Starting a Digital Activist Group
less then 1 minute
One of the best places to start an activist group is online because it allows for you to start organizing with low fixed costs. In this article, we will talk about the basic to start an online political or issues-based campaign.
Starting the Campaign
To start any political or issue campaign you have to choose a scoop, and while most people what to start and organize nationwide the problem comes down to scale because while a national organization saying they have 750,000 members might seem impressive, but they have no real influence because their support will be spread across 50 states, 210 designated market areas, 435 congressional districts, which have approximately 700,000 voters each, and 3,141 counties and county equivalents.
The other thing that you will have to keep in mind is the cost because the more you spend on basics (IE. website, lists, and services) the more you will have to raise before you can spend on advocacy. So it is best to start locally and grow from there, but no matter what the scale of the organization is you will first need is a Website to be your digital outreach base for your political or advocacy campaign.
Getting Up and Running
The first thing that you will need is a website to bass your digital campaign outreach from. The website doesn’t have to be complicated it can be a simple static website hosted for free by GitHub Pages, but should include email sign up, donate, and a blog for your content. It will also help if you familiarize yourself with a Spread Sheet program because this will be how you will organize your data (. IE volunteers, social media IDs, donor records) at the beginning of your campaign.
Thing to Keep in Mind
While it may seem easier to use an all-in-one system like NationBuilder the problem is that most of the tools are ad-ones and the ones that don’t have free equivalents like MeshFire for social media listening tool.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that pivot tables are a strong tool that is included in spreadsheet programs and can handle the volume of data you will have at the beginning. So make sure that you know the full cost before you start with an all-in-one service because it can add unnecessary cost to your campaign in the early stages.
The very first thing you will need to do is obtain a domain name the best place to start is Google Domain because places like GoDaddy will buy the domain name that you search for through their website forcing you to use them. Once you have the domain name make sure to claim it on every social media account from Facebook to GitHub any anything else you can think of. This step is to make sure that people don’t assume your organization identity on a platform you don’t use.
The basic cost of a website depends on how much you are willing to do yourself. The cheapest option will be creating a static website for the landing page, and use a Static Site Generator like Jekyll to maintain a blog. While this way is by far the cheapest you will need to know how to build a simple website and be able to integrate some third party services. Another option is to use a WordPress site. The biggest benefit of this solution is that you don’t need to know anything about a website. This is because every web host has 1 click WordPress set-up, and there is plenty of theme marketplace like Themeforest that have non-for profit and campaign web themes. The biggest problem is the cost because while you can host a WordPress site for $5 per month it will crash the moment you go viral, and the only way to avoid the problem is to spend anywhere from $50 to $250 a month on hosting.
Digital Campaign Strategy (Why You Need a Blog)
Up until this point we have talked about having a blog, but haven’t really explained why. The reason why you need a blog is very simple it is the best platform for you to get your voice out because while Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, and SnapChat might have more users they limit your content too much and should be as platforms to promote your content from your blog. A great example of this is every digital facing issue advocacy group like Humans Rights Campaign. This type of blog-based strategy is Content Marketing and is one of the main pillars of digital advocacy campaigns.
How to Create Content
Content Is King is an often said mantra in digital marketing for good reason. Quality content will drive traffic and help you create a broader organization narrative beyond your mission statement and about page. For an Online Activist Group and Political and Issue Campaign there 3 types of content that will help your effort.
Press Release: Should be short and act as announcements for the Organization, such as fundraising number or upcoming event. While a lot of people will copy the text into twitter it is better to link to it with a twitter card and retweet it multiple time through the day.
Technical: Are either research or policy on your issue. While reporting on other research or policy initiatives is ok. It is better for you to do original work, which is often a key component to this type of content getting shared.
Narrative: This is a personal story that talks about the effects of not acting on your issue, and should try to create an emotional connection with an uplifting ending.
Consumer psychologist Dr. Brent Coker from the University of Melbourne has identified four key elements present in viral videos, and revealed four common factors:
- Shareability’ on social media. The video content must make the sharer look good to their peers.
- Viewers must be able to connect to the content. Activating memories via music and nostalgia are key to getting the audience to connect to the video.
- Large emotional range. Clips that quickly take the viewer from an emotional low (sadness or unfairness) to an emotional high (joy, love or justice) are more likely to go viral.
- ‘Frisson’ or primitive feeling of excitement or thrill. There is often a physical response to a viral video, hairs standing on the back of the neck and goosebumps.
While the 4 points look at the video the first can easily be applied to blogs and depending on what social media platforms you use videos are always an option.
Keep Content Local
If you have decided to keep your effort locally then you will need to make sure that your content is local also. This means focusing less on national news and more about local councils. By writing local you are letting search engines know that your activist organization is for a local cause.
This will help the most for what search engines view as local searches some examples of search treated as local are:
Where to vote on election day
When does early voting start
Where to volunteer
and while most people have seen Google answer these questions throughout the Presidential Election they still don’t cover municipal and special elections.
When you look at what social media platforms to use it is best to use Facebook plus one other to start with, but don’t forget to register your name for every social media platform so no can take it. The major reason for using only 2 platforms to start with is because it is better to do Facebook and SnapChat well compared to be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, interest, SnapChat, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
The main purpose for using social media is to engage with your supporters and help your campaign disseminate content from your blog. The best way to do that is to reach out to influencers to share your content with their larger following with the hope they follow your account. The key goal is to drive traffic to your site so the user completes an action like to donate or sign-up for a newsletter.
Warning About Twitter
Twitter is one of the best platforms and might have more reach than Facebook given how content can go viral much quicker and can spread outside of a group more easily. That being said, you are more likely to face trolls and bot driven harassment. When you choose a platform make sure that you have a well thought out social media policy because on Twitter not knowing who to respond to and how to respond can lead you to cause your problems, and alienating support.
Before you start fundraising to make sure that you are following your state laws for issue and political organizations
The main tool for digital fundraising will be your email list. While most people think it is social media that assumption is wrong. The ALS Association Ice Bucket Challenge went viral it was the exception most campaigns 2% of their donation referrals from social media. The best online examples fundraising through emails are President Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders shows how strong it can be. The key takeaway from both of their campaigns is that you should ask often and create a sense of urgency.
Putting All Together
With your campaign website and social media accounts up and running the last step you will have to do is put it all together. This means that you should start working on content to populate your advocacy site and try to schedule a set number of post and tweets each week. You will also have to start with your social media outreach to influencers to help get your content to the right people to grow your following in a meaningful way. Make sure you set clear and achievable goal so that you measure the success of each action so you know what works best for your advocacy organization.