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The SEIU's New Tool to Influence Post-Debate Conversation

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, October 15 2012

The SEIU had been testing social media analytics tool Attentive.ly for a few months, but was able to fully test its functionality for the first time during the last presidential debate. The union plans to use it again during the upcoming debate to identify potential advocates to reach out to with a targeted email campaign.

"We used it to identify which of our email list subscribers are on Twitter," Online Organizing and Advocacy Manager David Norton said.

That allowed the creation of a list of people to target for subsequent messaging.

"We sent out an email blast around the debate, pointing out that journalists are watching what people are saying on Twitter and trying to construct a narrative from Twitter," he said. "We encouraged our supporters to go on Twitter and post specific tweets in support of our messaging and framing about economic justice, reproductive health and tax inequality. In this particular case we were able to generate about 500 tweets from our e-mail list."

Norton said he didn't think a lot of other groups were yet able to use their email list effectively in this way, and said that the ability to be able to reach out to supporters "en masse at a particular time ... opens the door to a new kind of advocacy."

"Having a list that we can derive actions through, that's sort of game-changing for us," he said. "It performed better than our expectations. Our open rate was the highest that we've seen in over 12 months."

He said he was hopeful that the effort could be repeated with even more success at the next presidential debate hosted by CNN's Candy Crowley, since, he said, CNN has been making a significant effort to incorporate Twitter into its broadcasts and take questions from the social network.

"If we can help shape that narrative and frame the conversation on Twitter, then it's possible that we could be one of the questions answered," he said. "If we can generate 500 to 1,000 tweets about economic justice, then reporters will see that and that this is an issue people care about."

"Without Attentive.ly, you would have to email your entire list and the vast majority don't use Twitter," he said. "It opens up a new realm of possibilities for online advocacy. It's definitely a tool I'd recommend, it's changing the way that we do online advocacy."

This post has been corrected. Due to a typo, an earlier version misquoted Norton's comments about how a high number of tweets could influence the online conversation. He spoke about generating "500 to 1,000 tweets," not "500 to 100 tweets."

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