Complementing offline efforts with online tactics

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Complementing offline efforts with online tactics

What is the role of online campaigning and awareness raising in offline community building and networking? How do you ensure that your use of social media is supporting and complementing your offline efforts and vise versa? Share your examples of successful online/offline intersections of campaigning.

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On juggling online and offline

Being aware of the possibilities offered by complementing your online and offline work is key to increasing your impact and the chances of success.

In some cases the adrenaline or severity of the work may blind us of the importance of communicating on your issue; or the attractiveness of a sleek viral campaign may make us forget other ways to get people’s attention. There are also cases in which an organization has two different campaigns for online and offline, with no contribution between the two, and lots of lost potential.
In the end the online world is not an alternative space for us to decide in which one to act; rather, it's an incredibly rich medium of communication that should be used to the maximum in addition to all other means at our disposal.

But how exactly can we do this? The details depend much on the organization, their work and culture; it's completely different for an awareness campaign to something like direct assistance or education.
It's important to have those responsible for social media, work in tandem with the ones at the other side of the equation; more so in the case of an campaign, it should be designed as one campaign with online components, and offline ones.

Creating discussion spaces where goals and objectives can be agreed between different teams. You may need more exposure for hands-on work, looking for new users on your shinny new webapp, or anything in between, the team needs to be able to communicate their needs and expectations.

Make those meetings regular, and promote that people responsible for the online and offline parts come up with ideas on how they could take advantage and include work the others are doing and more importantly: what could the other do that would benefit their side of the effort. If it’s a communication campaign, remember that one coherent campaign taking advantage of each medium’s strengths generally works best.

Organizing around Venezuela´s Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Thanks for your comments, Andres, as you say, each medium has its strengths, and they helped us organize for a specific campaign on human rights in Venezuela:


The State of Venezuela was the subject of its first Universal Periodic Review before de UN Human Rights Council in October 2011. Two umbrella groups, Foro por la Vida, Coalition of Venezuelan Human Rights, and Sinergia, Venezuelan Association on Civil Society Organizations, gathered its members and other NGO´s to work together in incidence activities around the UPR.  Since this was a novel process, it was important to hold face-to-face meetings to prepare reports and plan incidence activities.  The process of organizing started in early 2010, through a series of training sessions, consultations and sharing of information with organizations in other countries, with experience in this process.  

As you write, “Being aware of the possibilities offered by complementing your online and offline work is key to increasing your impact and the chances of success”.  However, we started with our offline process first and then decided to make use of online tools to maximize our reach.

We created a blog (, together with a twitter and facebook accounts ( and, in order to reach other CSO´s around the country and to inform media.  As well, we beneffited from the work of, one of the best online sources for the UPR process.

Our reach was limited ini terms of the wider audience, and we hope to make a better use of online tools as we organize for the next face of Venezuela´s UPR.





I'd love to hear about your experiences using social media to engage with other CSOs around the country, and make sure that you are sharing information and not reinventing the wheel.


Does it really work?



Engaging CSOs around the country


Generally, we have started not from social media but from offline engagement with partners.  Since our umbrella organizations have been established for over 10 years and members are in regular contact, when there is a particular occurrence that merits starting a campaign, usually the beginning steps are taken through face-to-face meetings.

This has been the case in our latest work around the UPR, HIV/Aids issues, promoting community participation in national social and political issues and even more recently, after the presidential elections, when there were instances of violence and mutual accusations of provoking them, between government and opposition groups.  

As you say, Susannah, we are not inventing the wheel.  So far we have followed a traditional course of action, in which we start by getting a group of organizations together, sharing points of view in terms of context and particular situations taking place within such context, setting up a course of action, establishing priorities.  However, particularly after two initiatives that had a national nature, any course of action we take now includes social media. 

We still have a good way to go before we make a more effective use of social media campaigns.  Recently, when the Venezuelan Information Ministry started a smearing campaign against a well-known human rights NGO we answered through different means, including social media.  The hashtag #todosporlasONG (all in support of NGOs) was used, but the response was not really widespread.  

The information shared in these conversations gives many good examples and ideas about such effective use of social media, we have some really good materials to use.






Here are some basic components for how to integrate online and offline activities -

  1. Audience

  2. Horizontal Engagement - provide value for people by connecting them with another

  3. Actions (online or offline)

  4. Completing the circle

For thinking about getting people to do things online and then offline, or vice versa, in more detail, I think it’s useful to take to a cue from the tactics that technology companies/product developers use to engage and retain users.  Examples:

  • Get people who are already involved to ask other people to join  - to take an action. This works a lot better than you and your team asking everyone you know to get involved. You can use social networks to see who knows who, and encourage horizontal engagement among supporters and potential supporters. This is sometimes called referral marketing

  • Search Engine Optimization is often useful for finding people (or letting them find you) online, and if your ladder of engagement is all set up and running smoothly then you’ll be able to bring them into your campaign and encourage offline action. Your first step for SEO is to learn about your target audience, figuring out what they are already searching for online so that you can align the keywords that correspond to those searches with the keywords that you are optimizing your site for. Also focus on increasing the amount of links that are coming into your site - ask friends with high page rank to link to your site from theirs.

  • Media attention - Clearly, press can be useful for driving people to your online presence, and then driving them to take action offline. One tip for getting media attention is to try and connect your human rights issue to a bigger trend or news story that you know journalists will want to write about.