In addition to bringing change to the White House, the Obama Presidential Campaign brought social media to the forefront of community activism. If you weren’t already a believer in the power of grassroots online community organizing before November 4th, you should be now.
Of course, Obama was running for President, so what do his formidable fundraising and community-building efforts mean for the rest of nonprofits or philanthropy? Well, in a word, everything. This post builds off a discussion about political campaigns, social media, and community philanthropy that started while the campaigns were still underway. That said, neither President-elect Obama’s transition team, nor you and your nonprofit or community, should put away the tools or their products. The election was not the end of social media as change tools. President-elect Obama has launched change.gov, where you post ideas, read about transition and administration plans, and stay involved. And the web is alive with recommendations on how the President should keep using the tools and the community to govern.
Having unleashed $660 million in support from three million individual givers (as well as tens of millions of votes from tens of millions of voters), the campaign clearly demonstrated its ability to mobilize. Its podcasts, Flickr tools, facebook pages, organizing tools for house parties, text messages, 30 minute TV shows, twitter feeds, and daily email feeds set a standard that will be required of campaigns to come. Through all 20+ months of this, I personally only experienced a single technological snafu, when a neighborhood group organized for Obama accidentally sent an email with the “old reply all” function enabled. There was a flood of email outrage over about a 4 hr period, 100 or so erroneous and duplicative emails, and then it was over. “Delete Selected” took care of the problem on my end. Think about it– nearly two years of multi-platform daily contact reaching millions of people and only one email glitch – wow.
Tom Watson’s book, CauseWired, was released earlier this month. The book is a must read for nonprofits, community organizers, social entrepreneurs and advocates looking for motivation and examples of social media at work. The book reads much like Watson’s blog of the same name and he has pulled together a coherent narrative of the rapid rise of social media and social causes. My favorite part of the book is Watson’s take on the relationships between “old” and “new” philanthropy – an argument or title that usually sends me screaming from the room. But Watson gets it right – to put it simply, the TV didn’t kill radio, and these two forms – which are ever co-evolving – are interdependent and dynamically linked.
Now, I’m always a little skeptical of arguments that pin major change on a single event, and so I’m not going to totally buy into Watson’s chapters on how Hurricane Katrina was the birth of social media in the social space. The book also misses out on the role of games as tools for social change and comes up short on the mobile revolution we are in the midst of right now. True testament to how useful and relevant CauseWired really is? The book is just now out and its already time for CauseWired 2.0. It’s a good thing Watson has a blog.