Organizing social activism and government advocacy online #nxnei

Posted by Andrea Wahbe

Day two of the NXNE Interactive conference kicked-off this morning with two presentations focused on how social media can empower people to unite and impact change in their communities.

In the first session, entitled “Turning Social Web Slacktivism to Offline Activism,” Boyd Neil, PR firm Hill & Knowlton’s social media practice leader presented case studies on how successful social activists and protest groups have managed to use social media to influence effective offline action– just like in Egypt earlier this year.

Neil shared seven key organizing principles:

  1. Don’t make us think too much – create easy ways for us to act (i.e. online petitions, etc.)
  2. Connect with your audience everywhere – including blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  3. Use social tools to organize your groups both online and locally
  4. Identify local network leaders and teach them how to organize in their area
  5. Learn and use social activism resources to help you develop your strategy
  6. Make it personal and don’t forget that thousands of small, collective actions are powerful
  7. Create content that rocks – see the online video animation below for inspiration

Greenpeace example of using a simple animated video to influence action against the use of coal:

Sharing data openly with governments

The next session that I attended was entitled “Friends or ‘Frienemy’ With Public Engagement?” Panel speakers Colin McKayPolicy and Government  and Joseph Porcelli, along with moderator Darren Chartier discussed how the Canadian public and governments can utilize social media to openly share information and impact policy. They agreed that it's a challenge for government officials to use tools like Twitter because internal approval processes often take too long to match the speed at which Twitter messages require a response.

Tony Clement's Twitter profile was used as a great example of how social media can work in the government's favour. Because Clement had already built up a following on Twitter, he was able to quickly answer and act on questions related to usage billing caps more easily when issues came up. However, other government officials have been a little slower to adopt social media tools because of their fear of being perceived as “snooping” on public profiles and data.

The panelists said that unfortunately, the government is reluctant to break down demographic data about their online followers the way that private companies do. Until it is perceived as ok to do so by the public, their online presence and the user experience on their websites will not be as robust as it can be.

The conversation then flowed to the issue of open data and the need for governments to not only make access to the data that they collect open to the public but also easy to use and manipulate. Sharing a PDF online is not good enough.

Finally, the question was raised as to whether it is ok for municipalities like the City of Vancouver and their police force to ask citizens to share photos and videos of the vandals during this week’s riots after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup. Most people in the audience agreed that it actually builds trust between the public and police. However, Chartier pointed out that “it needs to be two-way street” and that the police needs to be more open with the public as a result.

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Andrea Wahbe

Andrea Wahbe

Andrea Wahbe is a freelance B2B marketing strategist and corporate storyteller who has contributed to the growth of online media businesses in Canada, such as AOL and Google. By day, Andrea writes about digital media and marketing trends and tips for Canadian startups and SMEs. By night, she’s an analog book reader, master swimmer and experimental chef.  more



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