How Youth Organizations Use Web Presence


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This presentation, delivered in March 2012, focused on how U.K.-based youth organizations address young people online. First, organizations express particular views towards youth. Then, drawing from these perspectives, they detail their web strategy, and turn to three particular focal points: Web presence as information provision; web presence as a way to inform then involve young people; and web presence as a tool to create engaged citizens.

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How Youth Organizations Use Web Presence

  1. 1. Communicating citizenship online: theweb presence of youth organizations Janelle Ward Erasmus University Rotterdam The Netherlands
  2. 2. questions to consider• how do organizations use their web presence?• how do they view their supporters in this digital space?• how can we better understand their web strategy and the choices they make regarding web content?
  3. 3. key terms• the conventional realm of citizenship • a mainstream, more traditional means to citizenship: casting a vote, joining a political party, or engaging with government (youth are apathetic here!)
  4. 4. key terms• the non-conventional realm of citizenship • encourages participation outside traditional arenas: campaigning for a single issue, like environment or animal rights (youth are more involved here!)
  5. 5. key terms• one-way online communication: Generally based on a broadcast model (sender to receiver), and is primarily informative in nature
  6. 6. key terms• interactive online communication: Two-way communication: response and feedback • ‘transactional’ interactivity: Gathering information from visitors • ‘coproductive’ interactivity: Encourages users to respond to the org and to other supporters (e.g., enabling comments and feedback)
  7. 7. my research• 2007: interviewed representatives of 21 youth-focused organizations (civic or political) in the UK• 2007-2008: analyzed interview findings, compared these findings to online content• 2010: revisited these organizations online to see how they had incorporated social media (Facebook and Twitter)
  8. 8. overview of organizations• information portals• political party youth branches• connecting youth with government• single issues/campaigning organizations• youth and global citizenship
  9. 9. findings: youth organization web strategy
  10. 10. focus on: youth organization web strategy
  11. 11. results: youth organization web strategy• website as an information provision tool: orgs were positive about the educative function, increased reach, and cost effectiveness• information provision was, not surprisingly, primarily via one-way communication
  12. 12. results: youth organization web strategy• inform then involve: an automatic process; flowing from accurate information • most had no explicit tie to web content • those that did demonstrated a mix of online and offline action
  13. 13. results: youth organization web strategy• inform then involve: • transactional interactivity common (contact producer, provide personal information, become a member) • coproductive interactivity not often present, though considered an area for future improvement
  14. 14. results: youth organization web strategy• the ultimate goal: create engaged citizens • campaigns important, but with a desire to build life-long activists/citizens • youth encouraged to use their voice, but only in pre-approved directions (socialization)
  15. 15. the move to social media • as of April 2010, 7 out of 21 orgs had linked to social media (Facebook and Twitter)
  16. 16. the move to social media• strategic: to establish a presence on a popular social media platform• an alternative space to be interactive (website can just be brochureware)• Facebook: transparent - though superficial - interaction with supporters• Twitter: mainly used as a broadcasting medium
  17. 17. conclusions• how do organizations use their web presence?• how do they view their supporters in this digital space?• how can we better understand their web strategy and the choices they make regarding web content?
  18. 18. conclusions• in terms of web strategy, all organizations had a similar prescription for success: no large differences were seen between, say, an organization focused on Parliament and one focused on protesting against Parliament• organizations want to be more interactive with supporters, but most are (still) not doing it. Why not?• social media presence is no guarantee of interactive content
  19. 19. thanks for your attention!• The book: Communicating Citizenship Online. Hampton Press: 2012• Email:• Twitter: @janelle_ward