Bandwidth » eAdvocacy Insights from H&K Canada's social media strategy team Fri, 07 Jan 2011 21:05:56 +0000 en hourly 1 Beyond adoption – considering NGO’s social media intentions Tue, 06 Oct 2009 01:11:10 +0000 Meghan Warby

It’s been a long non-blogging stretch, which included live music (natch), a bday (piñata & nacho-enhanced), driver’s ed (2nd time’s a charm, right?), domain registration lapse (ack!) & details emerging on what could be the wildest winter ever…

Thankfully, the key sanity check (outside of running/air-drum solo’ing) has been reading.  One of the best nerdy reads in a long while has been the Hatcher Group’s recent report ‘New Media & Social Change: How Nonprofits are Using Web-based Technologies to Reach their Goals.’ Despite the sins of unnecessary capitalization, this is a punchy report worth downloading regardless of whether you or your clients are in the nonprofit sector.

Why is the Hatcher report, which is filled with some good ‘how-tos’ & tip sheets, different than the usual freebie ebooks or ‘top ten’ digg/delicious-bait blog posts?  It’s the data peppered throughout the report, which was culled from a relatively recent survey (May 2009).  The survey asked 70 key questions to gauge 30 NGOs’ new media interest & experience.  Most telling were these statistics confirming NGOs’ attuned state regarding the online world:

  • 53% ‘infrequently’ & 30% ‘frequently’ perform blogger outreach (& 57% spend at least 1-2 hours a week doing so)
  • 73% frequently monitor blog references to their organization &/or issue
  • 60% increased their fanbase, 40% increased web traffic & 20% increased media coverage thanks to Facebook

It’s valuable to stay on top of this sector’s digital communications habits because it’s planting social media seeds in the most fertile ground.  This fertility is thanks to two factors – the necessity of very cost-conscious tool-use & a youngish workforce with a seemingly limitless supply of passion for their cause.

About this time last year, I drafted an interview list for a winter interview circuit of New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles & San Francisco.  A large percentage of the almost 30 interviewees were working for social change either in-house at non-profits or at agencies dedicated to the nonprofit sector.  While almost all of the interviewees were at or near the cutting edge of online tool adoption & seamlessly integrating digital communications into their organization’s overall plan, the Hatcher Report is a valuable sample of an average NGOs’ habits.

To demonstrate the more realistic snapshot & less experimental respondents, check out this survey response about the aims of an organization’s blogger outreach:

  • 91% of organizations hoped to reach media
  • 83% wanted advocates, legislators &/or staff to take note
  • 70% sought the general public’s engagement through this unique digital channel

Perceiving online communications & blogger outreach as primarily a ‘means to an end’ for mainstream media coverage is a somewhat disheartening response from almost all 30 groups the Hatcher Group surveyed.  While blogs can break or popularize stories before they are reported in newspapers or on television, the 91% wish to affect MSM left me worrying that blogger outreach wasn’t being executed with the best intentions, & as a consequence, without the most tactful approach.

Am I being completely paranoid?  It seems odd that there was a 20% gap between NGOs who considered the ‘general public’ as a separate entity worth speaking with via blogs vs. feeding messages to the masses in a backdoor fashion via blog authors.  Regardless of this concern, the report is a great short read & in addition to the data offers short & sweet reminders about best practices in conducting campaigns online.

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Labour Day of Love Tue, 08 Sep 2009 00:59:09 +0000 Meghan Warby My long weekends begin & end with an epic trek to the Sound & involve spending overdue time with the fam.  Despite the gorgeous clear skies, fresh rural Ontario air & infinite opportunities to sing ‘Save a horse, ride a cowboy’ at karaoke, I usually end up splitting this free time 50/50:  sleeping in & nerding out.

This weekend was no different – nerdery included a docu-binge, interesting new client/sector reading, and indulging in a thorough leisurely read of the Pew Internet & American Life Project report on The Internet & Civic Engagement, which was released just last week.

If the impact of the internet on political participation is at all of interest, download the entire report – it’s less than 70 pgs (incl. big’ol’graphs!) – not a massive undertaking, I swear )

A gem gleaned/interpreted from the report is that once someone becomes involved in politics online – not necessarily partisan – they are on a slippery slope to nerdsville.  Posting a blog comment is practically a gateway drug for full-on civic engagement – next thing you know they’re signing petitions, writing their local representatives, writing & posting material themselves…& even donating cash.  Who knows what they’re doing in the streets to get this money to pass on to organizations & campaigns.

  • 19% of Americans online had posted material about political &/or social issues or used a social network for civic/political engagement
  • This crew was disproportionately young, of course, & also don’t show as much of an old/rich/educated socio-econo slant compared to other engagement measures such as donations & volunteering.
  • 61% of politically active online Americans signed petitions (vs. 32% of all adults)
  • 50% of online politicos have contacted an official directly.  (Very cool to note that satisfaction rates for contacting political officials was equal online/offline)

The authors posit that social media could alter the vast majority political participants being well off/educated.  The catch is ensuring that newly recruited online politicos start affecting change IRL.  We all know how easy it is to comment on a Facebook/blog post, or ping off a petition – but ratcheting up the free-time donation to include face-to-face canvassing, volunteering & other vital parts of being a ‘real’ citizen are tougher to nail down.

Now this is usually the part of the blog post where I complain about not having similar report from a Canadian thinktank or pollster, but that’d be unfair.  In April’09 Elections Canada published a Working Paper on ‘Youth Electoral Engagement in Canada.’ Thankfully I CAN complain about the age of the data – most recent year in the report was 2006.  The authors have similar conclusions regarding age/income/education as being the three determining factors in political participation as Pew.  The highest engagement levels create this familiar demographic combo: Older religious married born-in-Canada men who earn more than $40K with post-secondary education in rural communities.  Of these factors, being born in Canada was the #1 influencer, with post-secondary education a close runner-up.

Although I whinge about the age of the Elections Canada data, (even Pew study authors admit that without cell-phone owners included in their survey they’re not getting a true glimpse of the younger cohort) there’s a great section on ‘Why is youth turnout so low?’ that has a fantastic summary of previous political science theories on declining engagement.  Citing Cart & Eagles, among many other political scientists, the authors state:

“…the way election campaigns are run may be partly responsible for the turnout decline…traditional door-to-door canvassing has a powerful impact on turnout…evidence that direct candidate contact with voters has been decreasing over time, as parties have devoted more attention to the media…may have contributed to lower turnout, although it is not clear why this should have affected the youth more than older people.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Although online content is a great source for spreading information/sparking discussion/priming donations about politics & social issues, until the user becomes engaged with an issue to the point of ponying up volunteer-time – online engagement is a series of soon-forgotten empty gestures (green avatars, anyone?).

This ends tonight’s nerdcast – I’ll be online less this week because of an especially short work week for less than awesome reasons.  Heartfelt thanks to everyone who’s helped thus far (whether you know it or not ) ).  Equal gratitude goes out to a flexible employer & helpful IT crew who’re eager to lend wireless routers, webcams & laptops during a time of coccooning.

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Why online protests fail IRL Mon, 31 Aug 2009 02:42:16 +0000 Meghan Warby What do KISS, IKEA & Muslim women have in common? Unfortunately there’s no snappy punchline, it’s just an excuse to weave a nerd narrative through a bunch of interesting news stories.

I’m sure by now you’ve got your Oshawa B&B resos, relieved to hear the city’s glam-rocker residents’ KISS ARMY allegiance wasn’t in vain. The band ran a straightforward prove-how-much-you-love-us online contest, which was styled like a petition, requiring city residents to submit email addresses, & promised a concert for the winning city (regrettably it was a KISS concert).  After the band announced the winning city, they published a tour schedule that did not include Oshawa. Now, it doesn’t take Columbo to examine a tour schedule & discover a gap that is geographically & schedule-wise able to accommodate a ’secret’ show or ‘by popular demand’ second night in a venue (Hello Wilco, Welcome to Massey Hall x2!).  Nonetheless, the interwebs’ hyper hypos have an irrepressible impulse to stretch their harnesses.  The city was up in arms, thousands joined Facebook protest groups, locals became ‘representatives’ on news outlets, fansites heaved & a PR maelstrom ensued.  Can’t completely blame unnerved fans for their reaction, but it proves that an online ‘petition’ campaign banking on engaging region-specific communities must reach all stakeholders clearly, consistently & concurrently – online & in ‘public’/mainstream media messaging – or face the wrath of multiple red-dye-tongue-waggings.

From KISS to kisses, The Times’ Freakonomics blogger Steven Dubner references gay rights kissing protests in Salt Lake City (or ‘IRL’ – in real life) in a fantastic quorum post called ‘How Much Do Protests Really Matter?’.  It’s a great long piece that highlights some of the most effective protests throughout history – & puts the KISS KRAP, ridiculous IKEA font fiasco & the ultimate online overreaction of #AmazonFail (of which Shirkey’s blushing reflection is the best) – into perspective.  Kent State, this ain’t. Aside from totally dismissing the online flareups, what can be gleaned from recent issues that’ve made their way into the mainstream?

One positive example of addressing consumer concerns straight-on is the triage-style response from Tim Horton’s to their comp’ed coffee clusterfritter.  After being accused of supporting anti-gay groups, HQ calmly, widely, publicly stated otherwise, while explaining the franchisee relationship & corporate values in a balanced manner.  Though they’ll go down in Twitter history as being ‘too slow’, realistically a major multi-national addressing an online issue centered on a (not ideal ideologically…) backwoods charity BBQ in less than 48 hours (counting weekend days…sadly the downside of our email era is expectation to check 24/7) is approaching impressive.

Finally, last Sunday’s NYTimes magazine on women’s issues had a special ‘The Medium’ column on Feminist Hawks by Virginia Herrernan. It illustrates how ‘motherhood’ issues (for lack of a better word…) can be repackaged, re-purposed & emailed for protest campaigns under new auspices.  In this case an anti-Afghan outlook was wrapped in women’s rights.  Herrernan tracked a popular email petition propelled by pundits such as David Horowitz that sought signatures supporting persecuted Muslim women, but stated military aggression was the solution to women’s liberation.  “This material is expected to help seal Horowitz’s general case for the war on terror, though he has not yet changed the name of his cause to, say, the war on misogyny.”

It might be hard to assign a #fail to online protests writ large, but the summer months brought a new level of inane chatter that could be called out & calmed down as the temperature drops & leaves begin to fall.  Creating online communities, sharing fact-checked/substantiated information & organizing IRL events is one of the strengths of the internet.  Our creative communities’ ongoing successes in subverting negative legislative/funding changes & presenting a strong case for supporting the arts is my favourite example of combining social networks, multimedia & the power of assembly to affect legislative change & public discourse.  Maybe revisiting the history of protests & learning from past well-informed, organized, thoughtful participants, will remind us of this.  You’ve been assigned Whingeing History for first period, first semester – enjoy the final days of summer, kids )

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