Online advocacy is a relatively new pursuit that focuses on using the Internet and the tools it provides to promote a certain issue, candidate, or group of candidates. This advocacy is demonstrated through a number of different formats and strategies, and commonly includes the use of dedicated Web sites, e-mail, video sites, blogs, and social networking sites. While generally not used as a sole strategy, many candidates and organizations may consider it a critical component in their overall efforts.
In any campaign, time and money are critical elements, and online advocacy offers an advantage in both cases. Most online activities can be done with existing infrastructure already in place. If more is needed it can usually be obtained fairly quickly, and relatively inexpensively. Furthermore, the message can get out to many different people all at once at the click of a button.
At the beginning of the 21st Century, it was just enough that candidates simply had a Web site, a place people could go to see what they thought about the issues. Since that point, the dedicated Web site devoted to a candidate and his or her platform has not only become a way to get the message out, but a valuable source of fund raising. Many politicians provide a way for supporters to donate to a campaign right on the Web site through the use of an Internet payment system most likely involving credit cards. This type of online advocacy has opened up new sources of revenue during times when campaigns have become more expensive.
The strategies of online advocacy do not stop with Web sites. E-mail and especially blogs have become favorite tools of those fighting for a cause. They provide the chance to get simple messages to people in a very quick way. The only expense involved is hiring someone to write the pieces and send them out. In a political campaign, this is often done by volunteers. Both e-mails and blogs are easy to set up and easy to publish, with minimal HTML skills needed.
For those who have a bit more creative skills and are technically gifted, online advocacy can also include Internet video sites. With this strategy, candidates can post entire meetings, rallies or speeches, and then direct voters to those sites so they can review what took place. This is an especially important form of online advocacy for those who feel their message is not broadcasted enough in the traditional media.
Though social networking sites were not created primarily to serve as online advocacy tools, they definitely have their place. Those who have issues they feel passionately about are able to share that message with their friends, and establish contact with who support the cause. This is an effective way to create a grassroots advocacy campaign as most people tend to have friends that think like they do. Thus, positive results from a campaign on a social networking site may be seen very quickly.