News arrived via Katrin Verclas today that online advocacy provider Convio (which recently ingested competitor GetActive) is opening itself up to the wider world of online advocacy. According to the company’s Open Initiative site, Convio is allowing programmers access to its API, giving outside developers the ability to write software that interacts with data in the Convio system. Besides this new toy for our friends in the ones-and-zeroes community, the company also has a Facebook advocacy aplication in beta stage, integrates its data with Google Maps and with Salesforce.com and other CRM providers, and is offering advocacy widgets for use on social networking sites and blogs.
Smart move all around: most online advocacy providers have traditionally tried to live in closed worlds, keeping their clients wedded to custom systems that generally aren’t flexible (I had a hell of a time getting one to dispay a YouTube video the other day, for instance). But as the variety of online channels constantly expands, and as we in the advocacy community get more experience using them effectively, we’re not going to be satisfied with tools that are rigid, limited and expensive. We need to reach supporters where THEY are, using the methods that they prefer. Traditional email lists will continue to be powerful tools for the foreseeable future, but they’ll be more effective if integrated with other forms of outreach, particularly using social networking sites. And, who knows what cool applications our programmer colleagues will come up with? Ultimately, opening its platform should only make Convio and its products more valuable down the road.