Social Analytics Meet Community Engagement
Posted by Allison Fine on July 26, 2010
The title of this post isn’t from me, it’s from Lucy Bernholz who is being awfully smart again over at P2173. She recently wrote about what I believe is the next phase of development in the arena of social media for social change. In Lucy’s words, “Finding the ways in which “data trails on the web” – click throughs, “likes,” tweets, forwards, favorite lists, recommendations, diggs, etc – relate to action on the ground are key new measures of activity.”
This is the third phase of development for nonprofits and social media. The first phase was trying to figure out how the tools worked. For instance, how do blogs work and what should we do with them? The second phase was figuring out how organizations need to change to become networks. That’s the crux of The Networked Nonprofit.
This third phase of development is about the “so what” of social change. The conclusion to The Networked Nonprofit asks a question posed by Marnie Webb for a paper I wrote a few years ago called Social Citizen: “What, if anything, does all of the clicking, blogging, and “friending” add up to in the end?
One of the myths that we bust in The Networked Nonprofit is the notion that social change is going to happen primarily online in the future. It isn’t, all social change efforts, whether direct service or advocacy, ultimately happen on land. Legislatures need to pass laws, hungry people need food, parks need to be cleaned. How are we going to know how social media is affecting these kinds of outcomes?
We do know a few things for sure. Networks of constituents for causes can be grown bigger and faster using social media. The more people that we ping about causes, the more potential donors, marchers, petition signers, Meetup participants we have. And we know that there is a ladder of engagement for online volunteers just as there is for on land volunteers -some will just watch, some will give money, some will organize events and bring their friends into the tent, some, the most engaged, might even start their own cause. Beth has written about the wonderful ladder of engagement used by the Surfrider Foundation.
What we don’t know is whether when we create a stir just online whether it automatically translates on land, and if it doesn’t if it matters at all for social change. We have spent so much time as a sector over the past decade trying to articulate immediate and long-term programmatic outcomes. What will people know, be able to do as a result of our efforts? What is the “so what” for program? Once articulated, the next challenge was to measure them. How will we know that children are more enthusiastic about reading or math and science? What does a growing environmental movement look like?
Now that task is made harder by the addition of the social media stew into the mix. If people post pictures of oil-drenched pelicans on Flckr but don’t donate, don’t call their representative, don’t actually do anything else, are they moving the needle of change?
Lucy gets us started by outlining the kinds of online outcomes we could measure:
- If I join a disease-oriented social network do I manage my medications better and am I healthier because of it?
- If I read and comment on a story on my neighborhood on a local blog am I more or less likely to show up at the supervisors’ hearing on a subject than if I read about it in the print paper?
- What about if I submit a story to that same blog?
- If a follow the tweets from a nonprofit am I more or less likely to donate or volunteer to that organization?
- If I become a “fan” of an organization on a social network site will I do anything else to raise awareness of the group? Will I take any offline action to support its work?
I would add a few additional thoughts to this list:
- Are the people who are donating online the same as those who are donating off line?
- Have we intensified the experience of existing supporters of causes or created new ones who are separate and distinct from their on land brethren?
- Is it more important when a person is touched by a cause and under what circumstances or how often their touched?
We are at the infancy of this discussion. I can’t wait for it to develop further!
This entry was posted on July 26, 2010 at 12:11 pm and is filed under Social Media. Tagged: Lucy Bernholz, Social Citizen, Surfrider Foundation. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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