Designing online to offline engagement

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Online to offline activism notes

  • The challenges are different for a one-time event vs. being a long-term member
  • Why don’t people show up (after they’ve committed)?
  • GOTV and showing up for an organization are very different.

Some examples: Manufactured Housing Action – working with folks in mobile homes in 8 states, organized entirely through Facebook, and got people to join together.

A San Diego group who targeted non-English speakers with Facebook ads to promote translated versions of the documentation.

DogPAC – Used and contacted a large variety of dog-related groups, got a lot of folks to come out. Got a couple hundred people on short notice for local dog-related ordnances.

Is better privacy-wise than targeting people by language on Facebook because Meetup is made up of self-selected folks?

One of the successes of online organizing is its ability to get people to commit to a single ask. Offline is a lot harder if we’re asking folks to self-organize.

A sense of community (and not just something you all want to stop) can make something into less of an ask. If you’re asking folks to meet up with folks who are their community rather than strangers, greater success. “Hang out with my friends while we register people to vote” instead of “Let’s ask people to register to vote.”

The goal is to scale.

Digital connections aren’t magic. Nor are on-the-ground organizers. You need both, for their own purposes.

Multiple modes of communication over and over again?

As a musician, the most successful method of getting people to come to shows was to talk to authorities/influencers (DJs, etc.)

Online promotion is important to get people to come to offline monthly meetings. Newsletters. Cultivation is important. Obviously(?) bigger issues will generate bigger responses.

A local hackerspace had weekly events. One person had an idea: “All meetings are now parties.” Business would get discussed but it’s not a drag.

Having advocacy 101 trainings (monthly) helped integrate new folks, especially non-affected allies. It helped boost connections to allied organizations and shunt people into those organizations.

The importance of follow-up. Might be interesting to experiment with multiple follow-ups.

  • It’s easier to blow off a Facebook event vs. a person who reached out to you.

Don’t list an event’s location – just time and place. Make them interact with you (and get their info).

Connecting to existing organizations is important – especially if you’re a national group trying to coordinate locally.

ActionNetwork has a distributed event tool that lets you collect local activists’ data and share it with a national group.

Asking “When can I expect to see you?” even if you have drop-in hours has an impact.

Often working-class folks (esp. immigrants and POC) aren’t reachable via Facebook.

  • Use the tools that are common in the community – e.g. use Wechat in Asian communities
  • Use Facebook ads to see who in your demographic/geographic area are reachable via Facebook. You can do that without paying.

Radio, local TV and print media are still viable tools. Churches, religious institutions as well. Laundromats. Postal mail.

Social anxiety? is a community message board that verifies you live where you say you live. It’s chit-chat, but not like Facebook. People start topics – e.g. stolen packages, more vs. less police in your neighborhood. “I’ve never met those folks IRL but they’re my online neighbors.”

Most hackerspaces allow folks to communicate via IRC even when they’re physically present to allow for folks who have trouble interacting in a verbal conversation.