Texting To Aid Japan

In what can be described as one of the worst tragedies in decades, I am going to devote this post on how organizations are using mobile texting to donate to Japan. As we have been discussing the use of mobile technology for fundraising purposes, this is a perfect time to check it out for yourself.

If you have never donated via text before, it’s pretty simple. By texting the select verbiage to the provided short code, an organization will bill the donation to your cell phone bill. Then once you pay your bill, the money goes to that organization. It only takes a moment to do.

Below is a list of the organizations that are collecting relief money and how one can get involved:

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Mobilizing Advocacy in the 2.0

Ben Rigby provides a practical, one-stop guide on how organizations can leverage Web 2.0 technology to broaden its reach to their advocates in his book, “Mobilizing Generation 2.0: A Practical Guide to using Web 2.0.” From how to properly set up a blog to mobile advocacy programs, Rigby explains in detail the steps necessary to integrate all forms of Web 2.0 technology into a campaign plan. This blogpost will walk through Rigby’s tome and pointing out the major highlights.


Rigby begins discussing how to properly use blogs for outreach, reminding his readers that, “Starting an organizational blog is one of the fastest routes for telling the story of your candidate or cause, demonstrating expertise in your field, and engaging supporters in conversation.”Blogs allow for organizations to tell the story in their own words, providing details on a particular issue and inviting participation from readers by asking them to comment and share their views. As we have continuously heard this semester that two-communication is paramount in any successful campaign, blogs provide that outlet.

It’s important to note that in order to be successful, any blogger must be authentic in what they post, otherwise it is impossible to create a completely personal connection between an organization and its publics. Not only does lack of transparency give the wrong information, readers and commenters will find the truth somewhere else, the end result cracking the credibility of the organization and hurting its overall reputation. Campaigns also must be willing to let go of the fear of losing control, allowing openness between the organization and its publics and relying on open conversation to keep the mission of the organization in tact. Finally, a blogpost doesn’t have to be perfectly written: in fact, it’s almost more beneficial to have mistakes here and there. Doing so shows honesty.

Social Networking

We are all familiar with social networking and social media. Terms like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and then some are now part of our daily vernacular and part of our daily online practice. But in the realm of online advocacy,  Rigby states, “Hundreds of social networks exits, and within each network, people have self-organized into thousands of subgroups and cliques. Opportunities exist for recruiting new supporters, advocating for causes, and fundraising, but success requires a concerted and well-considered effort.” Put simply, you can’t just put up a Facebook page and expect people to visit on their own accord.

One of the major takeaways from this chapter beyond how to use social media properly is understanding social dynamics and discerning who the major players/influencers are within a community or cause and then designing your outreach strategy from there. Knowing whom this “inner circle” is and getting them involved will exponentially grow your community members in both numbers and respect.

Another major take away is that social media is ever-evolving. By that, I mean that the technology and platforms today may not be the hot trend down the road. While it is highly unlikely that Facebook and Twitter are dropping off the social media map anytime soon, it’s important to know the up-and-coming trends in social media and what people are using.

Video and Photo Sharing

Video and photo sharing via social media help paint the picture of what the issue is and what your advocacy group wishes to achieve. As Rigby states, “Sites like YouTube provide a low-cost and easy-to-use platform for harnessing supporters’ creative energies.” There are many ways to do this. Some ways to do this is through the use of providing video testimony, engaging supporters in conversation through sharing of pictures and video they’ve taken, and building a community of those supporting your advocacy’s mission. This form of sharing provides a pathos to your cause, not just relying on the message but engaging advocates on an emotional level that pictures and videos can only provide.


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The Rise of Mobile in the Advocacy Sphere

In this week’s readings, Harbart and Stein, Michael & Katrin Verclas discuss the importance of using mobile for advocacy purposes. Each author has a different take on what is important and how the rise of mobile usage is one all campaigns should consider.

Stein, Michael and Katrin Verclas focus more on SMS text messaging than mobile applications. In their article, they highlight four main ideas on how to harness this technology:

1. SMS – an organization can send 160 characters activating its membership to be engaged in the political process and take action on a particular cause. These messages can include updates on an event, links to alerts where advocates and can sign a petition, or just motivating messaging to keep them in the loop.

2. Ringtones – You can offer up ringtones for advocates to use, which keeps them mentally in the game.

3. Short Codes – Using a six-digit mobile short code, advocates can text it to receive valuable information about that campaign. You can buy these short codes from various sites online and then incorporate them into your print and direct mail pieces, such as flyers, posters or postcards.

4. Fundraising – Through mobile campaigns, one can receive a link that would send them to an online donation form. That, or they can simply donate through the campaign itself and then that donation is tacked onto that advocate’s cell phone bill.

With this said, there are multiple things to keep in mind when trying to create a successful mobile campaign. For one, it is important to understand your audience and whether or not they would be wanting to provide their cell phone numbers for alerts and donations in the first place. Best way to figure this out would be to begin offering the option on your campaign’s website and see how quickly the list grows. If this does not work, try setting up a survey on your campaign website instead and see what the reaction is. Secondly, make sure you have a clear and concise call to action and a purpose for having the mobile campaign. Don’t waste your advocates time and valuable texts. Third, make sure to incorporate your text messaging into all of your deliverables so that it’s always accessible. And fourth, make sure to test your messages and see what works and what does not. Do not simply rest on one type of messaging to always create action amongst your advocates.

Text messaging isn’t the only type of mobile strategy there is. Harbarth makes a strong claim that, “people need to stop thinking about mobile just in terms of text messaging and expand that view to include all mobile browsing and various apps.” Typically when we think of mobile campaigns, we are drawn to the conclusion that this only involves the use of SMS or text messaging but the reality is, is that many here in the US are moving to smartphones and is loving the concept of a new and technology savvy app. But there are a couple issues to keep in mind when moving onto this tactic:

1. You cannot create an app with only one ask and then expect users to continously use it. Simply just having an app for donations won’t do. It must incorporate action alerts, news, events, video and images to keep the users attention. Not only this, but it must be kept up to date and refreshed with new content.

2. The cost of apps is not cheap. If you are an organization that has limited budget, consider how important it is to have an app in the first place before you decide to spend the money. Consider putting a survey up on your site asking if people would be interested would be one way to discern if this would be a good idea.

3. Make sure the app offers something that other apps do not. With the sea of applications being as large as it is, there must be something about it that will draw others to want to download it. Test images, messages, and concepts beforehand.

Another issue that was brought up in class was the topic of optimizing one’s website for mobile web versus spending the money on a mobile app. To be honest, this is an excellent way to save money and achieve the same results. The only issue here is making sure to incorporate this into your overall campaign’s strategy. Make sure your website is visible everywhere and sent via text.

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Tips on Growing your Mobile Advocacy List

This week we discussed using mobile for advocacy purposes. One of the issues that came up was building your list and best practices: do you put a place on your site for possible advocates to sign up organically or do you buy a list? Well, Mobile Commons has the answer.  They are a mobile strategy firm that offers solutions to how their product can help grow your list and what tricks to the trade you can use to do so. Here are some snippits from their site:

Leverage Existing Media

Think about all the different types of media and communication your organization is already doing and how a call-to-action could fit in. Are people signing petitions on your web site? Just add a mobile number field and let people join over the web. Sending out an email newsletter? Drop in a link to your mobile sign-up page. Do you have print materials such as posters or paper mailing? Add instructions for people to send a text message and opt-in.

Use Social Networks

Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are excellent places to start spreading your message and growing your list.

Grow Your Email List

Use Mobile Commons to collect all sorts of information from your supporters. Our platform automatically recognizes email addresses and zip codes inside text messages, so you can ask people to reply with information and build out your database. For example, when people opt in at a live event, you can send an automated reply asking for email address. When they respond, that email is captured, added to their profile, and ready for exporting or sychnronizing with your CRM database.

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Measuring Impact and Reach of Engagement in Social Media Campaigns

Alan Rosenblatt provides details on how ways 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.

How Far are You Reaching?

In the first article, Rosenblatt defines reach as, “the size of your audience and how many people see your social advocacy messages. Reach features your largest success metric number—the number of people who see (potentially) your message.” Simply put, who’s getting your message and how. Per Rosenblatt, there are four simple means you can use to meausre how far your messaging is going:

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.

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.

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!).

4. Analyzing Your Followers: This could be the most arduous but at the same time important measure of reach you could do. Typically we just pull the trigger on as many social media tools as possible and hope the shrapnel will hit the most important influencers out there. But you have to be willing to take the time and analyze all the impressions and comments to really see who has said what. By doing so, you can identify key players in the conversation and then strategize how to target subgroups appropriately.


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Discussing US Bankruptcy in Social Media

While at a local adult beverage establishment (read: bar), I happened to come across a poster from BankruptingAmerica.org — a grassroots organization exploring, “the policies hindering economic opportunity and growth in America.  The project focuses on the causes of the country’s current economic downturn and the future implications of careless policy-making.” What caught my eye wasn’t that they were advertising at this location. Many people of all ages and walks of life have interest in how the government spends it money and the economic future of our country. What peaked my interest was their use of text messaging as a means to get people involved, asking those interested in learning more to text the word “CUT” to a short code of 26747 for alerts on the topic and get people engaged. As we are coming up on the heels of our mobile advocacy conversation in class, I thought this to be an excellent example of how organizations integrating traditional advertising methods of advocacy with new technology.

They are also using the same campaign on Twitter and Facebook, asking people to take action on polls and alerts. As Alan Rosenblatt stated, this is a wise decision as while each separate strategy may not have a large impact, the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts. Now if they were only into include a QR code which would link them to more alerts or their website, they would be going the extra mile to adapt to emerging technologies.

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Media Advocacy And Taking it One Step Further

I really enjoyed Harry Weisbren’s article in the Huffington Post discussing the important of “amplifying” media advocacy beyond traditional media outlets and felt that he grasped the importance of outreach and leveraging one’s message through media channels. Below are two major takeaways from the article:

Get the Media to Speak For you

One of the major traditional methods of message dissemination is through mainstream media. And as much as possible, mainstream media needs to be as objective as possible. However, when a major news outlet — say, The New York Times or Washington Post — write about your issue campaign, they are esssentially advocacting on you behalf. As Weisbren states, “Even if the media outlet is attempting to be an objective source, their passing along news of the advocacy — while highlighting certain issues and promoting specific sources — has a large persuasive power on its own. The key is that media empowers the advocacy when this happens favorably, as it acts as a vehicle for the arguments to persuade a wider audience.” And regardless of avenue for disemmination, whether it be online, print, TV or radio, the message is still out there and has the possibility to persuade others to take action.

Combining “Social” with “Media” = Social Media = Good!

So you’ve begun to attract media outlets to your issue advocacy campaign and they’re beginning to write about it. But how do you take it even farther? DING! Social Media! As Weisbren states, “Outside media outlets do not need to be solely relied upon as favorable vehicles for the advocacy, and the open and interactive nature of social media fosters dialogues where monologues would otherwise reign. This not only enriches the debate, but also simultaneously spreads it to new audiences merely by publishing the arguments within it.” You’ve got the argument set for or against a particular issue, you’ve gotten that arguments covered by a major news organization, now it’s time to get the conversation going. Social media allows for the discussion to go farther than the traditional one-way modes of communication traditional media provides (although comments on stories online have changed this quite a bit). Through the ability to share these news stories via Facebook and Twitter, the conversation can become viral and move about a variety of circles for further discussion.

The two-prong approach above: get major news coverage of your issue advocacy campaign and then begin distributing the stories and persuasive messaging amongst others via social media, is a sure fire way to get the conversation going and push your initiative to the next level of succcess.

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