The Campaign’s Use of the Internet
One of the most important components of this campaign is the use of the Internet and social networking tools. Perhaps the greatest misconceptions of Internet based communications and relationship is that “virtual” is somehow equivalent to “unreal” or “make-believe”. Communication over the Internet allows for a greater richness of content and even greater personalization of that content. When I went to college there was almost no way to find out which professors were great and which were painfully bad. Today there are sites like ratemyprofessor.com that tell you what to expect from a professor and class. This is just one small example of the power of social networking on the Internet. Facebook, Myspace, SecondLife and LinkedIn are just a few of the sites that are changing the way people live and work. These social networking tools have become a part of the fabric of social life on college campuses and even among high school and middle school students. The relationships that form through these sites are very real and the results that can be accomplished using these tools are quite powerful and even world changing. You need look no further than the presidential campaign of Barack Obama to see this.
The Campaign Web Site
The campaign web site of Barack Obama is an inspiration. It is well organized and uncluttered. The organization of the web site itself encourages people to get more involved in the campaign. There are clear links to make donations or to get active in your local community. This consistent invitation to get personally involved and locally active is exactly what is needed in an evangelism campaign. We want to make it easy for people to get started and then provide numerous opportunities to go deeper by participating in events and groups.
The heart of the campaign is the Web site. This is the portal or entry point for anyone participating in the campaign. The campaign web site is an active interface rather than a static source of information. Anyone visiting the web site can join the campaign and record their preferences and modes of participation. Each time that person visits the web site his or her personal interests would be reflected in the information provided. This personalization could include:
- Congregational affiliation,
- Small group membership (schedules and events specific to that group)
- Level of participation (Observer, financial supporter, participant in a group, leadership, etc.)
- Personal interests (Christian practices, mission activities, congregational events),
- Lists of Friends and bulletin boards for sharing notes among the friends.
One of the advantages of using personalization on the web site is that people can be encouraged to take the next step that is appropriate for them. The levels of participation and activity of each person can be displayed on their private and personalized portal to the campaign. These levels might include:
- Registered – the campaign has the person’s e-mail address so he or she will be included in the e-mails and announcements as the campaign unfolds.
- Contributor – the person has made a financial contribution to the campaign.
- Attended an event
- Online dialogue before, during and after the event allows greater participation and involvement
- Distribution of video clips with highlights of events keeps enthusiasm high
- Joined a group
- Receive announcements and reminders for group activities
- Share experiences and reflections
- Continue conversations and explorations beyond the time of group meetings and activities
- Made a public commitment to seek baptism or confirmation
- Joined the congregation
- Leading a group
- Trained as a campaign worker
People will go to the web site to learn more about the campaign, find out what is happening, and most importantly, to communicate with other participants. The relationships that form through the campaign are supported and encouraged through the online connections made possible with Internet tools.