Social Media for Pro-Lifers
This article appeared in the November NCLN newsletter.
The Internet offers a variety of opportunities for pro-life clubs to engage a wider audience. The key is in understanding the social part of the web.
Traditional broadcast media have typically been about a mass audience (one-to-many, e.g. TV, radio) and traditional communications media, about personal communication (one-to-one, e.g. telephones). The internet, on the other hand, offers a mass communications platform. That’s why internet media are often referred to as social media. On the web, it’s not about broadcast. It’s about multi-directional communication.
In geek speak: input and output.
Whether personally or on behalf of a group (and I’d suggest you’re better equiped to do it for a group when you’re doing it personally), the first step to adopting social media is to increase your input. Or, as Chris Brogan likes to say, to grow bigger ears. Do you browse the web by “foraging” for information? (Let’s check this site… anything new? How about that one?) A better way is to setup streams that direct the flow of information you want towards you.
Enter RSS (Really Simple Syndication). RSS allows websites to “feed” information into a feed reader. A feed reader is like an inbox for the web. You can subscribe to an RSS feed for a website, and then when something new is published, it will appear in your feed reader — no need to visit the site to check manually. You can find RSS feeds for blogs, news sites, Twitter feeds, and even on Facebook. Learn more about RSS in this video. Using a feed reader, like Google Reader, is the single biggest way to increase your input. Get started with some great pro-life blogs, like ProWomanProLife or Alex Schadenberg’s blog or (shamless plug) U of T Students for Life.
There are other ways to grow bigger ears. Became a fan of Pro-Life pages on Facebook, like the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, the deVeber Institute or (shameless plug) U of T Students for Life. Join Twitter, and start by following some pro-lifers (check out our list of pro-lifers). Try a search on Twitter for #prolife (that’s the pro-life “hash tag” — a way of labeling messages on Twitter). Check out pro-life photos on Flickr, pro-life videos on YouTube, and pro-life bookmarks on Delicious. Take in as much as you can. Information can also be inspiration.
Okay, you’ve setup a feed reader and suscribed to all the greatest pro-life blogs, and you’re following a bunch of pro-lifers on Twitter and Facebook, etc. How about your output? First of all, participate in the comments on blogs that you enjoy. Reply or re-tweet updates you like on Twitter. Share, comment, like, etc. Then, increase your own output. This is easy once you have those big ears. Start a blog! What should you write about? Well, what are your favourite bloggers writing about? (Check out WordPress.com for a free blogging platform.) Become active on Twitter! What should you talk about? What are the other people talking about that you find interesting? When you’re reading a lot from other people, it becomes much easier to figure out what you want to write about.
The final step towards web mastery is to link some of these things together. Web services don’t exist as silos — connect them up! Use Ping.fm to post to multiple places at once (e.g. bookmark links to Delicious when posted to Twitter), FriendFeed to streamline your updates into a single timeline, and import your blog posts and web activity to Facebook. There’s room for the occasional self-promotion too. Have a blog post that you’re proud of? Mention it on Twitter. Just setup a Facebook page for your group? Write a blog post about it. Create your own streams of information.
The key is to recognize the social in social media. Grow bigger ears and participate in the conversation. Use social media not only to connect with other club members, but to connect your organization to other groups and individuals. Start by experimenting with some of these services, and see where it leads. Don’t hesitate to check us out online or to get in touch!