Friday, 2 April 2010

A constant frustration

I find it somewhat irksome that every campaign must have a digital component. That might seem like a counter intuitive point of view from someone who wants to write a blog about the online world and how it relates to campaigning, but hear me out...

Too often creating a Facebook group, or a Twitter feed, is a tickbox exercise, inspired by a media obsession with these services. Online campaigning is harder is some ways than traditional campaigning. Rather than reaching out, you have to create a social network that people want to buy into, which isnt a comfortable position to be in.

I've been involved with quite a few Facebook groups attached to particular campaigns, some of these groups are of a substantial size, and yet in real terms, they're not much use. People havent bought into the idea, they've just clicked "accept" when someone has invited them to the group.

Techpresident recently had an article which sums up Facebook's role in campaigning far better than I ever could, entitled Has Facebook Jumped the Shark? I thoroughly encourage you to read it:

"What are social networking sites designed to do? Connect people, of course, but connect them in distinctive ways depending on the specific site. LinkedIn, for instance, joins people who want to maintain relationships for professional reasons, while special-interest social networking sites (see MyBarackObama.com) connect people who are passionate about a particular topic.

Looking at Facebook, it's clear that its user model has a definite bias toward connecting people one-on-one or in small groups. Unlike MySpace, which was designed to make it easy for bands to contact fans en masse, Facebook's core functions revolve around individual connections between individual people. Of course, features like Mini-Feeds, the Wall and various Applications create social connections and social spaces, but the mass-messaging features included in Groups and Fan Pages are limited and have the feel of afterthoughts rather than core functions."

The new service which is generating an increasing amount of buzz is Ning. This is a site which has been developed specifically to bridge the gap between social media and campaigning. Extremely widely used in the USA the site allows you to build your own social network around a campaign or an idea, but it has yet to break through into the UK.

Because it is disconnected from traditional social networking, people who join a Ning network have automatically taken an extra step and become actively involved. A range of tools (which you can here) and apps (many of them user generated and avaliable here) providing a nearly infinite range of options.

Its easy to become myopic about the tools we use and the way we use them. The media obsesses about Twitter, so campaigns obsess about it, not realising that the user base for Twitter is absolutely minute and is often used by people who don't or won't 'get' Facebook and other services.

Digital involvement in a campaign must be an integrated into your pursuit of an end goal. Its not something you can tack on. A myopic focus on popular tools almost certainly will not serve your goal. Look outside the box, figure out what will help you best, and give it a shot.
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