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Participation 3.0 - Inclusive Social Media

How your organization can use Issues Forums effectively.

This handout is designed to help cultural and community organizations effectively participate in neighborhood and community-wide Issues Forums. This is part of our Ford Foundation funded Inclusive Social Media effort.

Unlike your organization's own website, Issues Forums (and similar online spaces like a Facebook "community" page or a "placeblog"), are community streams of content and interaction. Instead of having to build your own audience or e-mail announcement list at great effort, access to local residents is handily presented to you. You may use it when you need to provided what you post fits the local scope of the forum.

At the very local level, small organizations find it very difficult to maintain up-to-date websites that often have very few visitors. While we recommend a basic web "who are you" presence with your own e-mail announcement list (and/or a blog with an e-mail subscribe option) as well as a simple organization created Facebook Page, for most organizations leveraging the community stream we've design for sharing is highly strategic.

Ready to post? Here are some tips on how participate effectively as an organization.

  • Announcements
    • Share them and reach hundreds of people for free. Stick to the local scope. With neighborhood-level and smaller community forums, just about any public event held within the neighborhood (or immediately adjacent) is something to promote. On large city-wide forums, people expect a more political or issue-based relevancy. If you are uncertain about appropriateness or local scope, contact the local forum manager and ask. Don't be shy. If you've never posted before or rejoined a forum, we normally moderate those posts so we will work with you if the announcement seems out of scope. If you are a neighborhood association or local elected official, consider putting the forum posting e-mail address on your e-mail announcement list to automate the process of posting.
  • Your News, Photos, Video, and Documents
    • Don't wait for the local media to discover and report on you, get out there and report on your own activities and events. Have some pictures or video from a community event? Share it. Our software allows you to post photos simply by e-mail or the web without having to edit or resize them. With video, simply use YouTube or Vimeo and post the video using that service's "share" web address. With community festivals and the like, consider posting a few photos early in the day (smartphones with cameras and e-mail work great) to encourage more residents to come on out. With video, short clips under 3 minutes are most effective. If you are sharing recordings of full community meetings and the like, Vimeo works well. You could also post audio files, slides (we recommend you use SlideShare.Net), and handouts from meetings or link to them off-site.
  • Your Issues
    • Introduce them as discussion topics. One of the best ways to gather community input on the issues or needs your organization addresses is to ask a question. You can also watch for topic of interest and add your replies. People really apprciate it when someone adds a link to authoritative information like a government report, a news story, meeting minutes, and even resources on the shelf at the local library. If you have something of substance that can be shared, do it. In particular, correct the record or add details to discussion if the "grapevine" talk circulating off-line makes online with some incorrect details.
  • Advocacy
    • Invite people to your join your local campaigns and share major updates (but not all). See Issues Forums for community organizers for more in-depth analysis. When launching a new community effort, advocacy campaign, etc. reaching your neighbors online can be extremely difficult. By leveraging the "community stream" you can reach hundreds of people in seconds. Finding the second, third, or fourth person to join your effort can be aided significantly by posting to our forums. Work to get folks to a meeting to cement a relationship. You may attract more online watchers on your own e-mail list, Facebook Page, Twitter feed, etc. but turning those "clicks" into on the ground collaboration and action takes just as much effort as before the Internet.
  • Monitor the Pulse
    • Be in the loop on community conversations.
  • Individuals Matter
    • Posts from organizations must be posted by named persons.
  • Be Prepared for Questions and Comments
    • The "cost" of posting to a democratically conceived Issues Forum is the chance that participants will have questions or comments. While more likely at the city-wide level, some may even challenge you or post a different opinion.
 

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