Whether everyone in politics realizes it yet or not (still “not” for many people), online organization is not only here to stay, but it represents the quickest, most impactful and cost effective form of political organization.
And when it comes to organizing and campaigning on the Internet – (and before you get down in the weeds of all of the tools and things you can do online) – there are some fundamental tips you should keep in mind in order to be more successful.
Online Organization Tips:
1) Be Visible:
Voters or activist expect to be able to find you (and information about you or your cause) online. A basic website is a minimum threshold for credibility of any serious organization.
If they can’t find you, they can’t interact with you.
Generally speaking, a website gives you an Internet headquarters, or “hub”, to operate from. It’s a place to park critical information about your group or cause, to promote action items that your supporters can act on, and make it easy for your supporters to join your cause, reference your information and pass it on to others.
You can create a site or blog easily enough with services such as WordPress or Blogger. Short of that, you can easily create your own online “group” (for free) with services like Ning, Google and Yahoo. These can be public, private or moderated, however you see fit.
2) Keep it Fresh:
How often do you come across sites that look abandoned, or have out-dated information? And how often will you go back if that’s the case? Keep that in mind when maintaining your online presence.
Think like the type of person you want to attract. What information are they looking for? What are they likely to act on if you make it easy for them? In addition to the “fixed” information you might add to a site (such as fact sheets and information about your group or issue), you can keep sites fresh by adding a blog, (even letting several supporters help keep it updated), or adding newsfeeds on related topics with RSS feeds, etc.
The better and more useful the content, the more people will visit, and the more often they’ll forward the site and/or its content on to others. This means that the site can become an email list building machine.
3) Get Social:
If a website is your Internet “hub”, then think of social media as the spokes. And it can take your Internet presence to a whole new level.
Given that social media is an “opt-in” type of medium and also tends to be much more personal in nature, it can give you or your cause much more credibility when people share your links and information with others. In other words it’s like the Internet version of “word of mouth” advertising.
According to Pew Research, around 20% of all Internet users that were surveyed indicated that they either received or shared political information via a social network in the run-up to the 2008 election…and I’m sure it was higher for 2012. These are real people that live in the “real” world where you may be looking to identify volunteers for a precinct and/or church based organization.
Social media enhances your ability to aggregate small expressions of support from a large number of people into a greater whole, (in fundraising for example) – which means that it provides leverage.
If people are a primary resource in politics, then the “other’ people that they know are potential resources as well. Social media makes it easier to leverage your chief resource.
4) Be Outgoing:
Don’t just create a web presence and wait for the world to come knocking at your door. Do some promotion.
In the business world, you wouldn’t spend time creating a product for sale and then keep quiet about it. You would advertise. The same principle applies here. You make use of the tools you have (and those you can get) to let people know you’re there and why they should be interested.
The Internet offers a constantly expanding menu of ways to reach out. The most familiar is email and, given that virtually everyone who’s online has an email address, it’s the most fundamental. The newer avenues are the social networks mentioned earlier. Set up profiles for your site on those services and link them back to your site. Send an email to your list letting them know that you’re up on those networks, (“Hey, we’ve got a Facebook page up – click here to check it out, and then pass it on!”).
By regularly posting messages on those services with links back to pages or blog entries on your site, you “push” your content to a larger audience than would otherwise be exposed to your message.
Can you think of any other general tips you’ve learned about successful online organization by way of experience? Feel free to pass them along in the comments.
(Get more tips like these in my “Grassroots 101 Training Series“. Check it out!)