Like all of my colleagues here at Convio, I’ve been humbled by the many organizations who have rushed to the aid of the Haitian people over the past two weeks, raising record-breaking funds for relief efforts and showing how technology can be used to save lives.
As an advocacy buff, I’ve been particularly impressed with the action alerts and online petitions related to Haiti. One campaign which several organizations took part in was successful in convincing President Obama’s administration to grant temporary protected status to Haitians living in the U.S. Just this weekend, family members of those who have gone missing since the earthquake launched an online petition urging government officials to continue search and rescue operations.
One area in which I hope to see new, innovative campaigns from advocacy orgs in 2010 is using social media as a means of communicating with elected officials and other decision makers. A recent study by researchers at the University of Maryland found that, while use of Twitter is growing amongst members of Congress, very little is happening in the way of direct citizen-to-representative interaction or vice versa (I’m still waiting for a RT from @JohnCornyn).
A recent campaign that caught my eye was the “Tweet Your Senator” campaign around health care reform on the Organizing for America site. A Convio client asked me a few months back if they could incorporate something similar on their site, allowing constituents to look up and tweet at their legislators. After doing a little research, I wasn’t able to find a plug-and-play solution out there to meet this need, so I decided to build my own! With a little help from a friend, I created TweetAtCongress.com. TweetAtCongress provides an API that Web developers can use to look up legislators on Twitter (and yes, you can use it anywhere, not just on a Convio-powered site). The site launched last month with support for federal legislators, and later this week, I’ll be pushing out an update with data for state legislators as well. In the next few weeks, I’ll also be posting a document on the Convio Community with instructions on how Convio clients can use this API to easily create a widget just like the POTUS.
So, all you advocacy organizations out there, I’d love to hear any feedback you have on TweetAtCongress, and any other creative ideas you have for how non-profits can use social media as a tool for change