunately, what Kony2012 expertly demonstrated was how buzz without proper infrastructure in place results in wasted opportunity.
Before I offer a critique, I will begin with a positive: the marketing campaign was clearly a success. If the goal of Invisible Children was to raise awareness around Joseph Kony and their organization, mission accomplished. In a very, very short timeframe, Invisible Children blasted into the public consciousness.
They also pulled off a textbook example of how to get people to watch and share video content. It had lofty emotional themes, pulling on Western society’s urge to do good across the globe. They tugged on all the right strings with their visual imagery: children, hope, innocence, justice, goodness – making a change. They also courted the high-minded Hollywood set to use Twitter to power the massive exposure the film got.
But if this sounds like a marketing campaign, it is. And it was treated like one. Rather than create and promote ways for motivated citizens to take action, Invisible Children instead promoted their online store. Their “action kit” is filled with swag where supporters (for only $30 dollars!) can become “an advocate of awesome”: t-shirts, posters, bracelets and stickers.
There was no evidence of a plan to provide real tools for motivated individuals to organize and advocate online for change. Maybe they were unprepared for the level of exposure their efforts received. Maybe they didn’t know how to build the right tools.
More likely, they didn’t think of harnessing the power of their global audience beyond driving them to like their Facebook Page or buy a bracelet from their store. This traditional approach to online marketing – build social media buzz for your brand to help further promote it – really only benefits those who run Invisible Children.
If Jason Russell and his team wanted to truly use the Internet to affect change, he would have created the proper systems to allow supporters to directly contact elected officials, organize themselves and empower them to keep up the campaign long after the video is forgotten (which has already begun to happen).
The lesson here is this: buzz is nothing without concrete action. If you fail to strike while the iron is hot – pulling people in, connecting with them, grabbing information about them, giving them the tools to power your campaign – you’ll run out of fuel pretty quickly.
And the metrics that matter – actual lasting change, rather than likes or views – will remain a minor footnote and a wasted opportunity.
Yesterday was International Women's Day. To mark the occasion, the Toronto Star's Heather Malilck took to her regular column to decry the state of women's rights. Specifically, she references the recent controversy involving bombastic conservative personality Rush Limbaugh:
Mallick went on to state that women's rights across the globe are eroding, not expanding. But the latest controversy from Limbaugh is not the best example to prove her point. In fact, the online reaction to Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke derogatory names has been swift, intense and entirely negative:
"At latest count, [twelve] advertisers have pulled the plug on Limbaugh. Each was effectively targeted on Facebook and Twitter by an angry and vocal storm of thousands of people calling for direct action. The campaign was almost instantaneous, coordinated by no individual or organization, and entirely free of cost"
This is the second large-scale reaction driven by social media regarding an issue of women's rights. There was a wide, negative protest online to the decision (later reversed) by the Susan G Komen foundation to remove funding for Planned Parenthood.
Of course, there is still work to be done to further women's rights in the world. But these two examples highlight the simple fact that women of all backgrounds are engaged, organized and willing to speak out via their social networks on issues they disagree with.