Have you ever encouraged a group of friends or co-workers to join you at a party or event by sending them a personal email? Congratulations, you’re an online organizer.
Maybe you want to generate some online buzz and interest around your newly released album or the new cancer-curing coffee machine that your company invented in order to increase sales. Even if you’re looking to build a coalition of activists around the world to lead several thousand public demonstrations at the very same moment, you are online organizing.
The internet enables you to both widen your audience and also strengthen your relationship with existing supporters or members. With the proper mix of authenticity, leadership, and sometimes humor, information about your idea, product, campaign, or effort can travel "virally" through thousands and millions of people within hours. Your goal is to capture the attention (and email address) of as many of these people as possible -- then to support this community’s ability to (a) continue growing and (b) accomplish your common goals.
The internet will never replace face-to-face interactions, but it does have a uniquely powerful way of enabling citizens with similar interests to find one another, communicate, and take action. Even if these people never meet in the real world, they have a profound ability to shape a political debate, affect the marketplace, and impact society.
Much like the internet itself, there’s no single path to success in this dynamic and ever-evolving medium. That’s why we’re painting in broad strokes to describe key lessons and proven best practices. No discussions of databases, pace, ways to integrate online and offline organizing, etc. Just the basics here:
1. Before you start: Think strategically and take the plunge
2. Start a dialogue with your audience or supporters: Communicate regularly with them about why your project, organization, or campaign is important.
3. Create opportunities for meaningful action
4. Identify and support your leaders as if they are high-dollar contributors
5. Close the loop
Here is a list of what we believe to be some of the Best Online Organizing Reads of 2010 as published in the Huffington Post: