Is MoveOn.org Social Media? / by Nate Westheimer

Is MoveOn.org Social Media?

That's the question I posed at the Social Media Club meeting (where I presented the BricaBox Platform) on Tuesday.

As Andrew Parker notes, there was a great discussion about Social Media and the 2008 elections, but at no time did anyone mention MoveOn.org as an example or force, factor or player. Wow!

While Andrew and others felt the answer was simple (this, from Andrews summary of how the group felt):

MoveOn does not implement social media. They work by mailing lists, which is simply a form of broadcast media. It’s a one-way monologue, which inherently is not social and, thus, is not relevant to the conversation.

I guess I have to disagree. MoveOn.org is indeed social media; in fact, it's old guard, revolutionary social media.

To start, let's look back to January of 2004 -- well, October of 2003, really. On October 28rd, 2003 -- three years before YouTube would sell to Google -- MoveOn.org announced its "Bush in 30 Seconds" campaign.

With "Bush in 30 Seconds," the idea was simple: users/members would write, direct, and act in their own 30 spots "telling the truth" about George W. Bush' policies, and through their user/member generated funds, MoveOn would buy ad time during the week leading up to the 2004 State of the Union address.

To quote MoveOn's announcement email:

You don't have to be trained in the art of filmaking to participate, you just need to be ready, willing, and able to turn your clever ideas into a real 30 second ad. We want to run ads that are of the people, for the people, and by the people.

The contest was not only a staggering success. Over 1,000 videos were uploaded (remember, this is pre-YouTube) and 2.9 million votes were cast to pick the 15 finalists to be vote on by a team of judges. It was such a success, in fact, that MoveOn held an awards show (a user generated awards show) in New York City, on January 12th, 2004.

But here's the kicker: When "Child's Play" was announced as the winning ad, MoveOn did something it would take major media companies three years to do: they announced plans to to put user generated "Child's Play" on during the Nation's most expensive, most watched TV program -- The Superbowl.

While the ad was eventually rejected by CBS for being too political in an election year (resulting in over 400,000 user generated emails to CBS), the effect was clear. MoveOn was able to leverage its "simple form of broadcast media" into one of the most significant events in user/member generated content and action seen in the Internet's history.

As if this evidence might not be enough for doubters, or seem like just one example, people should recall that members of MoveOn vote regularly to direct the organization's platform and that platform goes nowhere if the members do not make the emails a two-way conversation by clicking on the petitions, signing them (it's not just a click), and then passing them on to their friends to sign. Additionally, the quip I had about "user generated funds" is real when we acknowledge that we still live in a world dominated by old media. The amount MoveOn members raise determines if ads are printed in what newspapers and for how long. That's a significant social effect on media, and I'd dare to say it's Social Media.

Lastly, on a purely social level, let's recognize the movement MoveOn (Ben Brandzel, specifically) created after Katrina. Thousands of Americans used MoveOn.org as a platform to invite displaced Americans into their homes. This also makes MoveOn one of the most social/humanitarian Internet projects you can find.

Not Social Media? Not Social? You've got to be kidding.