Social Media Training Takeaways and Thankyous

Our ‘Fighting for Families’ social media training event is a week past. So what did we have and what’s left on our agenda?

If you want to skip over the thank yous and backslapping, click here. Otherwise, THANK YOU speakers/presenters, including Farra Trompeter of Big Duck, Beka Economopoulos of Fission Strategy, Donna Norton of MomsRising, Eliza Bates of 1199/SEIU, Greg Basta and Olivia Leirer of New York Communities for Change, Elizabeth Jenkins of 32BJ/SEIU and everyone who participated in the discussions.

Thank you Murphy Institute who once again made it possible for us to offer training at such low prices. Thank you to our sponsors, and especially Jocelyn Mazurkiewicz who brought them all together and initiated this training. Thank you to our loyal volunteers, many of whom actually paid for the privilege: Bob Daraio, Marisol Thomer, Edrie Irvine, Justin Krebs, Brad Gans & John Greaves (3Knights Media) and all the rest who just chipped in.

And of course, thank you Elana Levin, Chairman of Organizing 2.0, who led our last session and without whom very little of what we do would be possible.

Intro to Social Media for Organizations

Farra Trompeter’s presentation is available below. I was very pleased that she was able to come, and for our first session no less. It combines a lot of facts that some of us might already know with some great analysis and insight. It made a lot of us happy that she felt trusted enough to critique a certain union’s Twitter feed. We need more of that!

Unfortunately, I missed most of the day because of having to run around. We really need attendees to offer comments on lessons learned that deserve to be shared! That said, it feels right to offer a few notes that capture our intentions in planning the training.
There are many trainings in social media available these days. They are often aimed at small business, nonprofits, marketing & development staff and others with a strong need. Organizing 2.0′s contention is that unions and advocacy organizations are often ill-served by training that doesn’t take our specific needs into account. In the case of Fighting for Families, we were very well served by having a focus on family and worker issues like paid family leave and paid sick days. This meant our audience was mostly thinking about city and state advocacy on topics that have to fight pretty hard to get media attention. Attendees were used to working in coalitions, and many knew each other beforehand.
Our main goal was to give a very diverse group of volunteers, organizers and leaders a shared sense of how social media is used to advance our campaign mission, as opposed to competing goals like organizational branding or fundraising. Based on feedback, we seem to have accomplished this. What we did less of – and we’ve heard from attendees that they want more – is offer hands on skills training that go deep into specifics. Anything from practicing a campaign, to developing a written social media plan, to learning some Twitter analytics tools. We also heard a complaint that too much of the day was devoted to frontal presentations followed by Q and A, at the expense of truly interactive sessions that build on the experiences of people in the room.
For organizers thinking about ideas for future trainings or just keeping up with the demands of a complicated media- and tool-rich environment, there are some questions to think about:
  • What is your peer community for staying on top of social media? (Like NTEN, ProgEx, or something internal to your organization.)
  • At what stage do ideas about social media tools and tactics get introduced into campaign and strategic planning? Are the right people in the room to propose and evaluate new media strategies?
  • Are folks clear about the investment and return on your social media activities?
  • Is there a role for outside experts/consultants? How might you cultivate your ‘bench’ of advisers?

Is there anything else you’d like to share or learn about? Let us know!

Looking for a Few Good New Media Directors

Jason Rosenbaum

Like many of you on the Bold Progressive’s campaign list, I saw an email recruiting new media directors for congressional campaigns. As a close follower of how politicians are adapting to the shifting campaigning landscape, I had a few questions to ask. This interview is with Jason Rosenbaum of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Organizing 2.0: I hear you are looking for a few good organizers….
Jason: Yes! New media directors, to be precise. [Job details here.]

Organizing 2.0: What’s the likely profile of these NMD’s? Are these positions that a congressional campaign would fill on its own, or are you supplying something they simply won’t have without you?
Jason: We’re looking for folks that have both great tech skills, but are also (and more importantly) talented strategic organizers who are motivated to help progressives run and win boldly. These are positions that a campaign might fill on their own, but is often filled with a Washington, DC based consultant or by someone less talented and committed.

[Read more...]

Netroots Nation Reportback: Labor in the House!

It was another great Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis, and like many of you, I’m still digesting. As someone a little bit responsible for sending folks there (three folks won a free registration at our last big event!) it’s important to do a little public evaluation.

Rob Callaghan, Ethan Rips and Harry Waisbren - the winners of Org 2.0's Netroots Nation attendance raffle

1. Netroots Nation is a labor event, full stop. If twelve of the top eighteen sponsors were corporations, it would be a corporate event. But it was labor: AFL-CIO, Working America, Change to Win, SEIU, UFT, NEA, UFCW, even the firefighters, who did seem a little bit like fish out of water*. So on behalf of the netroots, THANK YOU.

2. Netroots Nation is home to a lot of self-organized liberals and Democrats who often represent a kind of loyal opposition to whatever “the” Democrats are up to in DC. It makes sense that Labor, that poor bride who keeps getting stranded at the altar while her groom is off having sex with corporations in the dressing room, should make common cause with us. But we can still ask: just how serious is labor about dating the netroots, as opposed to purchasing some seasonal influence? I want unions to love us for our free-wheeling exuberance, critical thinking and free-agent empowerment. Not just for political influence that on rare occasions result in some electoral or electoral victory.

3. At the labor strategy session, I heard it explained that some years ago, unions invested big in organizing – but were unable to staunch the loss of members, especially in the private sector. So they went big on political spending, going all out for Democratic victories in hopes of passing EFCA.

Or at least getting a little bit of love now and then. Right now is an interesting moment: labor is organizing, but not focused on new member organizing. Labor is doing politics, but not necessarily in close cooperation with the official Democrats. Is this a fully articulated strategy we can learn from and follow, or evidence that labor strategists are figuring things out as we

go along? (It can’t be just Stephen Lerner talking openly about labor strategy these days, right?)

4. This goes hand in hand with the excellent session about Wisconsin. One of AFSCME’s senior political strategists said something like “as a result of Wisconsin, we really understand the importance of new media. And over the next year, you’ll see that manifested in how we do things.” What I should have asked as a follow up question is “What kind of changes will we be seeing? What new combination of job descriptions, training, new hires, shifting budgets and consultant contracts can we look forward to?”

5. Labor had many tables/booths in display. I visited all of them and found no job descriptions related to online organizing or new media campaigning. That said, I know from that many unions ARE trying to fill those jobs. Next year, let’s make sure that the booths of unions that are hiring staff have some information about their job openings. It’s the perfect captive audience for recruitment.

6. Where is the labor netroots? Union members who blog, as opposed to a) bloggers who enjoy labor support, and b) staff at unions who blog? Some members of teachers unions who blog were in attendance and on (really good) panels but overall there were not many rank and file members who blog or use social media at the conference. I imagine that lack of funds to attend the conference might be the reason why. NN does a great job of offering scholarships but it would be a good idea for more of the unions that send staff to NN to also send their union members who blog.

7. Netroots Nation staff did what they could to promote attendance among Minneapolis and Minnesota union locals. That said, I spoke to a handful of union members in attendance who came because they asked/demanded to go, but who never saw anything from their International about Netroots Nation. Part of me wonders if a $10k sponsorship and the expense of staffing a booth in the exhibition hall wouldn’t have been better served by sending an additional 10-15 union members to attend the training sessions (organized by Democracy for America) and schmoozing with union staff from across the country.

The next conference will be held in Providence, RI, easy traveling distance from New York, Boston and Philadelphia, all big union cities. So will we see a dozen locals send two people each from those areas? And staff from 5-6 state labor federations? And Labor Councils? Maybe consultants from the strategic media firms that (sometimes) pretend to be experts in online communications? Let’s not leave that up to the powers that be.

If you think your union should be doing better at online organizing, consider using this as your check list for promoting more, and more effective labor participation at Netroots Nation:

  • Request that your local’s magazine/newspaper/website features a story about unions at Netroots Nation.
  • If your International was a sponsor in 2011, remind them to put something in about the upcoming conference in Providence next spring.
  • Sign up now, pay the super-inexpensive $195 early bird registration fee. If your union won’t pay your way, file for the vacation days now – and signal your boss about the importance of Netroots Nation.
  • Ask your union to purchase a block of tickets now, even before it’s clear who would actually go.
  • Let’s ask Netroots Nation to post data about how many trade unionists attended, and make it a goal to exceed that number in 2012.
  • Start thinking now about sessions that appeal to a labor audience in particular. Not just on the issues, but training relevant to your own work as a trade unionist. Why not sessions on new member organizing, blogging for union staff/members, or setting the labor agenda from below?

Got any other bright ideas? Let’s hear ‘em. If you hear of any posts about labor at Netroots Nation – please let me know or link below.


We Don’ Need No Stinkin’ Social Media Experts

A few days ago Peter Shankman wrote a provocative post about why one should never hire a “Social Media Expert”. His main point is that

“Social media is just another facet of marketing and customer service. Say it with me. Repeat it until you know it by heart. Bind it as a sign upon your hands and upon thy gates. Social media, by itself, will not help you.”

This was posted on ProgressivExchange and attracted a more than usual amount of attention. A fair number of “social media experts” are on that list. But it’s a fair debate: do we need social media experts in the nonprofit/organizing/campaign space? When? How?

Nonprofit and political communication staff can’t be assumed to know when or how to use social media, online ads, online video, a microsite, or any other kind of nontraditional, digital strategy. I’ve met them. Here are four typical responses from insufficiently skilled communicators:

  1. Hire a trusted consulting firm (who might be clueless as well) and pay them loads of money for advice one could have Googled and execution that a junior staffer could have done – for a whole lot less.
  2. Reject unfamiliar methodologies.
  3. Encourage staff to present digital strategies, but then reject them, so they can take credit for internal crowd-sourcing while still following (2) above.
  4. Read up on the literature and try their best, but since they only have 100 hours doing this ‘stuff’ they combine relative ignorance with alpha male self-confidence, wasting time and money as they themselves seek to master digital strategy on the fly, ensuring that the organization only advances as fast as they can acquire new skills and insights. (In other words, slowly and inefficiently!)

None of these four options are indefensible. They just aren’t as good as what real leaders do. Here are the alternatives:

  1. Look for a consulting firm or consultant who really has expertise in digital strategy, and learn how to tell the difference between those who get this field and those that don’t, between the traditional strategic PR and media consulting and the Fission/Rad Campaigns of the world. It ain’t the same thing, not by a long shot.
  2. Cultivate a digital strategist internally from your board or a staff member and cede power to them over their areas of expertise. Acquirethe skill of managing an expert, as you would with an attorney or accountant, instead of arrogantly deciding to become that kind of expert yourself. (Arrogant = because you aren’t actually doing to spend the time it takes.)
  3. Crowdsource questions about strategy only if you or someone else in the room has the expertise to evaluate them properly. Absent that element, why waste everyone’s time?
  4. By all means, build your own expertise in digital strategy. Just try and remember the 10,000 hours rule. Someone who has spent five years doing this will know more than you. And after five years, they will have ten years, so even if you changed your career to become a digital strategist, they still might have something to teach you. Be humble and aware of your core competencies, use experts – including social media consultants – judiciously. Don’t force your entire organization to be as slow as you might be.

After sending a version of this response to the list, a bunch of folks wrote to me appreciating how these approaches are laid out. What do you think?

Before you answer, consider viewing this oldie but a goodie about those damn social media experts: