My name is Richenda and I *love* slacktivists.
Working at World Vision USA and more recently World Vision Australia, I have built and engaged online communities of substantial scale. With this experience in mind, I will try to answer the questions raised by Weh in his recent blog post: Is it possible to engage slacktivists in more worthwhile causes, or should NGOs focus their energy elsewhere?
These are not easy questions to answer.
Is it possible to engage slacktivists in more worthwhile causes?
Yes, without a doubt!
People that “like” or “follow” your organisation are choosing to publicly recommend your organisation to their network and/or choosing to receive communications from you! At World Vision, we call these people our “online family”, not slacktivists! They are new, current and prospective supporters who are happy to interact with us on a daily basis.
Mashable’s feature of The Dynamics of Cause Engagement study by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Worldwide showing that slacktivists are more likely to take meaningful actions is no surprise to us.
Years of rigorous tracking and analysis has shown us that investment in our online family delivers consistent financial and non-financial returns. In addition to the activities listed above, we are also learning about the positive impact social media communication has on our long term relationships. This is important to us because our main product, Child Sponsorship, relies on long-term commitment to regular giving to support complex, often misunderstood, community development.
Not everyone in our family sponsors a child, recruits friends or rallies their local member of parliament. We know that some of our community will “like” a status once, while others contribute to content regularly and more meaningfully.
Some are silent readers, while others bring me to tears with their stories and their personal passion for social justice! (Tears from our team are not an uncommon response to these amazing stories!)
Some share stories to entice friends to become involved, while others may never publicly share content but will personally click through to make a donation.
The level of commitment within the community varies from person to person, and is influenced by the content, opportunities and conversations you give them access to. Your online community will quickly discover whether the stories you tell, the opportunities you provide and the conversations you have are valuable. Which brings me too….
Should NGOs focus their energy elsewhere?
Yes and No
Cultivating and mobilising online communities takes tremendous amount of time and resource. Any investment in this area should be well thought out, strategic and long-term. Honestly, there is no point investing in social media unless you have a solid foundation. Before investing in building an online community, an NGO should be asking:
- Is our website in good health? Are people using it to find out more about us or make donations?
- Do we utilise website tracking to understand the behaviour of visitors to our site?
- Do we have access to meaningful stories and multimedia?
- Do we have communication that explain what we do?
- Is our media team able to respond to difficult questions and criticism?
- Does our organisation see a need to stay in dialogue with supporters?
- Does our leadership understand social media and are they willing to invest in it?
If you answered “no” to any of these above questions – you should focus your energy there, instead of, or before, building a social media community. Without these fundamentals, you will find it challenging to create effective content, understand the impact of your community and engage in authentic meaningful conversations.
If you answered “yes” to all of the above – go for it! Start by building a social media strategy that aligns with your organisation’s goals for engagement and target demographic. Your strategy should drive your tactics - directing how you build your online family and the style or personality you use to engage them. To help you on your way, I have started a blog series to help demystify social media strategy and give you some practical advice.
Critics may tell you social media will produce no return. I think you will produce no return..if you are doing it wrong. If you’re doing it right, your online family will take their passion or ‘slacktivism’ into the real world. You will grow to love and respect your ‘slacktivists’ for what they really are: passionate people keen to make a difference. Trust me, I’m that annoying person on facebook that says ..