Thursday, October 19, 2006

engage your constituents

I just got back to the office after making my presentation at the Six Apart Business Blogging Seminar. It went well (I think). At least I feel pretty good about it and I didn't vomit.

(It's the small stuff, you know?)

I presented my Top Ten Tips for Engaging Your Constituents and Moving Your Issue in the Digital World -- a title that is entirely too long. (Shoot me.)

Here are the tips:

1. You don't necessarily need to teach the old dog new tricks. While corporate American is only just starting to jump on board, political campaigns and issue advocacy groups have been trailblazers in using the Internet and, more specifically, social media, to achieve their goals. Among other things, they understand the importance of making "personal" contact with their constituents and they understand that they need the active participation of volunteers to spread their message via word of mouth. Think Dean in 2004. Think McCain in 2000.

2. Listen. We all want to feel like we're being heard. Social media provides an amazing opportunity to provide a forum for your supporters and potential supporters. But setting up a mechanism to allow them to speak without making a sincere and demonstrable effort to actually LISTEN to what your supporters are saying won't make it through the bullsh*t filter. Watch this clip of a conversation between UK Conservative Party leader David Cameron and his webmaster. They are working to develop a solution for how to truly listen to what Cameron's supporters are trying to say.

3. Start a conversation. Take that listening a step further. Go beyond a two way dialogue between the candidate/advocacy group and the supporters. What you are truly aiming to do is to get people talking OUTSIDE of your little corner of the digital world: both your opponents and your supporters. You've achieved success when people are talking about your issue on multiple (influential) sites and blogs and word of mouth is growing at an exponential level. Look at what the (RED) campaign has been able to achieve in a week.

4. Give 'em something to do. Be thoughtful about what you are asking your supporters to do. Don't just ask them to make a donation or sign up for an email alert. Empower them to feel like they can have an impact. If they are going to commit to the issue, they need to own it in the same way you do. Give them something manageable but substantial to do and they'll do it.

5. Door knocking works in the digital world too. If we all stuck to our own blogs and didn't take the time to look around and participate in conversations by posting comments, then this whole social media phenomenon would be anything but. (Try to envision 55 million people standing on their own separate soapbox. Who's left to listen?) Invest energy in creating dialogue on your site and, as I said in #3, encouraging other people to speak on your behalf, but take it a step further and contribute to conversations on other sites. Don't try to force the conversation back to your topic -- truly participate. And be transparent about who you are -- you'll get points for doing so and you'll lose points if you don't.

6. Know who's influential. We have a list of criteria that we use to assess the influence of a blogger. It's not that we think other bloggers aren't worth our time, it's just that you want to understand the kind of reach the bloggers who are talking about your issues/candidate might have. Those criteria include the following (in no particular order): affiliation of the blogger; number of recent links to the blog; prominence on search engine results for relevant search terms; current posts; industry mentions/inclusion on "top blog" lists (like Technorati); and number of substantive comments generated.

7. Make it personal. We expect to have personalized content, whether it's to read the news that we want to read or to participate in an online community. Personalizing the content for your supporters not only helps to meet that expectation, but also increases the likelihood that you'll give them a sense of ownership and belief that they can have a meaningful impact.

8. Be remarkable. You can't get people talking unless you do something worth talking about.
Don't force it and don't be controversial just to be controversial. There is no magic recipe, but video doesn't become viral just because you say so.

9. Be honest (and transparent). Don't screw around with this one. Not only will you get caught, but it's antithetical to the point of social media.

10. It's not about the toys. In the end, don't get trapped into thinking that alll you need is a wiki, a widget and a podcast. You need to meet your goals and you need to figure out the best way to use social media to help you to achieve those goals in a smart and strategic way.

Have any others to add to the list?


Kristen said...

I go away to Vegas for the weekend, I come back, and you have written up a storm. Gah! This is awesome. I'm going to download it and read through it at my leisure later. Will probably blog about it too.

Douglass said...

Alison, thanks for posting your tips. I was the tall red-haired guy from Indianapolis near the front at stage left who asked a lot of questions. You might even see me down the road at another workshop, depending on $$$. In the meantime, I'm add WKWWGT and Ogilvy's blog to NewsGator. A lot got said during that workshop; it was definitely worth the trip.

Are you or anyone else from Ogilvy going to be at the Blog Business Summit in Seattle later this week?

-- Doug Davidoff

abf said...

Thanks, Kristen. Hope it made for good reading.

abf said...

Thanks for stopping by, Doug, and for asking lots of questions. It's much better than the alternative. I don't think anyone from Ogilvy is going to be at the Summit out in Seattle. Are you going?