This is the eighth in a series of short articles that are intended to help grassroots activists better utilize social media websites. These are the definitive and comprehensive guides for progressives. Every week after the Intro, there will be a new guide published about how to more effectively use Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Other Sites, and on Advanced Strategies.
Up to this point we have covered an introduction to progressive internet activism and the large social media sites. Due to a limited amount of time that folks have online, those are the areas where the majority of their time should be focused to have the greatest impact.
That being said, there are dozens of other medium sized and smaller sites that can also be used, some of which are covered in this article. They are more intimate communities with fewer users, which can be a nice change of pace and give your experience a more personal feel to it. Below we will briefly cover the following sections:
Social News Social Bookmarking Social Networking Misc. Blogs
In addition to having signed up for Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, consider signing up for Newsvine, Fark, Meta Filter (MeFi), Slashdot (/.), Chime, Pinterest, Delicious, Diigo, Linkedin, MySpace, Orkut, hi5, netlog, Disqus, YouTube, Quora, Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress, Posterous, Care2, DailyKos, and Democratic Underground. Turn off all notifications so you don’t get overwhelmed by emails. You can often use your previously created profiles at Twitter, Facebook, or Google to sign up for many of these with 2 clicks. Think about installing a password manager like LastPass, (also available as a browser extension) and write down all of your passwords on a text file and email them to yourself as a backup accessible anywhere. This process may take some time, but you will be grateful you did it later. You will not only establish a presence across the board, but will prevent conservative stalkers from registering in places with your username in an attempt to smear your good name (they try to frame you for inappropriate comments). Trust me, it is a regular tactic of the right wing in their campaign of digital warfare.
This category of social media focuses in on news directly: headlines, breaking stories, the cutting edge of what’s new in the news. Users submit articles, pictures, or videos that can be voted up or down by the greater community, with discussion for each submission which can usually be voted on as well. The basic concept is that crowdsourcing will aggregate the best content to the top, a sort of democracy on the internet model. A key feature of social news sites is the front page, which if reached will suddenly cause a rush of eyeballs onto key content. Time is a critical factor on Social News sites, so push hard and push fast before stories expire or are no longer new. Reddit and Digg have already been covered, so here are a few others you might want to try out.
The best designed and organized social media site on the internet, Newsvine makes up for a lack of major traction by having an excellent community. Submitting articles is called seeding, and there is no downvote button on anything, only an up arrow to click if you think the article or comment is good. A far better way of gauging how much content you seed is resonating however is by the number of comments, which usually far exceed the actual number of votes.
Citizen Journalism is another draw, as people can write their own columns. The main sections you should pay attention to are politics, us-news, and world-news. Join groups such as Activism, Left of Center, Greenvine, Anti-war, Free Thinkers, Rationalists, Atheism, VineSci, scitec, Fired Up Democrats, Obamavine, Marijuana, American Progressives, GOP Watch, Occupy Wall Street, Mad for Maddow, and World News/Views. A list of some brilliant minds can be found below to get you started on your friends list.
This is a completely different beast in the social news world. It is designed not to share news, but to make fun of it. There is very limited usage potential outside of the actual front page unless you pay a $5 per month fee (or $50/year). Still there are 500,000 registered accounts, it’s good for some laughs, and there is some limited potential in submitting humorous content that exposes the ridiculous things the right wing is trying to. When adding content, editorialize the title a bit at the end with a couple humorous words.
Meta Filter (MeFi)
No site has stronger user loyalty than MeFi. The site is relatively small at ~100,000 users, but is kept almost totally troll free by the one time $5 registration, which is small price to pay for access to this awesome community. The site is rather poorly designed, but the focus is the quality of the discussions not the aesthetic appeal. Instead of submitting news, you submit a general interest discussion idea that is full of embedded links. If you ever want to take the temperature on any issue, this is the place to search, but beware of getting sucked too deep into the discussions or you will suddenly find your night is spent!
This site is more science and tech oriented and has moderate traffic. Politics and other more progressively themed topics are not often posted on or discussed. However there is a certain amount of bleed-over in regards to the unprecedented conservative attacks on science, net neutrality, and for censorship that resonate well here. Wikileaks and Anonymous themed posts are also attractive.
When a social news site called Propeller was shut down by AOL-Netscape, many users relocated to Mixx (aka Mixx Classic and not to be confused with MixxingBowl). When Mixx tanked, most users moved to the latest incarnation called Chime. While still a small community, there is an excellent visual design, streamlined interface, and content scrolling that should mean future growth. New features like the widget continue to roll out as well, giving users added functionality.
It would be wise to join these communities: US Politics, Social Justice, Occupy Wall Street, Nature, We Are The 99%, Occupy the Planet, and Social Media. There will likely be more communities built in the future to focus articles for niche communities that are usually progressively oriented, like LGBT, environment, science, secularity, unions, education, etc. A very brief starter list of suggested friends could include:
This is the perfect example of what happens when wingnuts take over a social media website. OldDogg, run by a well respected member of the social media community, had a huge burst of success following the revolt on Digg in September 2010. A group of rabid ultra-conservatives (the Digg Patriots) soon invaded in force, and began to use their same old tricks of artificially manipulating the site by censoring progressive content. Non-partisan users got tired of being attacked and fled the site. After a few months the front page began to be dominated by far right sources, site traffic subsequently collapsed, and the site shut down in late December 2011. EDIT 20Mar’12: It has been brought to my attention that Olddogg.com has now become The News Seed, although there was no redirect when I wrote this segment of the article in December 2011. The conservative “Digg Patriots” that poisoned the development of Olddogg with their tactics of bullying and harassment have mostly moved onto a smaller site called PolitiCollision.
While social news tends to focus on recent content, social bookmarking sites provide much stronger long term traction for evergreen content. For instance, an article about the latest Palin gaffe will not get strong traction, but an analysis of how tax cuts for the rich have led to increasing wealth inequity and more difficult conditions for the working poor will do well. StumbleUpon was covered in the 4th guide, now three more will be briefly covered. It is pretty easy to use the Shareaholic extension to save important progressive content on all the social bookmarking sites.
While technically a social ‘photo-sharing’ service, and probably more appropriately grouped in with sites like Picassa and Flickr, Pinterest behaves more like a social bookmarking service. It has a rich visual design, fluidity of use, and is seamlessly connected to many social media sites. The user base is overwhelmingly female. Pinterest has demonstrated exponential growth, having surpassed both Delicious and StumbleUpon in terms of traffic, reaching an Alexa rank of 19th in the US. There are currently over 10 million registered accounts and 9 million Facebook connections. Even more impressive is the dedication of users who spend an average of 88 minutes spent on the site, only surpassed by Tumblr (142) and Facebook (394).
While the focus of Pinterest is currently stunning imagery, there is little doubt that there is a lot of potential here for progressive activism. Pictures with inspirational quotations and comical memes that ridicule the lunacy of the right wing resonate well here. Further, using the bookmarklet, you can pin sites and articles from the internet, and group everything into topical board, like Progressive Media. A video version of this site can be found at Chill.
This site is very similar to SU except it is smaller (5 million users), has a superior organizational scheme, and up until recently a terrible graphics interface. The latter changed when a new company bought Delicious and completely revamped the site, giving it a shiny new look and feel. While there were a few cumbersome methods to save your previous bookmarks on the site, most people lost everything in the changeover and had to start over in late September 2011. A popular support forum was also killed in this process, and a lot of users left the site in revolt. If you are looking to build up a lot of things to save quickly focus on the News and Politics section. Follow the Progressive Stack. Bookmarking is very simple if you drag the Delicious bookmarklet (button) to your bookmark toolbar.
Similar to the others, but with additional functionality in that users can highlight specific sections and sticky notes for pages. Information on Diigo is stored it the cloud, but there are numerous server issues and much smaller community which may steer users away from this site.
Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ have been covered in previous guides, and should remain the primary focal points for the progressive social networking activist. Now a handful of other sites will be examined in brief (a small sampling of a far larger list). It is a good idea to register an account with the sites below, even if you never intend to use them.
This is predominantly a business networking website. Although there are 120 million registered accounts, it has less value to activism than the social networking sites already discussed. Linkedin will send you a lot of emails, and not only do they seem to try to hide how to turn off notifications, there are a lot of checkboxes to click (another good use for the EasyCheckBoxes GreaseMonkey script). Linkedin is very integrated with various social media tools to make posting here hassle free. Search for some groups to join if you want to spend more time on the site and avoid these mistakes.
Once the king of social networking, this site has suffered a colossal collapse under Murdoch’s evil News Corp empire and is struggling to remain relevant, despite clinging onto 130 million users.
There are 100 million Orkut users throughout the world, but they are primarily focused in Brazil and India with a moderate presence in Japan. Unless you intend to connect with the world activist circuit (primarily in terms of human rights), there isn’t much of a need to invest any time here.
Another site that is not very popular in the USA, but has international appeal is hi5. With 80 million users, it has it’s strongest presence in Latin America, India, Thailand, Romania, Jamaica, Central Africa, Portugal and Mongolia. The site has also been retooled to focus on more on Social Gaming than networking at this stage, so it will not be very valuable to activists.
Once known as Redbox and before that Facebox, there are at least 70 million Netlog users worldwide (perhaps up to 93 million). It is most popular in parts of Europe, Turkey, the Arab World, and Québec. Geotargeting programming is designed to customize content based on your location, and Netlog is available in many languages. This website has a bit of use for the world arena, but will not help American activists working on a national scale.
The following sites may or may not fit the definition of social media, but are good places to register accounts and spend a bit of time on.
This is a commenting platform with 60 million users that over a million websites utilize for their comment sections. Register an account on Disqus, link it to your Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr accounts. When you comment on news sites, you can then track how well received your comments are and any replies to them on your dashboard. You can also like or dislike pages, and automatically post the likes to Twitter and Facebook.
There are hundreds of millions of Youtube users, making it colossal community. Activists use this site peripherally or regularly, depending on their interests and time constraints. It’s good to have an account here either way to support bold progressive content located by giving it a thumbs up and perhaps a quick comment. The comments section can be a warzone, so it’s a good idea to ignore most replies and always take the highroad no matter how much a right wing troll or astoturfing zombie is trying to drag the conversation down into the mud. Some activists who are into creating videos for political purposes may use this site quite a bit more often, and there is a lot of room to push progressive content here. Also consider participating in the more comfortable Vimeo community.
This is a Q&A website that has shown some impressive growth over the last year. While issue advocacy is not a part of Quora, this site is a good avenue to debunk right wing propaganda. Activist callsigns are not allowed on this site, the rules state you must use your real name.
While there are many automated tools that will shorten your links for you, it’s nice to be able to track how many clicks your links get as well as other statistics. Even though these are not social media sites, they are useful, so register at goo.gl, bit.ly, and su.pr.
Weblogs are an integral part of social media activism. They are an excellent way to discover and aggregate content, share key articles, and to write posts that flesh out one’s views on any issue. For instance a lot of progressives find that they are constantly debunking the same right wing disinformation, talking points, propaganda, and lies repeatedly. Instead of spending hours each week rewriting virtually the same reply, they can just write a blog post with proper citations that does the job, then link to that. Voila.
There is some stiff competition in the world of blogging. Once you have opened accounts at each of these, register your blogs at Technorati. Use Shareaholic or other tools to post good content you find on every blog you have.
This is now the lead blogging platform and with good reason. Tumblr is extremely easy to use, very visual, and social. Posting is a snap, finding others to follow is quite easy, and customization is no problem here. The last 18 months has seen phenomenal growth of Tumblr. There are nearly 40 million blogs (less actual users) with 14 billion posts across the network, and there is no sign that Tumblr is going to slow down anytime soon.
Blogger is formerly known as Blogspot. It is still a good place to build up at least a minor presence, but the design is a bit cumbersome and traffic comes in behind Tumblr and WordPress. One of the key aspects of using Blogger is the integration with the rest of the Google package, including G+ and Picassa.
This is a complicated yet versatile free blogging platform to use. People can really make professional quality blog posts with WordPress, and it is the preferred platform to use by many medium and major online publications. Learn it.
Very similar to Tumblr but with a smaller community. The nice thing about Posterous is your ability to feed your publishing directly to Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Delicious, and your other blogging sites.
There are also community blogging forums that provide an excellent way to springboard your ideas and meet other activists. Join the 17 million strong Care2 community, the bold progressives at the Daily Kos, and the Democratic Underground.
One final note about blogging needs to be covered. While it is certainly possible for folks to spend the time to purchase and build their own website that they can eventually monetize, that takes a LOT of time and effort that could be better invested in actual activism. That being said, if what you’re writing is resonating well, you may be invited to write for other publications, most of which have no clue how to use social media. Advise them. It’s important to have buttons at the top of each article to make it convenient for users to give a quick SU thumbs up, Facebook like, and +1 on Google+, as well as buttons for Digg, Reddit, and Twitter. Check out the Digg Digg wordpress plugin. There are a lot of progressive websites that have a ton of quality content that never gets read because they don’t help readers share things in the social media world.
Don’t hate the media, become the media -Jello Biafra