Image by @benjaminellis
When ‘awareness’ isn’t enough.
(Text by Steve Lawson)
We spend a huge amount of time raising awareness about issues. We’re really good at it. It’s a very British thing to do. We write letters to local newspapers, we write to our MP, we talk to other people about them doing something.
The web makes it so much easier to raise awareness. We can join facebook groups, we can ‘retweet’ quotes and links – we don’t even need to click the link to do it. Actions like the campaign against Jan Moir and her odious writing in the Mail suggest that people can mobilize if they are incensed enough, but did the Mail’s circulation drop? Did anyone continue to hold the Mail to account for the odious writing they publish every other day of the year? Some may have, the vast majority didn’t. They felt justified that Moir was vilified, and were happy that justice was served via twitter.
Were we wrong to retweet the Jam Moir story? Or Trafigura? Of course not – both were instances of genuine outrage at things that more people should know about (though in the case of the Mail there’s perhaps a lesson about the oxygen of publicity). Raising awareness is not a bad thing in an of itself. And it is what the web does best. But the link between that diffuse outrage across a social network – connected only by a hashtag or membership of a facebook group – and action, physical protest, changes in behaviours, habits, conversations with people who don’t already agree with us, boycotts, fund-raising… that’s the tricky bit.
And it’s why, when thinking about the use of social media in a campaign, literacy is WAY more important than policy - have ‘rules’ for twitter usage may end up being counter-productive for your organisation. Understanding the way that your fellow Twitter-users engage with the things they find on there is vital to making your campaign materials usable, shareable, clickable, and to them leading to a higher proportion of actions. Same for facebook groups. I’ve just been listening to an Jackie Schneider of Merton Parents For Better Food In Schools talking about Local activism, and she referenced the power of the ‘easy win’ – of people dipping their toe into the campaigning world seeing the fruits of their labours early on as motivation to keep going. It’s a brilliant and simple observation, and one that’s well learned online. Have a listen to her talking about it:
This is also where information aggregators come in so useful, and where Louder.org.uk can be used to great effect to link Social Media presences and content to actions, both online and off. As a way of integrating email campaigns with contacting MPs, signing petitions and disseminating information about protests and other actions, Louder is designed to make the transition from awareness to action as easy as possible.