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Six great social media and tech websites for activists

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First, a bit of context. I don't think social media tools are the magic bullet! If you're in doubt, read Malcolm Gladwell's article "The Revolution will not be Tweeted". Gladwell argues that Facebook, Twitter and other online tools build weak ties between a lot of people. But what we need for revolution, Gladwell argues, are people who are willing to sacrifice a lot, and sacrifice depends upon deep ties with people. Chances are you won't risk your life for a Facebook friend.

Now I agree with the general premise of Gladwell's article, but I think he's a bit too black and white. Online tools can help a lot of people participate a little -- which is in itself important. (Think online petitions!) Online tools can and DO help people move up the ladder of the engagement so their online work translates to effective offline activism. And third, online tools have proven to be fantastic at sharing information and coordinating high-risk offline actions. The Occupy Together movement is doing a great job with their meetup website which shares information and helps people and the media connect with on-the-ground actions. Ignore social media at your own peril.

For those who are delving into social media, check out these six fantastic websites geared specifically for activists and non-profit types. Thank you to Moveon.org's Robin Beck for suggesting some of these resources.

1. Echoditto

Founded by organizers who met on the groundbreaking Howard Dean campaign for president, Echoditto helps political groups harness the power of online organizing. Here are some useful web resources I found at Echoditto.org:

1. How to use google analytics;

2. Best advocacy websites;

3. A compelling deconstruction of Gladwell's above-mentioned article; and

4. Best practices for sending emails.

2. Idealware

Idealware is another consulting firm with a huge amount of resources on their website, including:

1. An evaluation of the various online petition tools circulating out there;

2. Tools for measuring the effectiveness of your online communications;

3. The annual Social Media Decision guide, which is a campaign strategy guide geared to helping non-profits develop a social media plan. The guide includes advice on how to decide which social media channels would work best for your goals; and

4. A guide that evaluates mass email marketing services, from sending emails out from a google group account to mailchimp.

(I am quite a fan of mailchimp.  I like that it's free for groups with 2000 subscribers or less. I like that mailchimp tracks my click through rates and other relevant information. I like that I can design and choose the colours of my email and sign up page. I like that it gives me code to put a "sign up" button my website (although this button is ugly.) I like that I can send test emails. And I like mailchimp's easy-to-understand guides.)

3. Groundwire

Groundwire is yet another non-profit consulting firm, this time based in Seattle. Groundwire is geared to helping environmental groups, but their resources and blog posts are relevant to all activisty types.

Check out Groundwire's article on best practice writing for the web. Think concise, catchy, with lots of HEADINGS, links that integrate into your sentences (in other words, don't write "click here"), BOLD, bullet points, pictures and videos.

Groundwire's article on the six stages of engagement is super popular. This article outlines how you can move people up the pyramid of engagement, from "observing" your organization to "leading" your organization. Groundwire understands that your offline organizing and your online organizing must complement each other. I agree with this article's premise that online and social media tools are great at engaging a lot of people a little bit, offering them the opportunity to find out more about your organization, send a letter, or attend a free meeting. The higher levels of engagement require more staff time, face-to-face interaction, and deeper relationship building; online tools are perhaps less important at these higher stages of engagement, playing more of a information-sharing ("here's a reminder about our next event") or co-ordination role ("post details of your event on our online calendar").

Ladder of Engagement

This quick Surfrider Foundation video neatly outlines how groups can apply this ladder of engagement to their offline and online work.

4. Deanna Zandt

Deanna is a great social media trainer and consultant.

1. I like her summaries of her speaking engagements.

2. I really like her case studies, such as her work to generate social media buzz about the MTV show "16 and Loved" on teen abortion; this article cleverly outlines the thinking involved in developing a social media strategy.

3. And then there's her book, Share This: How to Change the world with Social Networking.

Deanna Zandt's new book

5. Kivi Miller

Kivi runs the website nonprofitmarketingguide.com. This website is geared to the fundraising side of non-profit work. Kivi's website is a bit heavy on the "BUY NOW" hard sell (but what did we expect giving her niche is fundraising), but there are some very useful articles in here, including:

1. Ways to build your email list; and

2. The first 100 days in your non-profit marketing job.

6. Beth Kanter

And then there's Beth Kanter's blog. Beth is a serious guru in the world of social media and non profit advocacy; she is one of North America's most sought after speakers on social media. I mean this lady has half a million Twitter followers, and I'm definitely one of them.

1. She just co-authored a book called "How Networked Nonprofits Are Using Social Media to Power Change." I've only read sections of it in Google Scholar and totally loved it.

2. Her website contains great blogs like "How to measure social media outcomes" and

3. The "Ladder of Love: growing facebook fans."

4. She's also a fantastic trainer; just take a look at her list of recent presentations.

5. And she's very effective at collecting and sharing the work of other experts. Beth has posted 300 or so presentations on on her slideshare account. For an example, check out this 101 presentation on social media for non-profits.

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