7 Social Media experiments we tried with the 99% Power Coalition
I wanna talk about some social media experiments we tried with the 99% Power Campaign.
First: What is The 99% Power? It's basically a coalition campaign, driven by labor, environmental, and community groups to challenge corporate power. A lot, it involved tons of people showing up at dozens of corporate shareholder meetings (from WellsFargo to Walmart) this Spring and rallying for fair jobs, respect, and democracy.
I worked on the WebSkillet team to give this campaign social media wings. A tough challenge, since we were brought on right as the campaign was starting up, didn't have much creds in the space yet, and the average person yawns when you bring up corporate accountability. Shucks.
So we had to get innovative, and experimental, and try stuff on the fly, fast.
Here are some experiments we tried:
Memes, Macros, Facebook Postcards!
Whatever you call them, catchy visuals with embedded text are all the rage on Facebook. Yet I don't have any real design skills, and our team didn't have the resources to make the kinds of sexy visuals you see sometimes. So, we used DIY tools like PicMonkey & QuickMeme. These tools let anyone make your own "memes" on their websites, which you can then download & post to Facebook. We had some luck with a few, a couple of which were shared thousands of times!
#99Power Twitter Chat!
In early May we hosted a public ‘Twitter Chat’, a conversation entirely held on Twitter at a specific time. We asked folks to use the #99Power hashtag and helped facilitate an open dialogue about the potential of the 99% Power campaign. Having a Twitter chat helped in a few ways. We were able to give leaders across the spectrum of the coalition a stage on which they could shine. We were able to show our value as a networker in this space. And we were willing to show that we were striving to be a campaign that listened, and evolved transparently. It was neat how hosting a chat acted as a kind of icebreaker to meet social media leaders at Rebuild the Dream, AFL-CIO, the United Steel Workers, and other groups.
As we figured out in the #4Change group eons ago, and Amy Sample Ward keeps growing with the weekly #CommBuild chats, two keys to hosting a successful Twitter chat are lining up a few rock-star participants in advance, and having provocative questions ready to go.
Bank of America Twitter Truth Team
This was my favorite. We recruited a wonderful team which spent a whole day reaching out to hundreds of Bank of America customers on Twitter, and tweeting them information about why they should question their Bank’s values and practices. We did this on the same day as thousands of folks were taking to the streets of Charlotte to rally at Bank of America's big annual gathering. Check out this until now top-secret guide we rolled for our volunteer team.
In short: we used Twitter's search engine to discover folks who were tweeting about Bank of America in real time, and in as close to as real time as we could get, we reached out to those folks with some hard facts about their bank. For example, did you know Bank of America is the #1 investor in dirty coal (and therefore the #1 financier of climate change)?
Facebook Chat (it's possible!)
Has anyone ever hosted a Facebook chat before? (I mean, besides embedding a livestreamed video?). Well, we gave it a try! At the apex of the campaign, we convened our partners to discuss the campaign’s status and next steps. The way we did it was by posting a status update on Facebook, and inviting people to take part in the comments of that particular update.
We thought that as the status update generated dozens of comments (it got 85 in total), it would climb to the tops of many of our followers' facebook feeds. Although this didn't seem to happen, we still had a lively conversation! Leaders from SEIU, Jobs with Justice, The Nation, and other allies took part. If we were to do it again, I might encourage folks to tag potentially interested friends in the comments at the start of the chat, to invite them to join us.
Sallie Mae is the #1 profiteer from student debt (which is now over $1 trillion.) So, while folks went to greet execs at Sallie Mae's shareholder meeting, we launched a special Twitter account: @Sallie_Mae (which surprisingly wasn’t taken). We leveraged the account to support students and encourage them to join a campaign for student debt reform. We didn't actually punk "Sallie Mae" since we truthfully named the account "Sallie Mae Help" and were indeed trying to help students, by helping them fight Sallie Mae. While this style of guerilla online organizing may not win the day, it grabs folks' attention, and certainly ruffles feathers.
#NotWalmart #FF Special
Walmart had their big summit on a Friday, so instead of giving them a 'Follow Friday' shout-out, we encouraged folks to shout out their favorite local businesses, while using the #NotWalmart hashtag. Instead of just being against a big and scary corporation, this gave folks a chance to promote the businesses they love in their community. It was good fun, and Treehugger, an environmental platform with over 170,000 followers on Twitter, helped echo the call. (Thanks guys!)
Social Media Coalition Listserv
While not too sexy, we created a google group to help connect social media leaders across The 99% Coalition. This was inspired by the TckTckTck campaign, which early in its inception created a "Climate Insider Rapid Response" google group. If you're a social media evangelizer working on campaigns supporting the 99%, you're welcome to join!
All of these social media experiments didn't win the day -- the killer apps for social change are still solidarity and street power, and we've got a ways to go to build enough of those to tip the balance. But these tactics hopefully show some of what's possible on a shoestring, fairly low-tech budget, and perhaps give a glimpse of what much deeper coordination can look like in the progressive movement.