Amnesty International: Brainstorming social media

Last night I was privileged to be invited to pay a visit to Amnesty International UK alongside a small crew of social media bods (from the strategy consultants to the community managers like me). The topic was Amnesty’s use of social media and, in particular, their network,

Clearly the details of the discussion will, for now, remain inside Amnesty’s walls. But for me it was hugely interesting to see how a different – and very much international – organisation operates online. Dogs Trust and Amnesty are, at heart, very different kinds of organisations. Dogs Trust is a collection of centres in the UK doing the front line work, all managed from and supported by an HQ hub, working in one country with one over-arching goal which is the good welfare and treatment of dogs. The International reach is there, but limited, and mostly advice-based.

Amnesty is an attempt to marshall the collective power of driven individuals to further a common goal – the good welfare and treatment of people – but on thousands of fronts: stopping violence against women, pressuring restrictive governments to allow greater civil liberty, condemning torture… the list is brutal and endless. The International reach is phenomenal.

But what’s interesting is how little of this matters to the basic principles of social marketing and speaking to people online. Because, although there are individual difference (what approach you take with Twitter, for example, when you’re trying to discuss a million topics at once), the overall approach is the same no matter which website you use, what language you speak and what subject you’re talking about. People all over the world use the Internet pretty much the same way, and although the individual approach can be tweaked for the organisation depending on the desired end result, the ideas that came up in discussion were all pretty much universal.

And almost all of them were basic, old-fashioned common sense.

I was heartened to meet a group of people who all think of the web in the most clear, logical, common-sense terms. They all work hard and have brilliant ideas. I can only hope they thought my contributions were as useful, and that I’ll be invited back to find out more in the future.

NFPTweetup: Tweeting for social change

Last night I pottered along to the second NFPTweetup. This event, masterminded by The Charity Place‘s Rachel Beer and given a firm shove along by social media “Buzz Director” Steve Bridger among others, was the successor to a small meetngreet that took place in Soho late last year. That gathering saw many of the people I now think of as the “usual suspects” – a group of us in the UK working hard to make digital marketing through social media succeed – all of whom I respect and admire in droves: Jonathan Waddingham of JustGiving (who sponsored the event), Howard Lake of UK Fundraising, Paul Henderson and Amy Sample Ward among others.

If the last event had been a quiet chat with a collaborative presentation that sort of quietly tailed off, this event had definitely learned from its predecessor. NFPTweetup is shaping up to be a considerably useful resource for UK charities, and I was really glad to be there. Aside from coming away with a list of web tools to check out, I also got the chance to shake a few hands and exchange a few words with the people behind the feed I follow, like Jo of Diabetes UK and Citizensheep Michael. That personal connection is invaluable for a number of reasons:

1. It’s just nice to know there’s someone else out there doing what you do.

2. When it’s time to ask for advice or an idea, it’s great to have properly introduced yourself.

3. There’s no chance of any of that isolationist Bad Science crap happening!

This time, the collaborative presentation was done first, which got people thinking. I blushed as I realised just how many of the people in the room are watching what Jacqui and I are doing at Dogs Trust and think we’re good at it! A warm glow of job satisfaction is no bad thing to have once in a while, especially when the feedback is external to the organisation.

Thereafter we formed groups covering topics such as Fundraising, Integration, Reputation Management and things like that. I joined the Fundraising and Integration topics as they’re the most difficult for most of us: raising money in one big swoop like Twestival or Beth Kanter have done is possible, but how do you keep the goodwill going over the long time? And is it really okay to ask for money over a social medium (so far, I think no and I’m strict about that, although there are ways to kinda sorta break that rule which I’ll go into another time)? Ben Matthews, who was behind Twestival in the UK, was very helpful in suggesting some donation tools – if we integrate them I’ll talk about these some more.

It’s nice to see NFPTweetup grow from a chat to a masterclass, and I’m keen to see how it develops in the future. To see a blow-by-blow account of the discussion, check out tweets hashtagged #nfptweetup.

When inspiration hits perspiration

I wish I could say it’s because I’ve spent my time busily squirrelling away on the project I was talking about in the last post. But actually, my ‘day job’ was just really busy this week. There was a heady mix of Scary Brilliant New Stuff and Really Dull Admin which is the way of most jobs. Sometimes the dull admin can be quite useful; it clears your head and allows the creativity room to ferment and produce cool bubbly stuff. It didn’t help with matters, however, that I was sick most of the week, culminating in a spectacular loss of voice over the last two days. Talk about frustrating.

Still, in the midst of all that frustration came some good. I have been having very early ideas for a social media based campaign. The metric – financial or awareness – will really depend on the ultimate message, which is something I can’t decide on my own. I’ve run some early ideas past my manager and she sees it differently from the way I do, but we all know how little the final product actually resembles the early brainstorming. I suspect in the end it’ll be a healthy marriage between my initial ideas and her 10-year knowledge of the charity. A winning combination, hopefully.

I had three main reasons for wanting to plan, carry out and evaluate a big, organised social media / interactive marketing push.

1. Because it’s time; I’ve built up with the smaller-scale, important everyday relationship building. People have now found us; it’s time to really find them, and the people who didn’t know they wanted to find us.

2. Because it’s healthy for internal buy-in into social media marketing. People are still a little confused by it, and a clear result based on a universally-acceptable metric is good for driving acceptance and understanding. Not to mention job satisfaction for us, of course.

3. To push myself; it’s easy to be good at our current level given my skills set and experience, but I always hold myself up to higher standards than I need to, because how else can you learn, grow and progress? Stagnation = bad, especially when you’re working in a world that will chew you up and spit you out as old news faster than ever. I love what I do because of the variety and freshness. I have to look for that in myself, too.

This is going to take time and careful planning because I know exactly what I would do if I were in a commercial enterprise with a big budget. I’m not, and that’s where the creative approach comes in. It makes it all the greater an achievement if you can get the results you want (or more than you dream of) with a shoestring and the joint innovation of a couple of minds with different but complementary skill sets.

I promise next time I’ll write about something I can give details of publicly…