These days it is vital for any campaign to have a strong online presence, to spread the message, to organise and publicise events, and to engage with supporters. As well having a good website, it is important to get the most out of social networking, social bookmarking and social media services. Here are some tools you may find useful for campaigning online against the arms trade:
If you have an active local group or campaign, you may want to set up a website for it. Consider the type of information you will be presenting and the aims of the website. Who will be using it, and for what purpose?
Most modern websites have some kind of content management system (CMS), which enables non-techie people to keep the site up to date. A very popular CMS is WordPress. Although it was designed for blogs, it is now widely used for ordinary websites because it is free and relatively easy to use. You can quickly set up a website on wordpress.com, and if you need more control over the site, you can host it yourself (software and plug-ins available free from wordpress.org).
You need to keep your supporters informed about campaign news and events, and a mailing list is an essential way to do that. Corporate giants such as Yahoo! and Google provide free mailing list services but these are not ideal as they try to tie subscribers into their other services. Use one of the activist-oriented services such as riseup or AktiviX, as they understand activist issues such as the need for security and privacy. (Don't forget to give them a donation.) Make the most of opportunites to sign up more subscribers.
First of all, make sure you 'like' CAAT's Page on Facebook. You can help to promote our message to your Facebook friends by clicking the Share link on our Page and by sharing and liking the posts on our Wall. If you want to campaign for CAAT locally, you can set up your own Group or Page. (Compare the differences before deciding which would be more suitable for you: Groups are small and informal, whereas Pages provide a more corporate presence.)
Twitter can be a very important campaigning tool. Learn the basics, then see our presentation on using Twitter for activism. If you have an account, make sure you follow CAAT @wwwcaatorguk. Retweet messages that you want others to see, and use hashtags to link your tweets with a particular topic, e.g. #StopDSEi.
If you're planning an eye-catching fundraiser, stunt or demonstration, get a video camera, film the event and edit the footage into a short, snappy film. Create a Channel on YouTube for your campaign and upload your videos to it. Once your film is on YouTube, tell people about it, and if they like it, they'll share it with others. Tell us about your film so we can add it to our favourites. You can do the same for photographs using Flickr or Picasa.
Set up a pledge for CAAT on the PledgeBank website. You could pledge to donate a certain sum to CAAT if ten or more people do the same, pledge to join the next CAAT event or demo if ten or more people do the same, or any other ideas you can think of. When you've set up your pledge, make sure to promote it so you hit your target.
Blog for CAAT
Why not share your experiences of campaigning against the arms trade by writing a piece for CAAT's blog? Contact us to find out how. Alternatively, set up your own blog with a free service like Blogger or WordPress, write about the arms trade and link through to CAAT's websites.
Comment for CAAT
If you see an online news article about the arms trade, and it allows comments, you can influence the debate by submitting a comment supportive of CAAT. You can do the same for videos on sites like YouTube. When commenting, please remain polite at all times and make sure you've got your facts right!
Email CAAT's Outreach Co-ordinator to let us know about your forthcoming events so we can add them to our Campaigns Diary. If your local group or campaign isn't on our Local Groups web page, then tell us about it.
If you want to publicise a planned demonstration or report on an event, you can submit an article to grassroots media websites such as Indymedia. As well as the UK-wide Indymedia site, there are regional and local IMC websites, one of which may cover your area. Another activism-focused news site is SchNEWS. Be sure to let them know about any direct action that has taken place.
People in your area might be surprised and interested to find out about local arms companies. You can search for companies that supply the arms industry in your town using the ADS Defence Directory, the British Defence Equipment Catalogue and the map of DSEi exhibitors. Do a bit of research about each company, then put the worst offenders on a Google Map, as has been done by activists in Nottingham and Bristol. (Contact CAAT's Online Communications Co-ordinator for technical advice.)
Not to make you paranoid, but occasionally, activist groups can be targeted by police surveillance or spies working for the arms industry. It's not always possible to keep out spies, but hey, why make it easy for them? There's a variety of free security software to protect your data and communications, handily collected as Security in a Box.
Maintaining your online presence
It is important to keep updating and promoting your online presence. Keep contact details up to date, publicise developments and forthcoming events on your mailing list, website, Facebook Page, Twitter feed, etc. Widen your network by researching people online who you think would be interested in your campaign, and email them outlining your goals.
Do you have any more ideas on how to campaign for CAAT online? Email press(at)caat·org·uk.