Model Goals, Not Just Outcomes

Dealing as I do with online campaigns and social media I hear quite often about how we the organization or client “need to do it like they did it [at group or campaign X].” Invariably, when pressed for what that means, you hear something like “well, they really got a lot of people involved” and/or “they raised a ton of money.” Sometimes you hear “well, they won.”

350 Day of Action photo by Sioux Falls Green Project
Photo from 350.org day of action by Flickr user Sioux Falls Green Project

All good reasons to look for inspiration and models in the work of others. They were successful. Let’s do it that way.

But this assumes at least a couple factors that organizations or campaigns can’t necessarily replicate. Nor should they.

  1. It assumes that the goals and practices of “good campaign x” track are a match and transferable. Hmm. Maybe but probably not. This deserves examination. When you peel back the layers of a campaign’s communications, staff, volunteers, ads, news coverage and all the rest you come to its core goals. Nine times out of ten (at least) the best campaigns perform at a high level because those goals were crystalline, achievable and shared amongst all involved. The outcomes track to those. If your goals aren’t similar you’ll struggle to replicate outcomes. Align on goals first.
  2. These high-performing online campaigns share interesting structures that are optimized for the web and social media. This doesn’t mean they’re all built the same way (which would lead one to define the secret formula…psst, there isn’t one) or that they aren’t tied into a larger structure that operates differently.

This structure is one that takes into account the interconnectedness and social aspects of the web. But staffing and “culturing” this network-sensitive approach in an organization takes some awareness. It’s not just about creating a website with “social features.”

Recently, Jason Mogus at Communicopia blogged about how organizations and campaigns can craft themselves using the network principles of the web and how that structure lends itself to creating campaigns, cultures and organizations that thrive on the hyper-networked web. He draws on actual first-hand experience (the best kind) with entities and campaigns like 350.org, Avaaz and TckTckTck . Here’s what he had to say:

From my own observations working with these groups familiar patterns emerge: small, usually virtual teams of multi-skilled people – all leaders in their own right – collaborating in real time without silos or management reporting boundaries. Not distracted by ongoing programs that muddy priorities and chew up resources, and empowered to say no to opportunities that don’t fit or aren’t realistic. Valuing listening, letting the community they serve inform (or even set) priorities, and collaborating openly with them on their most important work. Disciplined people, tracking metrics in real time, dropping what doesn’t work, and focusing on a few key leverage points, throwing everything they’ve got at one thing when openings appear.

They way they use technology is also important. There is often no “web department” of networked orgs – everyone is comfortable using modern communications tools. There are of course specialists on staff to build and fix things, but no one has to ask a different department to “blog that story” or “tweet that insight”, everyone has their fingers on the pulse of a different version of their constituency, everyone is a collaborator. Technology helps them do this faster and more efficiently, and lowers the barriers between those inside and those outside the organization.

This is worth chewing on as you tackle your next “big social media campaign.” It’s not about the technology – this app or that website – but rather it’s about the people. The people you’re trying to reach and engage, no doubt, but also the people inside guiding the work. How do they interact, learn and share? Build and model networks internally and you may have more success building and engaging them externally.

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