Millenials Making the Move, Civicly

According to Winograd and Hais, the authors of “Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics,” there has been a major shift in the political sphere. Essentially speaking, their book discusses that the rising generation of Millennials  will change the way we do politics due to the impregnation of social media and new technology as compared to previous generations. The history behind this theory is that  there has been five major political realignments in American history. While each of these huge shifts seems to have been triggered by a crucial event — the great depression or 9/11 to name a couple —  all were actually behaving due to “underlying changes in generational size and attitudes and contemporaneous advances in communication technologies.”

As described in an article by the 2008 review of their book in the New York Times:

There are two types of major realignments that occur in politics. “Idealist” realignments, are when there is a low voter turnout, therefore this generation gears toward negative attitudes toward politics and political institutions and “a focus on divisive social issues involving such concerns as substance use, sexual behavior and socially acceptable roles for women and men”; in the public policy arena “idealist realignments tend to lead to gridlock, limited use of and even decline in the national government and greater economic inequality.” Since the 1968 realignment the Republicans, who had become the party of traditional values, would win 7 of 10 presidential elections.

In contrast “civic” realignments are characterized, by rising voter turnout (or stable turnout at high levels), positive attitudes toward politics and political institutions, and “a focus on broader societal and economic concerns rather than social issues involving personal morality.” As anyone can see, this is certainly the case with today’s younger generations.

Millennials’ reliance on the Internet (technology that the Democrats have learned to exploit more quickly than their Republican opponents) and their passion for texting and instant messaging have political implications as well. In placing a heavy value on the opinion of friends and peers, the authors of this book suggest, Millennials are inclined to favor conclusions reached by decentralized decision making, and multilateral rather than unilateral policy making. Their proclivity for sharing their lives with thousands of others through MySpace and Facebook also makes them “the generation least perturbed by any potential restrictions on civil rights or invasions of privacy that might have occurred in fighting the war on terrorism.” As a more socially tolerant and less divisive Millennial generation becomes a larger part of the electorate, Mr. Winograd and Mr. Hais predict, “the power of social issues to drive our political debate will wane”: wedge issues will lose their effectiveness, and ideological divisions will give way to an emphasis on “successful governmental activism.” “Majorities,” they argue, “will coalesce around ideas that involve the entire group in the solution and downplay the right of individuals to opt out of the process.”

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Obama’s Facebook Town Hall Meeting

In case anyone missed it, Obama was a hit as he held a recent town hall meeting at the Facebook headquarters in California. As described by CNN:

The White House held a “town hall” at Facebook’s headquarters, where the president answered questions before a small audience about the economy and the federal deficit. The event was broadcast live, available to Facebook’s more than 500 million users.

Facebook representatives chose questions from among the queries submitted in advance by audience members and by people tuning in on the Web. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg moderated.

After some palling around between the president and the 26-year-old computer whiz, Zuckerberg offered questions submitted online that gelled with Obama’s key talking points and victories, such as health care and education. Facebook employees, who made up the majority of the audience, were chosen to ask several questions.

During Wednesday’s Facebook visit, Obama at times related his answers to the young and technology-savvy crowds most passionate about Facebook. Obama pleaded that they “don’t get frustrated and cynical about our democracy,” he said. “If you don’t give the system a push, it’s just not going to change. And you’re going to be the ones who suffer the consequences.”

With our recent dicsussion’s focussing on the marriage of social media changing the world of politics, this could not have come at a better time. It is clear and evident how strong of an influence social media — like Facebook — has on the direction of politics and the importance/influence social media will have moving forward. With today’s younger generation considered more “civic” than idealogical, Obama is not only setting an example but setting the bar for what other politicians will inevitably have to do in order to have the same fighting chance when wanting to interact with their constituents.

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Review of Three Metrics/Measuring Tools

Advocacy organizations need to be able to track traffic and analyze the reach of their messaging and who are the major influencers affecting their campaign’s outcome. While there are many tools available, it can be difficult to choose between them. Below discusses three particular measurement tools – Bit.ly, Act.ly and Klout – which provide online metrics for a campaign to use when discerning overall campaign effectiveness, online influence and measurable outcomes.

Bit.ly (www.bit.ly)

Bit.ly is an online utility site that allows advocacy organizations to shorten website links to a more usable format. Once the user accesses the site, they simply type in a URL or copy and paste a URL into the “shorten your links and share from here” textbox From there, the site will automatically shorten the link for them. For example, if a particular news outlet reports on gay marriage, the URL on their page may be:

“http://www.ontopmag.com/article.aspx?id=8107&MediaType=1&Category=26.”

The URL is too long and cumbersome for Stop8.org to continuously cut and paste into their social media for their advocates to see. Therefore, they cut and paste the URL into Bit.ly, whereby once dropped into the proper space, Bit.ly returns with the shorter link http://bit.ly/dJyEgv, which is just as permanent and reusable as long as the perma-link above is still alive

While Bit.ly seems basic, it offers quite a few beneficial features for advocacy organizations; the most obvious is the ability to shorten the link. When efficiency is key for others to take action, it is paramount make every bit of information they share more user-friendly. Therefore, by shortening the link, advocates will have an easier time passing along the link to others. More importantly, it is easier to post links in social media that are shorter and longer, particularly when using those tools that have character constraints. This is notably an issue with Twitter. As Twitter requires its tweets to have a maximum of 140 characters, shortening a lengthy URL allows advocacy organizations to add links to their tweets for others to click and follow. Bit.ly also allows users to create custom short links based on an organization’s URL, as well as allow advocacy organizations to integrate Bit.ly with their social media monitoring tools like Tweetdeck, creating an easier environment for any organization to monitor and measure results.

However, the most notable and major benefit Bit.ly offers advocacy organizations is the ability to track a variety of metrics. By placing a “+” at the end of a link (e.g. http://bit.ly/dJyEgv+), or simply going to the information page on that link, Bit.ly then tracks the following information:

1.    The number of clicks that Bit.ly link specifically generated
2.    A histogram of when clicks occurred the most, which then advocacy organizations can track back to see what happened at the time of those links in the organization’s outreach endeavors
3.    A snapshot on the number of conversations that used that Bit.ly link
4.    Referral details about where online people clicked the Bit.ly link the most, notifying the user where the most traffic comes from, including from what countries advocates clicked the link from the most as well
5.    Supplies a QR code which advocacy organizations can use on their print collateral, such as direct mail pieces, flyers and posters, which then advocates can then scan with their smartphones and go directly to that URL

These measurements are not only good when wanting to measure the strength of your campaign’s Bit.ly links, but also wanting to track those links by competing organizations. Anyone can take a Bit.ly link and add the “+” sign to the end to see stats on that link and measure how competing or similar campaigns stack up against one another.

Act.ly (www.act.ly)

Act.ly is an online tool that allows advocacy organizations to create overly viral petitions via Twitter.  The process is very basic yet effective. First, an organization goes to the Act.ly site, type in whom the petition is targeted toward, the title of the petition, and then clicks the “create” button. Next, they fill out the details of the petition, choose whether or not they wish to follow anyone who signs the petition, whether or not they wish to show the results on a map, and save the petition. Then Act.ly sends the petition out via the organization’s Twitter feed for their followers to see and sign.

While the process to create the petition is easy to do for any organization, it is in Act.ly’s simplicity to get others to sign the petition that makes it a strong tool for any advocacy campaign. Advocates sign the petition by simply tweeting about it or retweeting it from their feed. Doing so also as the petition instantly show up in that advocate’s Twitter feed, ultimate sharing the petition with their followers. Though it is obvious in the ease of signing the petition, every petition signature is far more meaningful to an organization now as not only was a person willing to sign it, they were also willing to tell all of their friends and followers about it too. Finally, every time one retweets the petition, the target of the petition receives a mention in their Twitter account directly. Act.ly also provides you with an embed code should an advocacy group wish to take the petition and add an to their website like Twitter or Facebook.

While the tool is easy to use and effective at disseminating a petition, it only has certain measuring and tracking qualities that would be useful to an organization. As mentioned previously, Act.ly allows a campaign to see where on a map the most tweets are coming from. This would be helpful when wanting to target specific demographics. Act.ly also allows you to see who has signed your petition and the number of followers they have. This is good as it can help discern which signers could be potential influencers on your campaign and whom you may wish to both follow on Twitter and engage in conversation. However, Act.ly requires a campaign that created a petition to rely on Twitter analytics via Twitter versus through the actual site. While one can still gain valuable information through these means, it would be advantageous for Act.ly to provide the same analytics on their current platform.

Klout (www.klout.com)

Klout provides a robust selection of metrics for an advocacy campaign to use when measuring the strength of its overall online presence and influence on others in the social media realm. Once a campaign types in its twitter handle into the search box on Klout’s homepage, the system uses 35 different variables to calculate the following measurables: True Reach, Amplification Probability, and Network Influence.

True Reach is the size of a campaign’s truly engaged audience. By eliminating extraneous accounts that do little to support a campaign’s purpose, Klout calculates the influence of that organization, taking into account factors such as whether an individual has shared or acted upon your content and the likelihood that they saw it. For instance, when entering “stop8dotorg” into the search box, Klout reported back that the Stop8.org campaign had a relatively large reach, stating that the campaign had 699 engaged audience members, which as Klout states is larger than most on Twitter. Unforunately, Klout does not show which of these are the most influential.

Amplification Probability is the likelihood that followers and advocates alike will actually take action on that campaign’s content. This includes the probability that someone would like your comments on Facebook or the likelihood someone would tweet about your campaign or retweet what a campaign shares in their Twitter feed. Amplification probability also takes into account engagement, the velocity of your content, as well as your activity level and effectiveness. In the case of Stop8.org, Klout shows that the campaign has 49 total retweets, 19 @ mentions, and has a 0.72 inbound/outbound ratio.
Finally, Network Influence indicates how influential a particular campaign’s engaged audience; their level of engagement is measured based on actions such as retweets, @messages, follows, lists, comments, and likes. Each time a person performs one of these actions, it bolsters the strength your content has in the social media realm and the quality of that content. For Stop8.org, Klout details that the campaign does well when deciding whom to follow online regarding influencers. However, the tool dictates that Stop8.org could do better using @ mentions in its strategy, therefore directing its tweets to others specifically.

One other useful measurement Klout provides is its Influence Matrix. Here, Klout shows who a particular campaigns influence and who influences that campaign in return, doing so via a variety of factors including retweets, @messages, follows, and lists. For Stop8.org, Klout classifies it as a “specialist,” stating, “You may not be a celebrity, but within your area of expertise your opinion is second to none. Your content is likely focused around a specific topic or industry with a focused, highly-engaged audience.” It also shows who the most likely influencers are to the campaign, which would allow Stop8.org to track those influencers and take advantage of their networks for further disseminating information about marriage equality.

Overall, Klout gives valuable information about how well an organization is doing online and working towards amplifying their advocacy messages, as well as how engaged they are with their network of current supporters and advocates.  One recommendation would be that Klout could be clearer about the initial Klout score and the actual Klout score. While it can give an organization a boost of confidence if their score is on the high side – say 80 out of 100 versus 30 – the score does seem to be somewhat arbitrary without specific understanding of how it all works.

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Online Tools of the Trade When Measuring Impact

In a previous post, I discusses Alan Rosenblatt’s recommendations the basic elements  to accurately measure the impact of your social media campaign as well as the major rules to follow when engaging with others via social media tools, particular Twitter. As social media is paramount for advocacy campaigns to grow and become successful, these two articles shed light on the best practices for organizations to reach their ROI. This post recaps those main points while incorporating what I’ve experiences when working with online metrics tools.

1. Audience Size: This is probably the most obvious of the ways to see how far your advocacy program’s reach is. By seeing how many people have began to follow your Twitter handle, how many people “liked” your campaign’s Facebook page, and even how many people have joined your website’s email database, you can get a sense of whether or not you are reaching your campaign’s online potential.

One of the best tools I used to gauge the strength of audience size would be Klout. When I used Stop8.org’s campaign as an example, Klout provided metrics on how strong Stop8.org’s reach was and where it needed to grow. It also provided a great data visualizer whereby one could track the growth of the campaign day by day.

2. Hashtags: Hashtags — for those who don’t know — are a way for Twitter users to create searches amongst the cacophany of conversations happening in the Twitter sphere. When someone posts their tweet, they add a “#” and term. For instance, “#equality” is what many Twitter users use as a hashtag when talking about the gay marriage debate. Then, when you are in Twitter you can click on the “#equality” and Twitter will then pull up all the Tweets that have the same hashtag. This is an excellent way to see if others are picking up on your campaign.

A fantastic tool to monitor hashtags is SocialMention. Again, when using Stop8.org, the tool was able to provide the most used hashtags by those who follow the same topics, such as #GLBT, #DOMA, and #equality. By adding these hashtags, Stop8.org can how integrate its tweets within the online community that follows campaigns similar to its own.

3. Impressions: You can use tools like Backtype.com to see how many times someone has tweeted your campaign’s website’s URL. This is huge as it lets you know whether or not you are promoting your site appropriately. One may also want to consult Google Analytics as well (if you are unfamiliar with this, definitely check it out!).

Bit.ly is another excellent tool for tracking the number of times one’s URL or links have been shared. By shortening one’s links and adding a “+” to it, Bit.ly lets you track where a link has been shared and by how many. Since Bit.ly creates smaller, more easily used URLs, this functionality is great for Twitter’s 140 character limit.

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Understanding Monitoring Tools: SocialMention vs Addictomatic

Organizations need to be fully aware about their reputation and their campaigns’ online presence in order to design and create both persuasive messaging and a strategic online outreach plan. With there being hundreds of online outlets to monitor, the only way to amass and sort through the sea of information provided is through online tools that do the work for you. This paper will discuss two of these tools – Addictomatic and SocialMention — and how they work, their strengths and weaknesses, and the strategies to use the tool for advocacy purposes.

Addictomatic (www.addictomatic.com)

Addictomatic is an online monitoring tool that aggregates various sources of news and information into one online dashboard. The system is pretty simple and the interface easy to understand, even for those unaccustomed to doing online research or outreach. Once on the homepage, a campaigner can enter their campaign’s name or topic into the search box. Afterward, Addictomatic begins to crawl through various online portals for any mentions of that search term. For instance, if one was to enter “gay marriage” into the search box and click on “create,” Addictomatic will bring up all tweets on Twitter, videos on YouTube, blogs created on WordPress, and many other selections that have “gay marriage” somewhere in their description or post. Once finished, Addictomatic aggregates how much or how little coverage there is on “gay marriage” in the online arena by parsing it out in different buckets for every social media, news or search outlet.

There are many strengths to Addictomatic as an online monitoring tool when used for a campaign’s communication strategy. The first is the ease of use. As mentioned, the only action a user must do to begin the process is enter in the topic they wish to aggregate, click “create,” and Addictomatic does the rest. This is incredibly important for budding organizations that are not familiar with monitoring campaigns and the ways to find information. This feeds into the second strength, which is Addictomatic’s inherent ability to save any campaign the time of having to scour the Internet for mentions of their campaign, one site at a time.

Also, Addictomatic allows its users to customize the landing page in various ways. The first way is by choosing the areas of the Internet a campaign wishes to monitor by selecting the “Available Sources” tab at the top of the screen and selecting those outlets that campaign cares most about. As mentioned previously, this includes the most used social media tools – Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – to blog platforms like WordPress and even search engines like Bing.com. Addictomatic even allows campaigns to view results from social bookmarking sites like Delicious and Digg. Once a campaign chooses the outlets they wish to monitor, that campaign can then order the way Addictomatic displays the results by dragging and dropping the results boxes in the user’s preferred order.

However, while it is a powerful tool to monitor the online landscape, Addictomatic does leave some room for improvement. For one, when a user clicks on “more results” under a particular result – say, Twitter – Addictomatic directs the user out of its website to Twitter to see more results instead of keeping it within the same interface. This can become cumbersome to switch between browser windows versus keeping the user within the same tool. Instead, Addictomatic should show the results within the same site, providing a “Return to Results” link back to the original dashboard. Addictomatic also does not let one save their results; it only allows you to bookmark them in your social media accounts. This can be a tedious process if one wishes to track how the mentions have changed over time. Therefore, a suggestion for the tool would be for them to allow users to create an account which would save their search terms and setting. This would also allow a campaign to see how the results have changed over the course of their search and if there are more mentions.

SocialMention (www.socialmention.com)

SocialMention, like Addictomatic, is also an aggregator of content as it relates to a particular topic or issue. As described on the website, “It allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time. Social Mention monitors 100+ social media properties directly including: Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Google etc.” Just like Addictomatic, a campaign can enter a search term – the name of their organization or the issue they advocate for – and SocialMention will bring up the results. The tool also allows you to choose the outlets you wish to search in on its homepage, or search through all of them if the campaign wishes to do so. This flexibility is great if an issue advocacy campaign has been targeting a particular social media outlet over others.

However, unlike Addictomatic, SocialMention takes monitoring online outlets to another level by providing important metrics a campaign to use to its benefit, namely: (1) Strength – the likelihood that the search term has been mentioned in social media; (2) Sentiment – the ration of positive to negative comments about that particular search term; (3) Passion – how often advocates would be discussing a issue or campaign; and (4) Reach – measure of range of influence, or how often a campaign is mentioned in the online arena. These metrics help an issue advocacy group know on a basic level how it needs to position itself and a quick snapshot on what it needs to work on regarding these particular metrics.

SocialMention also has other beneficial features, too. One, the tool helps an organization know how many mentions about their campaign are positive, neutral, or negative, and then aggregate results based on those parameters. This is good to find out not only what has been said about your organization or issue, but also who online are the most vocal about your issue.  This allows advocacy organizations to engage with these individuals – regardless of stance – and invite those individuals in a meaningful dialog and taking the communication to a 3-dimensional level. Secondly, SocialMention aggregates the top users of the term or campaign name, including the most-used hashtags in Twitter. This is extremely important for an organization as they can incorporate these terms/hashtags into their online political strategy and target their messages accordingly. SocialMention also allows users to download statistics – sentiment, top keywords, top users, and top hashtags – for campaigns to have on hand for when developing their next social media outreach plan. And, third, SocialMention allows you to create daily alerts on your search terms, emailing you the results and allowing you to more easily track your influence online.

SocialMention does have a few drawbacks in its implementation. While the monitoring tool does allow its user to organize the feed based on type of media by choosing that media in the top navigation, it does not allow the user to be more granular and choose a specific outlet within that media. For instance, if you choose “microblogs,” SocialMention shows the aggregate of mentions within Facebook and Twitter. However, an issue advocacy group cannot segment the results down to just one or the either. This can make the interface difficult to use when trying to target specific social media.

Another drawback is in how SocialMention defines, “positive,” “negative,” and “neutral” mentions of particular key words, making that functionality less-than perfect. While it does offer help canister some mentions appropriately, most end up falling in the “neutral” category, meaning an organization still must sift through those results with a keen eye when looking to create conversations online.

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How Obama Leveraged Social Media in the 2008 Presidential Campaign

In, “Learning From Obama: Lessons for Online Communicators in 2009 and Beyond,” Colin Delany details  President Obama’s strategy, campaign structure and technology, online outreach and recruiting, field organizing, voter/volunteer mobilization and of course online fundraising when he ran for office in 2008. Breaking up the campaign into different sections — from how to properly organize the campaign to how to properly raise money online — Delaney offers a how-to guide for any advocacy organization to follow if they want to have a comprehensive online strategy for their campaign. As Delaney states, “His drive to the White House has obvious implications for future political candidates, but everyone from neighborhood activists to corporate marketers can learn from aspects of his online odyssey,” focusing on 6 major themes:

  1. The Obama organization integrated online communications into its overall structure and processes
  2. Obama’s internet communications strategy aimed at concrete, focused and measurable goals, both online and in the real world
  3. The campaign used the internet to put supporters to work substantively both in- person and online
  4. The campaign carefully targeted much of its online outreach
  5. The Obama operation treated the supporter relationship as a two-way street
  6. Fundamentally, Obama’s campaign looked upon supporters as a resource to be maintained with great care

The one aspect I found the most intriguing in the OFA campaign was how the team put just as much interest and thought into its online strategy as it did in fundraising or any other aspect of its overall strategy. While many find using social media just an additional segment of communications — something insofar as thinking of online usage an afterthought to the overall communications plan — Obama understood that focusing on social media was paramount and made sure to integrate his online strategy with all other aspects of his campaign. As Delaney states:

… Obama’s new media department was NOT a part of the campaign’s tech team. Instead, it was an independent branch of the campaign, coequal with communications, field and finance, and was in fact as much a client of the technology folks as, say, the press department was. Like other department heads, new media team leader Joe Rospars was a central part of the campaign’s top-level planning and decision-making processes, and he reported directly to overall campaign manager David Plouffe…Obama’s campaign managers employed a completely different model. They saw that online organizing has become as central to modern political campaigning as direct mail, field organizing, advertising and media relations, and that the the internet can in fact become the backbone of campaign functions from fundraising to turning out voters on election day. Miss that point, and you miss one of the central lessons of 2008.

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Red Cross Using LivingSocial for Fundraising

As I was doing my usual perusing of  daily deals to save money,  I came across The Red Cross offering to donate $10 for the price of $5 on LivingSocial. This is the first time I have ever seen any advocacy group be willing to use this form of social media for purposes of fundraising. What’s brilliant about this isn’t just that they are making it cheaper for people to donate more to an amazing cause, but LivingSocial allows you to share deals with others via SMS, email, Twitter and Facebook as well. Therefore, the possible reach of this campaign is huge.

 

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