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Being an organization – online #01

For an institutional organization, the European Parliament online presence is not that bad. We're heading to greet our 500,000th fan on facebook, we're active on almost a dozen of social-media platforms, we've redesigned our main website with satisfactory results (less viewed pages meaning our visitors find faster what they're looking for). From all we've developed in the last years, we learnt a lot in an ever-changing context. Hence a series of posts aimed at sharing with our beloved readers of this blog what it takes for an organization to make its move online.

Just to make things clear: all aspects that will be covered on those posts don't solely concern the European Parliament. To be honest, I'll take away every specific element that would be too EP to be of any use to other organizations. This latter term, "organization" is also a deliberate choice in order to find the minimal common denominator between an institution, an ONG, a corporation. As Wikipedia says, an organization is a social entity that has a collective goal and is linked to an external environment. That'll do for this series of posts.
What does it mean to go online?
Being online is not opening a website anymore. As it will appear later in this series, one can consider there is nothing like a separate online world anymore: being online is just being, end of the story. As that might be considered as adding a dose of existential angst without bringing more clarity, let's be more precise.
I believe "Staying ahead of the game" is a very relevant additional aim for any organization going online.
Nowdays, being online involves developing and animating a set of tools and platforms, a significant part of them being social-media. The important shift to bear in mind is the predominant interactivity that now rules the online environment. The good old times of publishing content on a website without really caring about its fate besides some traffic stats are gone. Now, there is feedback. Spreading. Reactions. Discussions. Conversations. It's a whole new game which requires resources, skills, attitude even. 
Why on Earth would an organization go online?
As devoted to online communication as I am, I would always defend the possibility not to go online. I am not sure the choice really exists anymore but let's face it: moving online without any real purpose nor conviction is worse than not being online. 
Therefore, the first thing to do is to set your objectives clearly. For any organization going online, there is at least one common objective:
To reach an audience.
There are people out there, and the reason you might move online is to reach them. Even better, you want:
To raise awareness, knowledge and engagement.

This is possibly your audience

Those notions aren't equal. If you remember that I am French, you'll allow me to be pedantic about this.
I am aware there is something called the European Parliament which is part of this Europe thing I hear all about.
I know it sits in Brussels and Strasbourg, that it discusses quite important subjects and that there are people who represent me there, as a citizen.
I am engaged enough to follow what's being said, possibly by reading news or following live streaming, and to want to participate in discussions on facebook or linkedin, to write to my MEP or even to cast my vote during the next elections.
The notion of "engagement" is particularly meaningful online. When it comes to engagement, online media are far better than traditional media. This is a primary reason to go online. But you're welcome to add some other goals to your online presence (I would advise not to have more than five) and to revise them regularly. Those times they are a-changing, as well all know.
For example, I believe "Staying ahead of the game" is a very relevant additional aim for any organization going online.
Now add your objective on the list while I digress.
Digression #01
"To reach an audience" I wrote. Doesn't that turn every organization into a media outfit? Yes, it does. That's the beauty of it and that's (possibly) what scares your management or your stakeholders. But there is worse to come: online, there are no media anymore (just because everyone else is a media player too, just as every single individual is becoming a personal brand of their own, the distinction is not relevant anymore) (and, yes, media organizations don't like this) – there are conversations. Being part of those conversations is the only thing that matters, as we'll see later.
Digression #02
For the next post, I'll use SWOT methodology (which usually begins by setting your aims, like you just did). This is a simple (but not simplistic) tool you'll find everything about here
As Wikipedia says: "SWOT involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieve that objective."
Internal and external factors will be precisely subject of the next posts.


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