Spreading the message online with sponsored debates on Debatewise.com
Charities and NGO’s are becoming increasingly aware of the value of spreading their message online, yet their efforts are often limited to a campaign website, costly banner ads and a Facebook page. The web 2.0 phenomenon allows much greater engagement than these traditional methods provide, yet this opportunity is not always being harnessed.
To convert people to supporters it’s often necessary to dispel concerns and misconceptions and this is only achievable by directly engaging with these preconceived ideas and the people that hold them. This means leaving the security of the charity website and establishing an active presence on other sites where opposing views are expressed, in order to spread the message.
This might be achieved by visiting blogs and forums and leaving (polite, helpful) comments and engaging in online debate with those who may oppose your message. When undecided visitors view these comments they gain an insight into both sides of the argument, which may persuade them of the value of your cause.
Alternatively, Debatewise.com has enabled campaign organisations to do this through in a more open environment. Debatewise.com is a non-profit educational website whose aim is to become the Wikipedia for debate. It is a platform for both sides of any argument and thus an ideal medium for campaign organisations and charities to voice their views.
Last year Debatewise contacted campaign organisations offering ‘sponsored debates’ on a new page on their site. The sponsorship is figurative (no money is involved at all!) and is a way for organisations and charities to have their name associated with a particular debate, alongside a brief bio, logo, and link to their website.
Greenpeace, CND and the Electoral Reform Society have all sponsored debates. They suggested the title of the debate and wrote one side of the argument. The section has proved very popular, but, most interestingly, the average time spent by visitors on the sponsored debate pages has been unusually high. The Electoral Reform Society debate (“The voting age should be lowered to 16″) has an average viewing time of 4:02 minutes (double the average time for other parts of the site), meaning people are reading and taking in the whole debate, and really engaging with the issue. This kind of interaction is crucial for converting supporters and, as the debate is ongoing, there is the opportunity to respond to people’s concerns about issues as they arise.
This is just one of the ways campaign organisations and charities can use the internet to interact with the public about their cause. Through no cost and minimal effort Greenpeace, CND and the Electoral Reform Society have all contributed their expert views on issues that concern them, informing, educating and importantly, converting visitors to supporters.