Progressives vs #TrumpTV: Innovating our way out of crisis

Jan. 3, 2017, 1:58 p.m.

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President-elect Trump’s victory makes it official: Traditional media has been disrupted! It’s not theoretical any more it’s here.

To his credit, Donald was able to leverage his personal social media accounts (with an assist from Breitbart) to bypass and manipulate the corporate media to devastatingly stunning effect. And soon enough he’ll have the power of the presidency to blast #TrumpTV from certified White House communication channels.

But don’t despair, progressives just need to respond in kind! This political moment reminds me of how the Iraq War brought about the birth of the progressive blogosphere and Netroots. Then and now, out of necessity, people of conscience must innovate our way out of crisis.

So what does this look like in practice? To start: the best progressive leaders and organizations should be treating their Facebook pages like internet TV channels.

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Movement wide, we need to create video production pipelines that connect to distribution engines to amplify our best arguments and activism on a day-to-day and rapid response basis. This is not mutually exclusive with other platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Netflix etc. but Facebook is far and away the most efficient way to reach the largest audiences without having to invest vast sums of money.  

act.tv is doing our part towards these ends by upping our game producing Facebook videos and then pushing them out strategically on pages with large audiences.

There are some truly exciting models to look to in this department as well. For instance, we put together a case study on NowThis, the #1 video news publisher on Facebook with over 2.4 billion monthly video views. ATTN, Upworthy and The Young Turks are a few other examples of social video pioneers well worth tracking.

The key to understanding this new world is to stop thinking about Facebook as a social network. Look at it as one of the most powerful media companies that has ever existed that is increasingly “putting video first” per Mark Zuckerberg.

This explains why explicitly political organizations like MoveOn and Credo have recently established Facebook video initiatives, with great success at that. But more than anyone it is Bernie Sanders who once again is trailblazing a new kind of path for progressives online.

Rather than slow down after the election, Bernie’s Facebook pages (as well as Our Revolution) have been churning out videos that consistently get hundreds of thousands if not millions of views.

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Sanders’ video-oriented strategy makes that much more sense considering how Facebook’s algorithm changed in July to privilege posts from individuals over publishers. Facebook by its nature is about connecting with actual people. As such there have always been advantages for having a real live person be the public source sharing. Plus it simply makes intuitive sense that people like engaging with people more than brands.

Based on this insight, a booming cadre of media companies have been making deals with ‘influencer networks’ to get celebrities to share their content. This strategy hasn’t only been embraced by lightweight kind of sites either, with A-list publishers like Rolling Stone and Slate in on it too.

Now of course the Facebook pages of progressive leaders are very different than your average celebrity engaging in influencer marketing. But learning about this world got me thinking:

The progressive ecosystem is missing an efficient mechanism connecting top influencers in our space with enticing content for them to distribute.

Movement ‘celebrities’ from George Takei to Van Jones are already showing how a powerful Facebook presence can be tangibly leveraged to support all sorts of progressive initiatives. For that matter, with Trump’s GOP threatening to run roughshod over our way of life, there shouldn’t be any shortage of prominent artists and famous folk offering their platforms to important causes as we proceed.

The onus is on us to make it easy and worthwhile for them to share more! My understanding is that many celebrities who are progressive have a few people they trust to filter what they should consider posting in social media. But if you don’t have an existing relationship with that representative, you are stuck.

This is where I’ve started imagining a hub connecting progressive influencers and content creators to streamline the system. This is particularly for when there are ways to make it mutually beneficial. Facebook’s new crossposting feature makes this way easier, as crossposted videos are treated as native content which Facebook’s algorithm incentivises.

Likewise I pose the question: Why wouldn’t vital progressive leaders like Elizabeth Warren start pumping out Facebook videos (created by her team or allies) through their pages?

Of course a politician’s staff only has so much capacity. That is why I’m thinking about how new kinds of collaborations can develop where friendly producers help create content not only to support a candidate or public official but also to maximize the value of their page as a distribution outlet for the broader causes being championed.

Uploading or crossposting more and more native videos would further increase the overall reach of the Facebook page for the long run, to the mutual benefit of everyone who cares about the issues discussed. This kind of strategy would be even more important for up-and-coming progressive leaders who are not yet on the national scene in the same way.

We are in a wide open period with new leaders emerging in the Democratic Party and from the grassroots. They are going to need seriously larger megaphones to adequately amplify the collective voice of the resistance.

From a movement perspective, building up next-level innovative Facebook pages to act as a counterweight to Trumpian propaganda is a heavy lift and a long term effort that couldn’t be more important.

As Buzzfeed’s Jonah Peretti describes, Facebook becoming a platform for video channels is part and parcel of a wider shift in the economics of the media industry.

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So strap in, the disruption is just getting started as audiences move their attention from traditional mediums like cable to more innovative and modern viewing experiences. Fortunately, the opportunity to persuade would-be supporters has never been higher -- if you have the right strategy to get into the Facebook feed on their phone.

And act.tv is here to help! Hit me up if you have questions or could use a hand.