This was a year like no other. As so much of our lives abruptly migrated online in the midst of unprecedented social uprising and a landmark election, digital tools stepped up to fill in the gaps. While Zoom may be the MVP of 2020, other trends emerged to help organizers and activists engage people in new and exciting ways. Here are a few of our favorite digital trends of the year:
The 2020 Presidential Election was dubbed the ‘Texting Election’ after more than 3 billion text messages were sent to prospective voters over the course of the year. While mobile broadcasts blasted information to millions of opted-in users, peer-to-peer texting enabled campaigns and advocacy groups to mobilize volunteers despite the physical restrictions of the pandemic. This enabled them to directly engage millions of people nationwide in intimate, one-on-one conversations.
Peer-to-peer technology transformed people into microinfluencers, with platforms like Joe Biden’s Vote Joe app empowering users to engage with and activate their personal networks to get out the vote.
Loopholes in federal laws allowed for this year’s peer-to-peer texting boom, and while regulatory changes are expected, it’s unlikely this trend is going away anytime soon. With mobile message open rates as high as 98 percent, it’s safe to assume that texting as an organizing tactic is here to stay.
Our Instagram feeds are no stranger to beautifully designed, highly curated content, but the summer of 2020 brought along the advent of a new content staple: the PowerPoint-style infographic. These text-based graphics, presented in a swipeable slideshow format, allowed users to share information on complex political topics including racism, climate change, transgender rights, and voting, giving rise to the so-called “infographic influencer.”
These infographics filled the need for accessible information on these topics for users eager to educate themselves and their networks. Their visually-pleasing style, steeped in millennial design aesthetics, presented information that would traditionally be relegated to lengthy articles or academic texts into digestible posts that helped to amplify critical information and perspectives that for too long have been left out of popular discourse. The success of these graphics hinges on their ability to co-opt the appealing design styles we’re used to encountering from trendy brands to game the Instagram algorithm and educate the masses. As Jess, creator of the popular @soyouwanttotalkabout account, put it in an August 2020 Vox interview, these graphics serve to deliver advocacy messaging to a new audience: “I’m trying to appeal to the apolitical people, the ones who’d rather stay out of it and enjoy, like, mimosa pictures. I’m also trying to reach women my age, millennials who aren’t participating in the conversation because they don’t know where to start.”
The concept of crowdsourced Google Docs and Sheets as organizing tools isn’t unique to this year (a 2017 Google Sheet was instrumental in the burgeoning #MeToo movement), however the conditions of 2020 propelled this strategy to the masses. As protests erupted this summer following the murder of George Floyd, people nationwide were hungry for ways to get involved, whether out in the streets or from the socially distant safety of their homes. Popular Docs like “Resources for Accountability and Actions for Black Lives, organized by graduate student Carlisa Johnson, aggregated resources including information on direct actions, cases to follow, and places to donate. Other Docs linked to petitions, anti-racism resources, and information on how to contact elected officials. They were shared by and viewed by thousands.
Google Docs are free, easy to access, and simple to use. They provide a straightforward way to share and store information, and during this unprecedented year, helped turn scores of people into activists.
Interested in how your organization can make these trends work for you? We specialize in turning people into activists and helping progressive organizations build cutting-edge, sustainable digital programs. Schedule a strategy call with us today to learn more.