Getting Slacktivists to Act


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Presentation made to the MyCharity Connects 2012 Conference, June 2012. Similar to the one I gave at SXSWi in Austin in March. (The theme . . . it's the organizers fault if people who 'put their hand up' on the social web don't do more.

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  • Democracy requires that we do something about things we are angry . . . Which gets to the part about my special experience to talk about this whole concept of acting on your principles . . . In my youth, I wasLeft-wing activist, member of a group called Red Morning which modeled itself on WeathermenOrganized a demonstration . . . And ended up spending a month in the Don JailI then went on to be a truck driver and trade unionist with CFAW and the United Brotherhood of Railroad, Airline and Steamship Clerks . . . I was chief steward of a local, a delegate to the Canadian Labour Congress national convention, member of the union’s negotiating team, and an agitatorNone of which his meant to be self-aggrandizing, only to make the point that I have been an activist, anorganizer and have been on the streets . . . All under an older paradigm of activism
  • The newer paradigm is circumscribed by a new set of social tools . . .starting with facebookBetween 2010 and 2011, the median growth rate for nonprofit fan pages was an astounding 70%. Imagine your email list growing at that rate! Nonprofits had 103 Facebook fan page users (that is, people who “like” a nonprofit fan page) for every 1,000 email subscribers. The wildlife and animal welfare sector continues to have the largest Facebook presence, with a median of 72,784 total Facebook users. The rights sector is also notable for having the largest ratio of Facebook users to email users, with 144 Facebook users for every 1,000 email subscribers.
  • The “action rate” is calculated as the number of daily “likes” and comments on a page’s content divided by the number of Facebook users. Overall, nonprofits averaged 2.5 actions per 1,000 Facebook users. The wildlife and animal welfare sector was a leader in the field with an average action rate of 3 actions per 1,000 Facebook users . . . Which is fairly low
  • Nonprofits in this study had an average of 12,451 Twitter followers. The international sector was by far the most beloved by the Twittersphere, with an average of 59,365 Twitter followers. On average, a nonprofit has 29 Twitter followers for every 1,000 email subscribers.
  • I don’t think we should panic that these ratios seem somewhat low or that people are only clicking a like button or signing a petition. As my friend Rob Cottingham said in the Globe and Mail in March:“For a lot of people, sharing something will be their first case of activism,” they’re filled with the kind of enthusiasm you're seeing from people who are becoming engaged politically for the first time.’From my perspective, It is the job of the organizer to take sharing and turn it into changing.
  • What are the obstacles to this . . . If the goal is collective action, or individual action around a collective goal . . . The social science research suggest that the obstacles are often about communications
  • The social science research also demonstrates that that online organizing doesn’t change how people make decisions to participate or not . . .
  • There is a simple way to structure your thinking about what you are trying to do with people in your online strategies, whether to build your database or organize a social movement.Organizers and campaigners should understand the principles behind effectively turning connection into the will to act turning membership into engagementIn fact, membership in a social asset like a Google+ or Facebook page has to be seen not as a dead end, but as a starting pointConnection, in other words, is only the starting point of a participation continuum and it is the job of the activist or organizer to find ways to move people along that continuum .
  • And there are things you can do at each stage . . . With connection . . .you can educateWith engagement . . . You can work on helping people to organize themselvesWith influence . . . You can work on creating the courage to actWith action . . . You can provide the means for making the anger or the concern known, although preferably with driving towards solutionsCreating this strategic infrastructure for changing behaviour is the job of the organizer . . . And I have put together what I think are 12 useful principles for doing this
  • In the 1960s ad 1970s we followed the organizing principles of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals | Che Guevara’s Guerilla Warfare | Regis Debray’sRévolutiondans la révolution and Nousesommes les Tupamaros
  • Forget the whole idea of ‘messaging’
  • Old activism . . . As a left wing activist, I would attend social events, rock concerts, student meetings, free food centres, and sell or distribute newslettersNew activism . . .integrate all social tools and be available and engaged in the major social tools (a Facebook page just isn’t enough, although it can be a hub)Mobile Commons lets you run your mobile (text-based) outreach from one easy web-based platform.
  • Old activism . . .this was the really tough stuff . . .we only had a couple of alternatives to organize activists (meetings – clandestine or public – phone trees and parties)New activism . . . Social collaboration and organization
  • Suite of group collaboration tools, such as private wikis, task lists, file repository, and decision making tools.(
  • This app made it very easy for anyone to make an offline decision in line with a political belief
  • Old activism . . . We created cells with leaders and coordinated both locally and internationally (especially U.S.), working with such organizations as Rising Up Angry in ChicagoNew activism . . . Identification of network leaders globally is incredibly easy, because people self-identify as social issue or cause leadersGetUpindependent, grass-roots community advocacy organisation giving everyday Australians opportunities to get involved and hold politicians accountable on important issues. Moveonfamily of organizations brings Americans back into the political process. JumoLeveraging connection technologies, Jumo enables people to find, follow and support those working toward solutions on the ground in their community and in regions across the globe. Jumois founded and directed by Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and director of online organizing for Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign.
  • Feb 29 shut down corporations . . . Anarchic is structure . . .Attempted continuation of the ‘occupy’ movement . . . Facebook page has only 2000 likes . . . No way to engage | no encouragement to other forms of action | no discipline re: recruiting organizers
  • Old activism . . . We would work with individuals to determine their willingness to engage, where they are comfortable. Band members from Sound Horn (some wanted to be active on the streets, others just wanted to play music so we worked with them to write lyrics with a message)New activism . . . Find ways for individuals to act on their own or with friends
  • “Close to two-thirds (64 per cent) say they value being able to easily share content with others. For young Canadians, the figure rises to 83%.”So . . . Create content that is by its nature shareable
  • Old activism . . . Simple and clear messages + offer action alternatives consistent with people’s level of comfort ((distribute leaflets- openly or surreptitiously . . .organize a demonstration . . . Spray painting slogans)New activism . . .repost a video/start a petition/re-tweet an event invitation
  • Create content that rocks . . . And is shareable“Close to two-thirds (64 per cent) say they value being able to easily share content with others. For young Canadians, the figure rises to 83%.”So . . . Create content that is by its nature shareable
  • There are some generic ideas about what makes for successful and shareable social content
  • Established in 2003, Tactical Tech is an international NGO working to enable the effective use of information for progressive social change. Itswork is informed by the principles of freedom of expression and freedom of information and the need for transparency and accountability.
  • EffectiveInfographics . . . Need rich data to demonstrate authority + Simplicity
  • Since you can’t always come up with content that rocks yourself, become adept at content curation . . . Strategies for doing this(NOTE . . . SEEK COLUMN IS MOST IMPORTANT
  • Document the impact of success . . .
  • Learn from game dynamics . . . There are about 50 core elements of game dynamics . . . Five that I think relate to celebrating successes in social actionAchievementExample: a badge, a level, a reward, points, really anything defined as a reward can be a reward.Blissful ProductivityThe idea that playing in a game makes you happier working hard, than you would be relaxing. Demonstrate that rewardLeader-boards and micro leader-boards (people in a distinct set)LoyaltyDefinition: The concept of feeling a positive sustained connection to an entity leading to a feeling of partial ownership. Often reinforced with a visual representation. (mayorships)Social Fabric of GamesDefinition: the idea that people like one another better after they’ve played games with them, have a higher level of trust and a great willingness to work together. . . . Have a party
  • Getting Slacktivists to Act

    1. 1. Organizing Better with the Social Web My Charity Connects 2012 Boyd Neil National Practice Leader Social Media + Digital Communications
    2. 2. 22012 eNonprofit Benchmark Study
    3. 3. 32012 eNonprofit Benchmark Study
    4. 4. 42012 eNonprofit Benchmark Study
    5. 5. . . . And what of it? 5 Social web now integral to non-profit and social organizing Twitter has taken over as a conversation and connection tool especially internationally But . . . a tendency to think in terms of traditional success measures (additions to email lists etc.) Moving from connection to engagement and action is the challenge . . . Organizing online is a core competency for non- profits and advocacy groups
    6. 6. How we do it: 1. Understand social dynamics 2. Draw from historic and current organizing principles6
    7. 7. 7Dr. Giorgos Cheliotis ( and New Media, National University of Singapore
    8. 8. Online organizing doesn’t changehow people make decisions toparticipate – or not1. Personal approach best for recruitment2. Knowing that “someone like me” is on social platform (trust)3. Personal invitations/direct support help people get started4. Understand needs, then help meet those needs, encourages participation and ongoing involvementNeighbourhood Forums: (from an evaluation of Inclusive Social Media project)
    9. 9. Social participation continuumConnection Engagement Influence Action 9
    10. 10. What social web activism can do CreateEducate Organize Courage to Act Act 10
    11. 11. Organizing Principles Organizing principles1. Contain anger | find ideological balance2. Make action choices straightforward, obvious and easy3. Connect everywhere4. Use social tools to organize groups (We used to call them „cells‟)5. Give people offline connection and action opportunities6. Identify local network leaders . . . And empower to self-organize7. Personalize the relationship8. Facilitate peer-to-peer opportunities9. Provide incentives for offline action10. Create content that rocks11. Celebrate successes12. Manage organizing like a political campaign
    12. 12. Organizing Principles Organizing principles1. Contain anger | find ideological balance
    13. 13. Two reasons this doesn’t work:1. Moves away from core organizing message2. Substitutes anger for argument 13
    14. 14. Organizing Principles Organizing principles2. Make action choices straightforward, obvious and easy
    15. 15. Four reasons this works1. Offers calls to action + petitions2. Educates on what it means to engage3. Urges you to imagine something different4. Makes it easy 15
    16. 16. And this works too . . . For the samereasons
    17. 17. Organizing Principles Organizing principles3. Connect everywhere
    18. 18. Three reasons this works:1. Displays and repeats evidence of multiple platforms2. Uses visual platforms3. Has multiple points of access for connection
    19. 19. Organizing Principles Organizing principles4. Use social tools to organize groups (We used to call them „cells‟)
    20. 20. 20
    21. 21. Organizing Principles Organizing principles5. Give people offline connection and action opportunities
    22. 22. ‘App’ It22
    23. 23. Organizing Principles Organizing principles6. Identify local network leaders . . . And empower to self-organize
    24. 24. Three reasons this doesn’t work:1. No place to identify yourself as willing to lead an action2. No infrastructure for self- organization of groups3. Doesn’t educate within the context of organizing But this does . . . 24
    25. 25. Organizing Principles Organizing principles7. Personalize the relationship
    26. 26. Organizing Principles Organizing principles8. Facilitate peer-to-peer opportunities
    27. 27. Three reasons this works:1. Begins from your own story2. Makes starting your own peer- peer campaign straightforward3. Defines progress
    28. 28. Organizing Principles Organizing principles9. Provide incentives for offline action
    29. 29. Site offers:1. Game-style ranking2. Personal invitations to events3. Special training/education opportunities 30
    30. 30. Organizing Principles Organizing principles10. Create content that rocks
    31. 31. 32 We can learn a lot about creating great content from internet memes . . . They operate in affinity spaces and are characterized byDr. Giorgos Cheliotis ( and New Media, National University of Singapore
    32. 32. TACTICAL TOOLKITS AND GUIDES Drawing by Numbers 10 Tactics Message in-a-box Mobiles in-a-box Security in-a-box Info-design guide Maps for advocacy Online advocacy guide ONO films Digital Survival Guide 33
    33. 33. Numbers with ‘narratives’
    34. 34. Good Data Visualization 35 Have a storytelling Context is critical disposition in data – Give us the „so what‟ assembly Create the story from Less data, more story the data . . .don‟t jam (but collect it all) the data into a story Focus on opportunity Highlight actionable not data pimping data
    35. 35. 36
    36. 36. Organizing Principles Organizing principles11. Celebrate successes
    37. 37. 38
    38. 38. Organizing Principles Organizing principles12. Manage organizing like a political campaign
    39. 39. THE H+K ADVOCACY PANEL Features + Dynamic CRM + Mass Mailer + Event Management + Fundraising + Advocacy & Petitions + Share / Tell-a-friend + Legislative Outreach + Social Networking + Canvassing + File Uploader + API
    40. 40. Boyd Neil | @boydneil | 416.413.4626 | 41