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How to run an online campaign

  • Story Highlights
  • Internet becoming a vital mechanism for campaigners
  • Attractive, easy-to-use sites are key for attracting support
  • Use social networking sites and blogs to help build a campaign community
  • Combine online efforts with working in the 'real' world
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(CNN) -- So you want to change the world -- or at least a little part of it -- using the power of the Internet? Here are some tips to help get you started.

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Use the Web to link up with like-minded people and spread the word online

Stay focused
Work out exactly what it is that you want to achieve. People don't have time for mixed messages on the web -- they're even more impatient than usual, so you must get your point across clearly and quickly.

Know your audience
Work out who your target audience is, then find out as much as you can about them. What do they do? Where do they live? What do they care about? Where do they hang out online? You should know the answers to all these questions and more. Then tailor all your content to attract them.

Be passionate
Communicate why your cause is important to people. If they see you really care, they'll want to find out more.

Pure and simple
Have a simple, attractive, easy-to-use Web site. Don't overwhelm people with content -- but give them contact details so they can find out more should they want to. And keep it up to date -- old information will only put people off.

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Plain speaking
Don't ever use corporate language. Ever. Communication on the Internet is very informal, and people write as they speak. Would you really say, "Our campaign aims to minimize usage of local landfill facilities" in real life? Or would you say "Landfill stinks! Please recycle!" instead?

Don't exaggerate
The Internet is no place for marketing hyperbole. Do you really have the greatest product in the history of mankind? Web users are more interested in what it does. Is this the most important issue facing the world today? Not if it's a local campaign. Nothing switches Net users off like marketing-speak. Stick to the facts.

E-mail updates
E-mail newsletters are great for keeping people in touch. Send them out regularly, to keep people's interest, but never spam the list. Make it easy for people to sign up via your Web site or a forwarded e-mail, and put instructions on how subscribers can remove themselves from the list at the end of every e-mail you send out.

Spam is a no-no
Never, ever spam your audience. Ever. They will hate you, they will tell all their friends, who will also hate you, and they will all tell you that they hate you. It's not acceptable via email, on blogs or on messageboards -- spam is only a desperate technique for people selling fake watches and questionable marital aids.

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Have a tin -- but don't shake it in people's faces
Make it easy for people to donate money -- sign up with a Web site that handles online donations and get yourself a Paypal account -- but don't wave it in people's faces. If they want to give, they will.

Step into the real world
Just because your campaign is online doesn't mean you should only push it there. Put your Web site address and your email address on every publicity material you make -- letterhead, t-shirts, button badges. Stick up a card in the local shop, try to get coverage in the printed press. Mention it in interviews.

Get bidding
Raise awareness and funds at the same time with a charity auction on eBay.

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Participate
Communicating on the Internet isn't about talking at people, it's about talking with them. Open a blog or discussion forum, use it and respond to comments. Engage with people on an equal level and they'll engage with you. Ignore them, and you'll lose their interest.

Ask for help
Contact related sites and bloggers (find them on Technorati or Google Blogsearch) and ask them politely if they'd be interested in linking to you -- offer them images and content for their site to make things extra easy.

Get personal
When you do contact bloggers or Web site owners, take the personal approach. Don't hide behind your campaign's, company's or organization's public face. Introduce yourself, give your real name and explain why you're contacting them. If they decline, take it gracefully. Remember, they're doing you a favor.

Community building
Put profiles on MySpace and Facebook. Link them back to your Web site, update them regularly and engage with people there -- don't leave them lying dormant.

Flickr your photos; YouTube your videos
If you have photos and video clips to share, put them on Flickr and YouTube. If other people have photos or clips -- e.g. from fundraising or awareness-raising events -- get them to load them up and ask them to tag them so they're pooled together and easy to find.

Have fun!
If you are enthusiastic about engaging with people online, spreading your message, encouraging action and raising awareness, it shows. As you meet like-minded people and see your campaign grow, let your enjoyment shine through.

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Is online campaigning as effective as traditional methods? Have you donated to, or got involved with, an online campaign? What do you think of sites like Flickr and YouTube? Tell us in the forum -- or read others' thoughts on the future. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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