Apologies if this has already been discussed to death. It's a pretty banal topic.
So I've set up a Facebook group for our union branch - the reason being that loads of people are already on FB and, and I've had some bad experiences elsewhere with alternative platforms (specifically Crabgrass), where a lot of people don't like to go through the extra step of joining the network THEN joining the group.
However, only about 10% of our membership have joined our group and it's only a few people (who are already heavy FB users) are actively using it. I'm not sure if people are reluctant to join because of not wanting to contribute to the spread of Zuckerberg's evil empire (the privacy issues, the selling of information to third party companies... employers snooping on profiles... or you might have heard the story about 50 UK activist profiles being deleted around the time of the Royal Wedding...). I've asked and am waiting for a response.
I'm wondering if anyone has any experiences with either setting up groups for their union branches either on Facebook or on alternative platforms (like Crabgrass, Diaspora, or this one). Do you find people are more willing to sign up to alternative platforms (because of the privacy issues etc), or less so (because they think it's a pain to go through the extra step)?
And if this has been discussed to death, please point me to the thread.
There has been a lot of research into groups/forums over the years, and I guess it comes down to two things. In order to be successful, they need a very clear and concrete purpose AND an active, skilled facilitator. The latter needs to keep things lively, friendly and purposive. One study also suggested that such groups should also have an understood and time-bound lifespan.
I'm as guilty as many others of ignoring these things, but I've found them to be true when applied.
I agree with Peter: purpose, lifespan and facilitation are keys to success with any social media platform be it Facebook or whatever.
Since Facebook is the most popular by a long way it is the most useful for union organising in the sense of 'going to where the people are'. However since most use it for socialising you often find people want to keep a boundary between their personal and political lives - so are reluctant to use Facebook for what might be seen as politics (even if they are politics to do with their own workplace).
Myself I think Facebook works best as a means of initial contact with people who are potential activists, who then might be followed up face to face (as in literally or by phone). I'm not sure you can organise an entire membership via any social media - but a social media group might plant a seed so to speak. A core activist group might then choose to move to an alternative platform such as the ones you suggest so they can keep in contact for a campaign.
Hi all, below is a recent post on Walton's blog on fb & union organising , very relevant to the discussion:
For a lot of unions, online organising starts and ends with Facebook. Many union communicators are fairly uncritical of Facebook, and seem to think it’s important to get people to ‘like’ your union’s Facebook page. Clearly Facebook is important, because many of your members are there. But Facebook is not a neutral space. As Jonathan Franzen eloquently writes in the New York Times,
A related phenomenon is the transformation, courtesy of Facebook, of the verb “to like” from a state of mind to an action that you perform with your computer mouse, from a feeling to an assertion of consumer choice.
It’s an excellent article that deserves to be read in its entirety. It questions our embrace of techno-consumerism, and asks what it means for love, passion and genuine engagement with the world. If this is too philosophical for you, consider some of the practical problems:
Despite the popularity of Facebook, many people don’t use it. I am not on Facebook, for what I believe are very good reasons. I find it extremely frustrating when I get invited to participate in a campaign – by visiting a Facebook page. Often there’s no other way to engage. It is extremely bad practice to create content that only users of a particular service can access, and it leads to a ‘splinternet’, with different communities inhabiting different services.
Despite the above, I believe it is important to have a presence on Facebook, simply because of the power it gives you to reach people. If you are going to create a Facebook page for your union, Alex White has some pointers here. But I think that while you should use Facebook, you should be encouraging your members away from the site and onto places that are controlled by your union or campaign. Unions need to develop user-friendly campaign websites – like this and this, for instance -though they’d be improved if they allowed people to engage.
Encourage your members to share your own content on Facebook, by all means. There are Facebook share buttons at the bottom of this post, and Facebook drives a lot of traffic to this website. But if Cyberunions existed on Facebook only, we’d be restricting ourselves to a particular audience, and encouraging people to join Facebook if they were interested in our ideas.
Control your own data. Set up your own website, and use social media to promote it.
Walton and MV have recently started a postcasting experiment on the new comm technologies and union organising/campaigning, great stuff, highly advised!
Thanks for the props, Orsan.
Kirsten, I know a few people who use twitter for branch communications. I am not sure where you are, but in some countries tweets can be sent to phones as text messages, so essentially members can communicate with each other through text message.
Generally branches create private twitter accounts for this, and only allow followers they know are members. The account is generally quite low traffic.
I use Diaspora and I like it, but it's not ready for mainstream union use yet.
When OStatus comes online, we will be able to connect with people on other social networks, which will be great.
Yes we're on Twitter, but use it for a lot more than branch communications - we post a lot of news, links to blog posts, stuff from other unions and activists etc. (because Twitter is about so much more than one-way communications!). We have over 800 followers - but only a few of them are our members (the heavy Twitter users). We're in the UK so it's a bit tricky in terms of Twitter and text messages and cost. Correct me if I'm wrong, but some phone companies have deals with Twitter and some don't... Also some members seem reluctant to give out their mobile numbers because they feel it's an invasion of privacy.
Thanks for all the advice. Think we'll keep the FB thing going for now (with your suggestions in mind) but maybe when Diaspora etc. get it sorted we'll plan the escape route from Planet Zuckerberg:)
I joined a Crabgrass network. Has any Crabgrass network been chosen for Unionbook?