There is an inherent tension between strategy and tactical implementation of using social media to support a campaign's objectives or nonprofit's mission, whether the goal is fundraising, marketing, or taking action. Those who are just beginning to incorporate social media into their strategic thinking struggle with: "How do we get to know and understand how a particular tool can help us meet our goals, but not let the tool drive our decisions?"
The "is Twitter a strategy or tool debate" was fueled as Twitter got lots of attention (and hype) as part of the coverage of last week's protests in Moldova. Ivan Boothe points out in his post "The Fire and Food: Why There's No Such Thing As A Twitter Revolution," the real-time use of Twitter as an organizing tool is a not revolution. Twitter has been used during the G20 protests, election monitoring and crowd-sourcing the location of a torch when it was passing through San Francisco. And while quite, different from the "mainstream" use of Twitter by nonprofits, Ivan warns against tool-driven decisions for activism campaigns:
Fire, for instance, was a society-changing tool. Its revolutionary potential, however — cooking food and thus making it more digestible, nutritious, and lasting — was only realized through its strategic use.
Stretching his metaphor of fire and food, Ivan says
If organizers limit themselves to seeing Twitter as a strategy in and of itself — without considering the strategy apart from the tool — they risk overlooking ways to run a more effective campaign on other platforms, or augmenting a campaign using multiple platforms.
Worse, organizers risk giving supporters feel-good activism that quenches their desire for social change without actually moving the movement closer to a concrete goal, or putting any pressure on powerholders.
The strategy always comes first, and then you figure out which tool fits. The alternative? A forest fire.
Ivan ends with this advice:
Colin Delaney puts it another way:
Again, I ain’t hatin’ on Twitter, but professional communicators ought to know WHY they’re using it and what they’re trying to get out of it. Otherwise, they’re just jumping on a crowded bandwagon without even knowing where it’s headed. And our public discourse is shallow enough as it is.
Once this is in place, it is important to understand how the tool can or can't be use to reach that goal, what the limitations are, and how to take a "multi-channel" approach. This requires getting your hands on the tools and doing some experiments. But not wild experiments - having a objective, metrics to monitor, and a reflection process.
1. Spread the Word
3. Coordinating Collective Action
5. Personal Security
There is a useful section that explains the getting started steps. What's missing is a Step 0 - which is asking the question - "Is Twitter the best tool to reach your campaign strategy outcomes?" The rest of the guide is a great basic primer on getting started with Twitter.
What are some of the best examples of digital activism that use Twitter?
Colin Delaney, Strategy or Tool, On the Metaphysics of Twitter
Alan Rosenblatt, Is Twitter a Strategy? Like, Come On
Ivan Boothe, The Fire and the Food: Why There's No Such Thing As A Twitter Revolution
Lina Srivastava, Telling Your Across Media Platforms To Effect Social Change
Jon Pincus, Twitter Is A Strategy
Seminal, Activism At the Speed of Skittles
Brad Rourke, Strategy VS Tactics
Shawn Dakin, Use of Twitter For RoboCalls
BL Ochman, Ten Reasons Your Company Shouldn't Be on Twitter
Digiactive, Using Twitter To Coordinate Protests in London