Understanding Media
in a Social Media World


How to Leverage New Media
to Build a “Long Game”
Digital Communications Strategy
for Effective Community Organizing


In the current political environment, colleges are feeling a sense of social responsibility and are looking for a productive path of action. 

The power of social media is playing a crucial role in the active resistance to the Trump agenda. The energy and passion of this response offers an educational opportunity that includes “new media literacy” and practical organizing principles.

The dynamic use of social media by various anti-Trump movements and demonstrations are infusing these new media with a fresh crop of enthusiastic activist users, both young and old. Even commercial software giant, Adobe, has found "creating change" to be a motivator worth leveraging (https://spark.adobe.com/blog/2016/06/14/use-video-to-create-change/ ).

In other words, there is a whole new wave of activism, a “swelling power of resistance,” to be reflected upon, joined and enhanced:

“That anger and frustration can be seen in the 300,000 new members and $24 million — more than six times its annual online donations — the American Civil Liberties Union has raised since Saturday, the first full day of President Trump’s immigration ban. And in the 1.3 million times “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda” has been downloaded. And in the 45,000 calls, letters and emails Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s office has received about Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions’ nomination to be attorney general and what many perceive as her tardiness in opposing him.” (Source: http://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/The-resistance-urges-Democrats-to-oppose-10901980.php )

This article ends with a question that this course will attempt to answer, especially through the participation of Bennington students: 

“You’re seeing a re-engagement of Millennials,” said David Binder, the San Francisco-based pollster who has worked for the presidential campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Obama. 

But, Binder said, “The No. 1 question now is: Can (this enthusiasm) be maintained? How do Democrats find a vehicle to harness this enthusiasm so that they will vote in 2018?”


Focus on Communications & Connections First, Then on Technology.

Communications that Extend Our Reach

Digital and social media are communication channels that have become increasingly democratized. Yet the fundamentals of effective storytelling remain. Likewise, what old media called “audience building” is still necessary. In the New Media world, we call it “virtual community organizing” and “relationship building.” These dynamics overlap with demonstrations and the organization activities of local action groups, as is seen in, for example, the Indivisible Guide model ( https://www.indivisibleguide.com/ ).

Purpose-driven Sustainable Connections

Authentic relationship building, the kind that leads to on-going networks of support, are not “one hit wonders.” They require a persistent and engaging online presence. They also require a willingness to experiment, try new things, fail, reflect, adjust or pivot, and try again.

Organizing Principles

Our broad definition of "social media" includes YouTube and email marketing as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and the rest.

New Media Literacy

In the face of overt lies, the truth becomes even more important. Authenticity is a crucial component of building trust online. And, ethical journalism takes on increased value. Journalism is even receiving a renaissance of of social media support, including the brand new #PressOn hashtag: http://money.cnn.com/2017/02/01/media/press-on-campaign-trump-media/ 

We will ask the difficult questions. For example:

  • What is journalism really? 
  • How does it relate to the concept of “content marketing”?
  • What it means to be a citizen in democracy

The Long Game

Our organizing mindset will be around “the long game,” and strategies that are both sustainable and agile.

This includes the need to experiment. In this regard, our approach will be informed by a connection to the startup mentality of growth hacking: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_hacking 

“A process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business (or organization.)”

Foundations of Effective Action

Instead of “user base” (the startup term), we will develop an active community of support and collaboration. Rather than developing audiences, new media pioneers are building engaged virtual community organizers. 

In social media, we are no longer dependent upon corporate gatekeepers. We own our own media and develop our own networks, channels, online communities, and “tribes.” This brings with it new kinds of responsibilities that this course will illuminate.

Video skills are crucial. We will teach and experiment with the humanization of media. “People, Passion and Principles” are paramount. We will engage in best practices for personal branding, advocacy, authentic voice, and the pros and cons of “social media stars.”

Fundamental practices and exercises will include the experiential development of each individual’s own authentic voice. This is crucial because digital storytelling requires powerful storytellers.

Given the dynamic importance of local events from government meetings to demonstrations, we will also explore how to leverage and extend Virtual and Live Events, including practical insights of the creation and distribution of real time media such as social video (for example, Facebook Live) and the graphic language of “the visual web” (for example, Instagram and Pinterest-style social media graphics, infographics and mobile device photography).

We will learn from experience that media creation is a practice. Much like exercise, you develop “muscles” and skills over time. Social media creation is also a learning process. As social media continues to evolve, we will actively and transparently initiate experiments that allow us to continually improve and discover new approaches.

We will learn to go Beyond the “Like” and debunk “vanity metrics” while we also develop a foundation of analytics and measurements that reflect true engagement and which improve effectiveness and sustainability for long term success.


In order to offer this course, please contact us.