Monday, August 19, 2013

Activism and the Smart Use of Online Tools

Can social media really make a difference in social change? Yes, it can. As we demonstrated previously with our social media activism campaign, "Dogs Against Romney," when a group of people who are passionate about an issue organize and engage in social media, great things occur that can push the message not just to literally millions of people online, but also beyond social media in the form of traditional media coverage. In the case of Dogs Against Romney, over 20 million people were reached online and another 20 million were reached via traditional media coverage - all with a single, potent message: Mitt is mean.

It had an impact. Conservative journalist David Freddoso just published a new book, Spin Masters: How the Media Ignored the Real News and Helped Reelect Barack Obama. "Don't think for a minute that the Dog-on-a-car-roof story didn't damage Romney," Freddoso laments, noting that a Public Policy Polling survey indicated 35% of respondents said it made them less likely to vote for Romney.

Social media are powerful tools. No other type of media connects more Americans, and gives them the means to participate more actively (and easily) in defending and protecting their rights and the rights of others.

According to Pew Research Center's latest American Life Project study, half of all Americans now use social networks. 39 percent report seeing their friends talking about politics in social networks, and 19 percent talk about politics themselves.


Watchdog Causes, Scott Crider, Dogs Against Romney, marriage equality
On Watchdog Causes' Facebook page, the viral sharing
of our 15,000 members enabled this message supporting
marriage equality to reach over 104,000 people.

Can social media activism change people's minds? Yes, it can. Pew says 16 percent of American social network users overall report having changed their minds about a social or political issue after seeing information in social networks. We saw this with our own eyes, thousands of times, on Dogs Against Romney's page during the 2012 election.

Is it (the power of social media) just an election year phenomenon? Not at all. Right after the election, we created Watchdog Causes, a new social media activism organization with a broad scope. We wanted to take what we learned during the 2012 election and apply it other important issues. 

We launched with marriage equality as our first cause and quickly grew to over 15,000 members. Their engagement with the issue was very high ("engagement" is defined by members' "liking," commenting and sharing behavior online). Through viral sharing, we reached over 400,000 people with our message. One post alone reached over 104,000 people.

Our forthcoming book, SUPER PACK: How Dogs Changed the 2012 Election: The Coming Age of Social Media Activism, will provide a roadmap for future online activists to participate fully in the positive social change of America.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Social media activists will shape future elections


social media activism, social media, politics, activists
On September 26, 1960, presidential elections in the United States were fundamentally changed by a popular new medium. After challenger Senator John F. Kennedy defeated incumbent President Richard Nixon in the very first televised presidential debate in history, no other presidential candidate would agree to debate on television for 16 years. The risks were just too high.

Soon, it will happen again. Another new medium – social media - is going to fundamentally change national elections in the United States. Unlike the 1960's, however, candidates will not be able to "opt out" of participating in social media.

In the coming age of social media activism, everything will be changed. Whether candidates participate or not, social media activists will dominate future elections. Instead of receiving carefully controlled, pre-packaged political messages from the campaigns, or digesting only what mainstream media gatekeepers decide is "newsworthy," voters in the near future will be influenced most by messages from the sources they trust most – their friends.

Consider what occurred in the 2012 election cycle. A Pew Internet & American Life Project study found that 66 percent of adults using Twitter and Facebook do so in part to conduct civil and political activity. More importantly, another new study shows that social media users have the power to influence friends politically. The study, conducted by Facebook and the University of California at San Diego, found that peer pressure mattered: People seeing that their friends had voted did, in fact, make them go to the polls.

Yet another study, by market researcher Lab42, shows that half (51%) of social media users have posted political content and more than one-third (36%) have changed their opinions about a candidate based on political content posted to Facebook or Twitter.

Even friends-of-friends are able to influence us on social media. According to the Facebook/UC San Diego study, an incredible four additional votes were yielded for each voter that was directly mobilized!

This means the coming crop of social media activists will have unprecedented power to influence elections. Consider the 2012 group “Dogs Against Romney.” Founded by two activists to call attention to the way Mitt Romney transported his dog in the 1980’s, the group grew to over 110,000 members on Facebook and Twitter. Through sharing of the group’s messages by its members, more than 900,000 people per week were reached in each of the final 8 weeks of the campaign. 

The group also demonstrated how future social media activists can control news cycles, and define candidates. From January to November, the group attracted an estimated $2 Million worth of earned national media coverage, including an audience of 9 million people in a single night. In April, when ABC's Diane Sawyer was about to conduct Mitt Romney's first network interview, she invited questions from the public. Dogs Against Romney asked its members on Facebook and Twitter to submit questions, which they did - by the thousands.

As a result, during the interview, which aired on World News and 60 Minutes, Sawyer told Romney that questions about his treatment of his dog, Seamus, were among the two most-requested questions. She quizzed Romney about the alleged dog abuse, which became the predominant story line the next morning. Instead of being able to talk about the economy, Romney spent the day travelling the country telling journalists the election was "about jobs, not dogs."

Using nothing but free social media tools, two activists spoiled the first network interview of the GOP nominee for president of the United States. Overall, by keeping the story alive for the entire election cycle, it is estimated they reached at least 40 million people with their message.

Imagine the coming elections that will have not just a handful of social media activists, but hundreds of thousands. Not all will need to attract large audiences to be effective, either. Just as a pack of hyenas can bring down a huge buffalo, large numbers of relatively small social media activists can change an election. 

Just 100 social media activists, each attracting just 2,000 engaged followers, will more than double the number of people reached by a "Dogs Against Romney." The key will be organization and coordination between the activists - a simple thing to achieve. 

The power of social media activism lies in its flexibility. Many people who would like to be more politically active previously found it difficult to fit activism into their schedules. Parents with young children, for example – an exceedingly important political demographic – find it nearly impossible to be traditional political activists. Organizing and attending events, knocking on doors, circulating petitions, making hundreds of phone calls, and other activities, take far too much time and are too disruptive for all but the most dedicated activists.

Now anyone can build a social media organization that attracts thousands of other voters who share their concerns - and who will help spread the message to amazing numbers of people. They can do this from home, without ever dragging their children to a rally or knocking on a single door. All that is needed is a computer, an internet connection, and some easy-to-learn skills.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Marla Crider: A breast cancer patient's story

Marla Crider, marlacrider.com, breast cancer, patient stories
Marla Crider
Women's health issues are very important to us here at Watchdog Causes. This month, it became personal. My Aunt, Marla Crider, of Little Rock, Arkansas, was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. "Invasive ductal carcinoma," to be precise, was her diagnosis.

In a fast-moving chain of events and doctor appointments, aided by her doctor-boyfriend Don, she began treatment quickly, receiving her first chemo at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) last week. Marla asked Morgan and me to help her set up a blog and Facebook page where she can tell her story, hopefully to help provide advice, assistance, or comfort to other women who are now (or may one day be) going through the same thing.

We'll publish bits from Marla's blog here from time to time over the next several, difficult months. In the meantime, if you wish, you can follow along directly on her blog, MarlaCrider.com, or Facebook page.

In other news, big things are coming up in the next few weeks - including groundbreaking decisions from the Supreme Court that will impact the progress of marriage equality. 

Stay tuned,

Scott & Morgan

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Supreme Court, marriage equality, and social media activism

Marriage equality activists just got the news we've been hoping for. The U.S. Supreme Court announced last week it will hear cases on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Both are same-sex marriage cases, and both have big implications for civil rights in America.

Because the stakes are high, those of us who support marriage equality (gay and straight) are joining groups that will help us make our voices heard. Our group, Watchdog Causes, already has nearly 15,000 members on our Facebook page. We plan to be very engaged, and very vocal, as the Supreme Court hears and decides these cases.

There is, of course, the possibility of an outcome that is a setback for marriage equality activists. That’s why it is important for us to make our voices heard. As we demonstrated with Dogs Against Romney, social media activism is powerful. No other type of media connects more Americans, and gives them the means to participate more actively in defending and protecting their rights and the rights of others.

According to Pew Research Center's latest American Life Project study, half of all Americans now use social networks. 39 percent report seeing their friends talking about politics in social networks, and 19 percent talk about politics themselves.

Can social media activism change people's minds? Yes, it can. Pew says 16 percent of American social network users overall report having changed their minds about a social or political issue after seeing information in social networks. We saw this with our own eyes, thousands of times, on Dogs Against Romney's page during the 2012 election.

In the coming months, America will see its biggest civil rights decisions since 1954’s Brown v. the Board of Education. Join us, and make your voice heard.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Obama to present plan focused on assault-style weapons, high capacity magazines, education, and mental health


obama, assault, weapons, magazines, clips, mental health
Information leaked by an un-named lobbyist indicates that President Obama is set to announce a plan to address gun violence that also includes education measures and mental health services. According to the lobbyist, the plan will include the following measures:
— Universal background checks. Today, at least 40% of gun sales occur with no background checks through private sellers, at gun shows, or over the Internet. The plan will also seek to stop "straw man" purchases (when guns are bought by a person for another person who cannot pass background checks).
— Reinstating a ban on assault-style weapons and limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds or fewer.
— Anti-bullying efforts; more training for teachers, counselors and principals, and funding for schools for more counselors and resource officers.
— Obama also will order federal agencies to conduct more research on gun use and crimes, the lobbyist said, something Republican congressional majorities have limited through language in budget bills.
— On mental health, Obama will focus on more availability of mental health services, training more school counselors and mental health professionals, and mental health first aid training 
— Obama also may order the Justice Department to crack down on people who lie on gun-sale background checks; only a tiny number are now prosecuted
— And Obama may give schools flexibility to use grant money to improve safety
For more details, see the Chicago Tribune

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NRA releases children's shooting game with assault rifle upgrades


NRA, children's game, coffins, coffin shaped targets, assault rifles
Mobile game developer MEDL Mobile published a new shooting game today, on the eve of the one month anniversary of the Newtown tragedy, licensed by the National Rifle Association. The game, originally rated for ages 4+, generated outrage for including coffin-shaped targets and assault rifle upgrades for 99 cents each. 

Available upgrades include the Russian made Dragunov SVD, a semi-automatic sniper rifle, and the U.S. made MK11 sniper rifle used by the Navy Seals.

While both the game’s publisher and the NRA have refused comment thus far, the game’s original rating for ages 4+ has been quietly changed to ages 12+ for “frequent/intense realistic violence” during the afternoon of January 15.