Why use Social Networks to reinforce social campaigning?

Some of the things that I talked informally about in the bar at #muconf10 (Mothers’ Union All Unit Conference at Swanwick last week) was my understanding that ordinary people need to reinforce and make visible their commitment to and passion for particular forms of social action by talking about them on social media networks.

My basic logic is this (and based on the recent launch of Mothers’ Union Bye Buy Childhood campaign):

Mothers’ Union officers and staff go to the trouble of launching a long-term campaign that seeks to encourage some constructive change by businesses on the issue of the commercialisation of childhood, follows up on manifesto commitments by our political parties on the subject, and will also provide practical help to young families who want to deal with the related problems they encounter in daily life. They get good coverage in the national press, from the BBC as well as national papers.

But how does the wider media world know that ordinary people, whether Mothers’ Union members or not, really care about issues like this? They don’t, unless ordinary people (whether Mothers’ Union members or not) are out there talking about the issues involved, and showing themselves to be committed to supporting the campaign on their social media networks, and preferably on the networks used or noticed by people who will talk about this sort of campaign.

Now, if you’re reading this, you know I have a blog. I’ve been on Facebook for several years and the blog linked to my Facebook presence fairly soon after I started it. I use it to communicate with real family and friends (people I’ve met and know) who over the years have become spread around the globe. I want to talk to these people about the things I’m involved with, what I feel strongly about, and why. So yes, I talked about the Bye Buy Childhood campaign on Facebook as it was launched.

I’ve been on Twitter since early this year – these days to save time, my blog posts feed my Twitter account, which in turn automatically feeds my Facebook account in one easy electronic process, and I read and write the whole lot in one application called Tweetdeck.

Those folk I follow, and who follow me on Twitter, tend largely to be a different network of people. I have not necessarily met these people, but I’ve read stuff by them or about them, that makes me value their opinion and want to communicate with them.

Among these folk are people who I’m glad ‘follow’ me, because it means I feel like I’m getting information about what I think and care about into their lives. So yes, I talked about the launch of the campaign on my Twitter account –  and if that means Ruth Gledhill of The Times (who for some reason follows my tweets) took just the smallest notice, that can only be to the good.

Basically the more people that know that grass-roots Mothers’ Union members are passionate about the campaigns the organisation launches, the better it is for the campaigns and for Mothers’ Union. The same would be true for any other NGO!

There is another reason for Mothers’ Union members specifically to social network their commitment to their faith and Mothers’ Union: Mothers’ Union members had an image that suggested they were a bit ‘behind the times’. Getting ordinary members out into the world of social networks is another way of dispelling that image and getting our voice heard and respected in the public arena, and not just the hallowed corridors of power.

I know that Social Networks can be regarded as the big bogi-men of the internet – that much was apparent at the conference from some conversations I had. But if handled carefully, with the appropriate privacy levels, I’m totally convinced that social networks are and can increasingly be, a useful tool that we can use wisely to change our world for the better.

I was really encouraged that whilst writing this post (over a couple of late evenings) I found that people are way ahead of me: try reading Graham Richards Serentwitterpy page to learn more about the power of Social Media and how to Twitter usefully. Another person who can talk much more technically on this sort of stuff than I ever will is Dr Bex Lewis.

And thanks to Alec Muffett for getting me into all this stuff in the first place!



  1. Stunning post (maybe I should “mirror” it on BigBible next week, kind of thing am looking for!)… and thanks for my nod 🙂 Look forward to meeting up for that lunch one day… (not next week!)


    • Thank you, glad it made sense, and really encouraging to know you of all folk think it might be helpful to ordinary folk. I’m a total novice – but also totally convinced!

      Dr Bex Lewis (@DrBexl) is at Christian New Media Awards in London on 16th October I believe – if you’re on Twitter follow #cnmac10, if like me, you can’t be there!


  2. Alec:

    Good. Credit where credit is due I say, and if Christian’s in the social networking sphere pick up good habits from you or enter into related debate that is beyond me, then that’s fine by me. I suspect they will respect you rather than anything else.

    And anyway, perhaps it might not be them that’s in for the big shock 🙂


  3. The downside of being an atheist is that you never get to say “I told you so” to the theists; the upside is that if there is some kind of god to whom to answer I’ll be busy the whole afterlife criticising him for a variety of reasons that aren’t really politely describable.


  4. I wish I’d seen this several months ago: it would have saved me from reinventing the wheel! But after a lot of deliberation and some false starts I got a deanery Mothers’ Union blog up and running, using WordPress (you were kind enough to comment on the blog). But your thoughts, comments and papers on the increasingly vital need for organisations like Mothers’ Union to use the social media to generate both action and enthusiasm among their members have helped to validate the idea. Now all I need to do is to find a way to persuade “ordinary people, whether Mothers’ Union members or not” to read the blog and contribute to it…


  5. If you’re reading this as a result of the link in the November Mothers’ Union e-newsletter then why not join me on Twitter – look for @ramtopsrac… and one #tag you could use is #byebuychildhood to tell the world what you’re doing to support the campaign!

    Other folk to follow include:
    @MothersUnion, @MUChiefExec, @RaquelAston if you’re interested in Mothers’ Union
    @RuthieGledhill and @riazat_butt are the famous faith columnists,
    current Christian debates @thechurchmouse, @alantlwilson @RevdLesley, @nickbaines and many others (look at the @twurchofengland blog)
    @drbexl and @bigbible for social media stuff
    @davewalker for all sorts and especially to make you smile!

    Go explore! See you there!


  6. I thought your article made such sense – i follow MU on facebook, and feel that as you say if privacy levels are set correctly it is an ideal vehicle for catching up, following and encouraging people in all kinds of areas and fields. re the Bye Buy campaign it is such a valuable campaign.


  7. As a grandmother I am totally in favour of promoting “buy bye childhood”. I will join facebook to help to promote this.
    It has really helped me in read this information through the Mother’s Union website.


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