Social Media Week Social Media Week

Next Conference: September 14-18, 2015




15 days until SMW September 14-18 Conference in London, Miami, Rotterdam, and São Paulo. Learn more here.


What is the role of social media in driving offline change? Who better to answer that and address #socialmediaproblems than Blue State Digital@BSDWire.

Blue State Digital  has been providing #socialmediasolutions for political campaigns and non profits since 2004, and their Director of Social Media Ryan Davis @ryannewyork was joined by Facebook DC’s Associate Manager of Public Policy Adam Conner @AdamConner and Clay Shirky who teaches theory and practice of social media at NYU @chsirky

The conversation ranged from a discussion of the concept of internet democracy and the limits of direct democracy in terms of scalability, to a suggestion that online organizers must tap into the inner-narcissism of folks in their network to be truly effective.

I have pulled down 3 tweets from the conversation that, I believe, encapsulate major themes any good online organizer should understand.


@VanComm “These tools dont get socially interesting until they get technologically boring” – Clay Shirky #socialmediaproblems #SMWWDC

The Arab Spring happened not only because protesters were fed up with dictators. Social media and wireless tech had penetrated their communities. Protesters were not only aware of, but also comfortable with social media. There is a lot of great new tech, but usage and adoption rates need to be there to be effective.  This fact makes the work that my friend B. Maynard Scarborough @bmscarborough and the rest of the team at One Economy  does all the more important. One Economy works to bring broadband and other useful technology into the homes of low-income people around the world, and employs youth to train community members to use technology effectively.


@benevolentmedia “It’s not enough to show the data, you’ve got to tell the story.” – Clay Shirky #SMWWDC #socialmediaproblems

During the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)/Protect IP Act (PIPA) debate the fact that the recording, motion picture and consumer goods industries lose millions of dollars in revenue to online piracy each year did not seem to incite anyone. Examples like Jammie Thomas-Rasset, who was found liable of infringing 24 songs in 2007, and who has been ordered to pay damages, ranging from $54,000 to $1.92 million seemed only to be a good read. However, the mere thought and short-lived reality that college students could not use Wikipedia to write papers at 3am resonated.


@BSDWire “Friends and family you know influence you more than strangers.” – Adam Conner at #socialmediaproblems #askbsd

It may be a toss up between the early caucus states and President Obama in the 08′ cycle for best use of the campaign house party, but  politicians have relied on supporters to “indoctrinate” their friends, families and neighbors since the dawn of political time.  Facebook Data  recently released a study that supports what we knew to be true; we share more information with our strong ties. However, due to shear numbers, weak ties are primarily responsible for the majority of information spread on Facebook. This means online advocacy campaigns can be very influential through having weak ties with potential supporters who know of a cause, but need to be walked up the ladder of engagement.


Ok, I promised three, but I cannot leave this last one. I promise it is short!

@K_AnnM Motivating your networks online is the same as in real life. Have consistency. #SMWWDC #socialmediaproblems

Your voice, colors, content, message and everything else should be consistent. Supporters and potential supporters should immediately recognize a message is from you or your organization.


So, what is the role of social media in driving offline change? Information dissemination? Event organization? Fundraising? Enabling direct action? The answer is as multifaceted and varied as the apps in your app store. However, Blue State Digital’s #socialmediaproblems conversation noted the incredible potential for social media to do social good #SM4SG and the panelists offered insights that will help organizers find #socialmediasolutions to real world problems.


Written by Brandon Andrews, an official Social Media Week DC blogger. Follow him at @teambichael.