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Why the Internet Matters

June 11, 2007

The Internet is more than just a passing fad and will be a critical component to any electoral campaign during the 2008 election and beyond.  We have already seen many of the presidential contenders tapping into the netroots to raise money and recruit volunteers. 

But why should higher education institutions pay attention to these campaigns?  Campaigns only last for 18-24 months but higher education institutions must plan for the long-term.  As a result of these short time frame campaigns have become very innovative strategies and tactics to disseminate information. 

But many higher education institutions have shied away from using the Internet because it has not been proven that it is an effective tool.  Many institutions tend to stick with traditional communication methods such as direct mail, media (paid and earned), and phoning.  But it is time that interactive communication be placed on the same level as these other tools for a variety of reasons.

The Internet matters because...

  1. It is where people are going to get information
    According to the Pew Internet American Life Project, 31% of all Americans, or about 60 million people, say they were online during the 2006 campaign season gathering information and exchanging views via email.
  2. It is becoming harder to reach out to people through traditional means
    Television - Seventy-five percent of marketers feel that television advertising is becoming less effective and some have even declared the end of the 30-second television spot.  Direct mail - it is very difficult to break through the clutter. Newspaper and radio – less people are using traditional media. 
  3. It is more interactive
    Traditional communication vehicles provide more of a broadcast model that simply distributes information to a targeted audience.  The Internet allows communication to become more interactive with the audience, as they can comment on the information or repackage the information.  This interactivity is critical to engaging any audience because the public wants this type of engagement.  That is why participation programs like American Idol and blogs have exploded in the last few years.
  4. Individuals can get involved anytime and anyplace
    This level of convenience is something that the public has come to expect.  The Internet allows individual to customize their experience and get the level and type of information that they want.

Why the Internet works

  1. Easy for people to participate
    With just a few clicks of a button supporters can donate money, contact their elected officials, or engage many of their friends to get involved.  The Internet makes it so easy for people to participate and get involved. People have many competing priorities and the Internet allows them to get involved without having to spend a lot of time.
  2. Increase loyalty of supporters
    The Internet allows groups to communicate with members on a more regular basis.  This type of communication used to be extremely time consuming to develop and cost prohibitive.  But through e-mails, web sites and blogs, users can become more engaged and active.  This can be used to strengthen the relationship that your organization has with supporters and make them.
  3. Improves speed and efficiency that information can get out
    The Internet allows institutions to very quickly and easily communicate with members.  The web is instantaneous; within a few minutes thousands of supporters can be notified about an issue and those messages can be easily passed onto to others extending the reach.
  4. Save time and money
    Previously, to get information out to supporters, institutions would have to develop a direct mail piece.  Now the web allows institutions to communicate with members twice as much and at half the cost through the Internet.
  5. Can evaluate it
    The Internet allows institutions to monitor who is taking action, what they are reading, and how many people they are forwarding the message to.  This real time evaluation is not possible with direct mail and advertising, and this data can help evaluate what messages are working who are your superstar activists.
  6. Can target impact
    Once you know who those superstar activists are or what issues people are concerned about, your organization can customize messages to these individuals very easily.

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