Around the world, organizers are discussing whether Social Media will replace the traditional forms of organizing people around a specific cause or movement. This idea comes from the fact that Social Media is fast becoming the primary way people communicate for a whole host of reasons. Comscore.com has a great article here that shows how tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are growing in visitors each year for the last couple years and how much time they spend on Social Media. These are all tools, as the greatest tool in an organizers toolbox is the referral and showing up where many people meet. Social Media provides that opportunity, since you have to go where the people are located. The internet is that new site for an organizer to show their presence. However, just because the tools to connect with people have changed, does not mean the traditional forms of communication have.
Facebook, for example, gives a person the option to request a friend.This is the initial handshake. If I met you at an event and you recognize me, than you will likely accept my friendship. I will still be an acquaintance after the first hand shake and will still need to engage you in different conversations to encourage you to act for my cause. So if the organizer goes to a PTA meeting, the organizer will collect phone numbers and emails (phone numbers evolving to the email address) to follow-up on the topic of discussion. Social Media allows you to collect many names and contact info, but you still have to “knock” on their social media door. Getting to the point where a Facebook friend or Twitter follower that you never really met actually share their contact number with you is a major victory in organizing. However, you still need to make the call. You still need to be polite, genuinely interested in them, and have a specific reason both of you are connecting.
So if a friend request is the initial handshake, then the inbox message is a phone call. The chat room with 5-10 people in it is a community meeting. Hosting fundraisers and sending thank you notes are all part of the traditional organizing method, which can be done online. The subtle differences between how you get them to go to an event or to give depends on the tool you use. However, The goal is still to get them to go somewhere offline. So the difference between a Morse code machine and the information superhighway is simply the amount of people you can connect with at one moment. It is up to you to get your message across once you make a connection.