A repost of a post by Marty Kearns, my former boss and mentor, discussing how to effectively use new media. We’re currently exploring how to best use various online tools to build and support this network. Marty raises some really important points to keep in mind… Check out more of his work on Netcentric Advocacy.


December 9, 2009

This should be a wake up call for lots of online strategies that are not transparent, don’t communicate results and just leverage online work to build a base of donating click monkeys. People are not happy with the distrust shown to them online.

This study mentioned in Philanthropy of 587 PEOPLE WHO USE NEW MEDIA … has nothing to do with the failure of the platform but of the philosophy and world view of those who run organizations.

Online strategy and communications behind many organizations use of the online tools doesn’t typically engage, empower and listen. There is a high degree of distrust of online supporters by organizers and organizations.

Somehow the open and welcome culture of organizing “if they show up at a meeting engage them and work with them” has not translated into online organizing space.

Old guard leaders don’t trust their own instincts or methods used to filter “good supporters and bad supporters” in the online space and therefore they distrust all online supports and only offer them limited engagement, information or resources.

Often people are left feeling  “not trusted, disconnected, left behind and like “ATMs” because that is the true way “serious organizers” often feel toward the base.  I don’t think it is a stretch to say that this survey really is showing “message received” by the online public.

This survey hammers home that it is not a digital platform issue (since they are interviewing people that use new media.) It is an issue of strategy.

  • How would you shift strategy, listen and adapt to input from someone at a meeting of your group?  If at a meeting someone offers an idea? leadership or volunteers how would your organization react?
  • How much information would you share at a meeting? How many questions would you answer at a meeting?
  • How would you adapt to a good idea or leadership exhibited by an online supporter?
  • Now look at the same offers of ideas, leadership, questions and participation online? Do you act the same way?  Invest the same about of time? Answer the same way?

If we want to create online, scalable, diverse and fast communities to support us and work with us we must solve the “disconnect” between the way we deal with people online and offline.

  • How does your strategy build trust and engagement?
  • Do you listen? Do you have capacity organized to sustain interaction with those you connect with online?
  • How do manage new introductions? How do you build a common language and common vision with those you connect with online?
  • How do you provide feedback to others online?
  • How does your communications strategy clearly explain strategy, results and impact?
  • How do you make it easy for activist and supporters that are “overwhelmed”?
  • How do you provide training and support for those you engage online?

We need to use the “power of the internet to get things done” to solve problems and genuinely connect users to each other.  We need to do this so they can work together and coordinated way on solutions to the issues we are organizing to address.

Online network organizing is not a problem to be delt with but an opportunity to do something wonderful. Until that message seeps into the core of our organizing leadership we will be movements only able to connect with those people willing to hang out in community center basements.