I got asked by Beth Kanter to post on this topic: “What if I could start all my social media and nonprofits work over from scratch? What would I do differently? What lessons have I learned that will stick with me for 2008?”
Having Beth Kanter asking me to post on social media is a little like Yo-Yo Ma asking me to play cello for him. Beth is THE maestro on nonprofits and social media (and she could probably accompany Yo-Yo Ma on flute). So read what she says first. Then read what Britt Bravo says. Britt, in addition to having The Name I Wish I Had, is also very wise on the social media front. Then you can read my list, which is below.
Four Things I Wish I’d Known from the Start about Social Media:
1. It’s not that hard, and I should have gotten over the intimidation factor sooner. Not too long into my job here at Network for Good a few years ago, I kept hearing people reference Web 2.0. I remember, filled with fear of ridicule for my ignorance, asking people what it meant. I’m glad I did, because I realized a lot of people had trouble defining it and were grappling with its meaning just like me. Today, social media to me means the electronic manifestation of the human desire to be heard and seen and part of a community. It’s using technology as a platform for personal expression and as a means to connect to others around things we care about. It’s not hard to learn how to do that online – you don’t need any real technology expertise (I’m living proof of that) as much as social skills – and it’s a lot of fun making new friends which is the real point. No matter how much of a novice you deem yourself, you CAN explore social media and find ways to benefit from it. If you haven’t, make 2008 the year you do.
2. It’s about “social,” not “media.” As I said in this post, while social media seems oh-so-new, what makes it hot could not be more ancient or old-school. What’s significant about social media is how it allows us to quickly and expansively fulfill our unending human need for connection. While I myself have fallen into the trap of focusing on my organization’s need to do Facebook or Twitter or YouTube, that’s not the point — what matters whether those are places to strengthen connections with my target audience. If my target audience isn’t there, I’m not going there.
3. Social media cranks WOM up to 11. What excites me most about social media, now that I sort of get it, is its potent potential to amplify word of mouth. Good word of mouth for your good cause is invaluable. People listen to people they know, and if those people recommend something, they listen. If people make recommendations, that good word of mouth spreads faster and farther through their circles of influence. Social media enables people to evangelize in their own way, in their own words, where their peeps congregate. We’re so underfunded and overworked in our sector – how great is it other people can help us spread the word so efficiently?
4. Think before you build something new, because we already have overdevelopment in social media. You could build (yet another) new social network. You could create yet another blog. You could make a new video. But if you’re one of those underfunded and overworked people, think twice and first read my Four Laws of Social Networking. You may get further, faster by connecting to existing infrastructure than trying to create it.