Rootwork Empowers Your Supporters with Tools for Social Change

By: Rootwork  09-12-2011
Keywords: Mobile Phones, social networks, Social Network

    Building momentum and support through the use of social networks

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Rootwork launched a social network presence for the grassroots organization on Facebook is a social network encouraging real identity — each user has a single account under their full, real name. Facebook began among US college students but has quickly expanded to people of all ages around the world., MySpace is a social network that is not built around a single identity. Users can and do have multiple profiles, with no restrictions on the “names” they use. MySpace is used by many musical groups. and Twitter is a social network built around short status updates — a combination of microblogging and instant messaging, with the ability to post from mobile phones through text messages., helping grow both its audience and commitment from existing supporters.

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The development and use of videos through MySpace and YouTube is a social network built around video content: posting, sharing, rating and commenting. was also key to the early growth of the Genocide Intervention Network.

Rootwork’s strategy for Casino-Free Philadelphia’s use of Twitter includes scheduled posts pointing to different areas of the website, a “picture of the day” highlighting past Casino-Free actions, and full statistics tracking of all links followed from Twitter posts. Beyond a broadcast tool alone, Twitter helps Casino-Free Philadelphia listen to its supporters and interact with them on a one-to-one basis.

Through the use of social networking, these organizations’ membership expanded significantly, and supporters were able to interact with the organization to a much larger degree — building loyalty and contributing to “real-world” commitment in the form of attendance at actions and online donations. Most critically, using social networks strategically helped these organizations build an “identity” among their supporters — that they were part of a vibrant social change movement.

Building commitment through participation on your own website

Rootwork developed several tools for the Genocide Intervention Network that centered on giving members “actionable information” to assist in their own grassroots organizing. The first such tool was the legislative scorecard website, built from the ground-up to allow staff to easily update every federal legislator’s record on genocide issues.

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Compiling such a large amount of information can be a challenge to present in a usable format, but Rootwork’s easy-to-use website regularly won accolades from supporters. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, GI-Net staff could easily and consistently update the legislative information for each member of Congress when new legislation was introduced. The scorecard helped make dozens of locally-organized congressional meetings possible, as supporters could develop their own events without having to request lengthy legislative reports from GI-Net’s office.

Rootwork redesigned Casino-Free Philadelphia’s website from the ground-up, adding several engaging features that helped keep supporters both more informed and more engaged.

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In 2008, Rootwork created the campaign website for the Genocide Intervention Network. This website enabled several “user-generated content” campaigns, in which supporters contributed their own writing, photos and videos through contests and other programs.

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Two video contests were centered on the presidential primary debates, increasing the volume of submissions around genocide issues and leading to a question about Darfur in a Democratic primary debate. also enabled supporters to question presidential candidates at campaign events, and report back their responses on the website, creating a repository of information on the candidates that would have been impossible with GI-Net’s small staff alone.

One of the key parts to an effective social change website is supporter involvement. Your organization will draw supporters to your website through timely information like blogs, news and action alerts, but the site will bring people back when it gives them an ability to contribute and feel a part of a community. Depending on your group’s specific needs and objectives, many options for supporter engagement are available.

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Supporters of Casino-Free Philadelphia are encouraged to participate in real-world events through a robust events system, allowing them to sign up for upcoming events and be automatically notified when one is occurring in their area. Rootwork can design your website to support grassroots events – that is, events your supporters can organize and post to the website, similar to the functionality found on commercial sites like MeetUp and evite.

Your website can also engage supporters by giving them specific tools and ways to take action, such as the legislative scorecard Rootwork developed for the Genocide Intervention Network. Supporters could then use that information in “user-generated content” campaigns, such as submitting blogs or videos about why they are passionate about your cause. Integrating such participation into your website can both increase the authenticity of your organization’s message, and allow members to feel that their voice is being heard on the issue.

One simple way to engage your supporters is to strongly encourage comments on blog entries and other items, such as directly asking for feedback, responses or stories in the comments section — and then republishing the “best of” in the future. If you have an existing blog that struggles to get attention from your members, this can be a powerful way to draw their attention.

For organizations that have a geographically dispersed base, encouraging your supporters to submit photos of events that you sponsor — or that they organize — can enable you to create nearly instantaneous photo galleries that make visible the depth of your movement.

Keywords: Genocide Intervention Network, Mobile Phones, Social Network, social networks,

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