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Breaking It Down: Smart Tech for Smart Communicators

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Guest Post: Jennifer Humke

Much like Sherman Alexie, I have to admit that I am often perplexed by the Internet and its vast reach and power.  There are so many tools out there designed to make it less intimidating, but they come online at a pace I can’t seem to manage. And that depresses and scares me.

But, fortunately, there are organizations out there like the Sunlight Foundation who make it their business to stay on the bleeding edge of web/mobile tools that help them do their work better. In their session, Smart Tech for Smart Communicators, Gabi Schneider and Liz Bartolomeo shared with us some of the tools that they use in their communications shop.

The list of these tools are divided into four categories: outreach, engagement, productivity and research. But, really, they can be used and remixed for an endless number of purposes.

Share with us how you might be using these or other web tools in your work.

Outreach tools:

·      Google alerts: this is a great free tool to track mentions of your organization and the issues you support. They are easy to set up and are delivered directly to your in-box.

·      Rapportive: this is a free service that aggregates information from the web about the people who email you.  It’s a great way to learn about reporters who reach out to you – you just need their email!

·      Sproutsocial: this is a social media management tool. It is integrated with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other networks.

·      Tumblr: this is a great way to share stuff from the Internet you think is cool and brand it with your foundation’s visual identity. It is a highly visual tool that is popular with the kids! The Sunlight Foundation uses it to share visualizations of government data.

·      Foursquare: this is a free app that allows users to share and save the places they visit by “checking in”.  But you can also leave tips associated with specific locations. The Sunlight Foundation uses it leave tips related to political hot spots.

·      Storify: this tool helps its users tell stories by curating social media.  The Sunlight Foundation has used it to show participation in an event for those unable to attend.

Engagement Tools

·      TweetDeck and Hootsuite are a great way to monitor Twitter conversations. It allows you to follow keywords, hashtags, people/twitter accounts.

·      Chartbeat: this is a paid service that sends you analytics about your website in real-time. There is even a mobile version so you can receive updates on your phone!

·      Topsy: this is a free tool to search what is trending in social media and who is the most influential people tweeting about your work.

Productivity Tools

·      Pinboard.in: this is a great tool to archive press clippings.

·      Eventbrite: is a great way to track rsvps.

·      Square.com: this tool allows you to take credit cards at events. You can use it to collect small donations at your events.

·      Google hangout: this is an awesome video-conferencing tool that puts Skype to shame. It is the best part of Google+.

·      Etherpad this tool enables collaborative, real-time note-taking. It’s a great way to share notes during a conference call.

Research Tools

·      The Wayback Machine: this Internet archive is a great way to find web content that is no longer live.

·      Scout: this is an awesome new tool created by the Sunlight Foundation that provides policy alerts about legislation at the federal or state level.


Jennifer Humke is a Program Officer for Digital Media and Learning at The MacArthur Foundation

1 Comment

  1. joanne edgarjoanne edgar10-14-2012

    Thanks for the ABCs to smart tech links. Much appreciated from one who did not go to this session, but still needs to know!

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