The next Melbourne Campaigners’ Network, Wednesday 2 November, will focus on Taking a Campaign Online. Here, presenter Tim Norton provides some pointers on digital campaigning to get discussion started. See below to register for the event.
The world of digital campaigning can appear enticing to some and daunting to others. It can be a never-ending world of possibilities and opportunities, or a scary foray into unchartered waters. It doesn’t have to be either, if you just employ some common sense communication principles.
The first and easiest question you should ask yourself is “Do I need to run a campaign online?” Often the answer can and should be a simple “No.” – and that’s fine, it’s about identifying the tools and methods that will best achieve your aim.
I’m constantly amused that so many people assume that the current critical mass of people on social media should dictate their own involvement. Walking past a suburban bakery the other day, I saw a hand-drawn note inviting me to follow them on Twitter. Why? To what purpose? Do I really need an update on how the sales of your pies are progressing throughout the day? That said, there are a few examples where ingenious individuals have punched through the relevance barrier and discovered a truly useful marketing angle.
It boils down to one thing – just because you can doesn’t mean you always should.
Managing a digital campaign takes time. It takes preparation. It takes commitment. Don’t assume that simply throwing your messaging onto online platforms will suffice. You have to be committed to spend the time building up relevance, reputation and spread – and this does take time.
Too many people make the mistake of assuming that social media management can be done as an amendment to usual workload. We all use Twitter and Facebook in our personal lives, so throwing in some organisational stuff on top shouldn’t be that hard, right? Wrong.
Ensure that you have the time to dedicate to planning your online campaign. This is the most critical step, and often overlooked in favour of other tasks. A few days set aside purely to identify goals, plan steps and work out timelines and responsibilities goes a long way when it comes to actually implementing your campaign. Then, once you’re underway, you must be there as part of the online community with whom you want to engage.
It doesn’t matter how you work out this workload – it can be setting aside the first 5 minutes of every hour that you are working. It can be one whole hour a day. It may be that you choose to schedule in an hour in the morning and an hour late at night (when most people are not at work and so may be online ready to listen to you) – just ensure that you recognise that a commitment to online campaigning must be upheld.
When identifying an aim for a digital campaign, it helps to go back to the overarching aims of the campaign. And that aim does not always have to be digital.
For example, if your campaign goal is to change the business practices of a particular company, digital campaigning may be just one stepping stone towards your final goal. You may choose to mobilise supporters to tweet messages of support (with the intention of spreading your message and showing community support). You may choose to target the company’s Facebook page and ask supporters to post demands and questions (visible to their supporters and therefore embarrassing to their brand). But both of these examples are merely tactics towards the same goal you set for the overall campaign – the company changes its practices.
It’s important to recognise that there are few digital campaigns that in and of themselves will be the sole place for all of your efforts. Split your campaign into clear achievable tasks – offline and online – and structure the various timeframes, resources and messaging to suit each accordingly.
An online campaign can take many forms, but the basic components are readily available to all. Yes, some of the larger organisations do have the resources, staff and ability to build very professional, very technical digital tools, but often it’s the smaller, grassroots campaigns that have more ‘heart’ to them. Don’t despair if you’re not a computer programmer.
You should have a base presence – this can be a central website, it can be a Facebook page, it can just be a Twitter account. Work out what will serve as your ‘home’ online and ensure that all relevant info is available there. This central point should also contain links or reference to all your other elements. Collecting campaign photos on Flickr? You need a link to that on the site. Talking to people on Twitter? Need a link.
Don’t over complicate things by assuming that you need to use every tool at your disposal. Identify your aims, your identity and your engagement, and it will help decide on your tools. If your campaign is heavily dependent on empowering supporters to use their own voice in your campaign, your focus might want to be on building an aggregator of multiple voices as a hub. If, on the other hand, your aim is to have a centralised campaign that is highly professional and co-ordinated, an ‘official’ Twitter account coupled with a website and YouTube account might suffice.
Scheduling is a life-saver. As I alluded to above, workload should not be underestimated, but likewise you can’t be there every second of the day. Scheduling services such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck enable you to pre-set updates to go at times you can’t be around. Got a rally planned for 2pm, but you know that you’ll be too busy organising it beforehand to think about the digital call-outs? Schedule a few in the night before and it’s all done. Of course there’s still room for reactive and responsible work, but at least the base messaging can be scheduled for you.
Collecting statistics is another important step that is often overlooked – it’s a valuable measure of your impact and very useful when later evaluating and reporting on progress. Standards like Google Analytics are very easy to activate, and some of the statistical tools built into services like Facebook are getting better by the day. Make sure you have them tracking from day one, and refer back often as they may dictate your choices throughout the campaign.
These are just a few of the topics I’ll be discussing at my online campaigning session for the Melbourne Campaigners’ Network. Hopefully it will serve as a bit of a starter (or refresher) course on how to effectively run an digital campaign. Obviously we won’t have the time to get into any real depth on particular tools or services (eg Google Analytics has amazing potential if you have the inclination to become an expert) but I’m also keen to find out what people would like to talk about on the night.
Tim Norton is the Digital Campaigns Coordinator for Oxfam Australia. Tim will be presenting on Taking a Campaign Online at the next Melbourne Campaigners’ Network. The session will explore how to effectively run a digital campaign – from strategy to tools to evaluation.
Location: The Wheeler Centre, 176 Little Lonsdale Street Melbourne
Time: 6.30pm til 8pm. Light snacks provided from 6pm. Join us for dinner and drinks afterwards at Sahara on Swanston St.
Further info: Holly Hammond – call 0421 508 446 or via the Contact page.
Twitter: #melbcamp @Holly_PTW @norton_tim