Submitted by Steve MacLaughlin, publisher of Connections
For a while now I've been talking with a lot of nonprofits about using social media and social networking in their organizations. I thought it would be useful to blog about how to create a strategy for using these channels.
Before starting to create a strategy it makes sense to set a baseline. Where are we today? What's going on? Haven't we seen this before? Why does any of this matter? This is Part 0. Phase 0. Let's go...
Déjà Vu All Over Again
Web 2.0 in 2009 reminds me of Web 1.0 in 1999. Lots of talk. Lots of uncertainty. Lots of buzzword bingo. Lots of new vendors. Lots of tools. Few experts. Few owners. Few results. Many of the same questions are being asked. Will people give online? Will people give through Facebook? How can we use email? How can we use Twitter? Who owns the website? Who owns the blog? I've seen this movie before and you probably have too. Don't use the same thinking, structures, or processes as you did with Web 1.0. Don't repeat the same mistakes. This is evolutionary ― not revolutionary.
And just like with Web 1.0, many organizations are initially focusing on using social media as a communication and awareness tool. I recently had a chance to discuss social media strategies with members of our Target Analytics Customer Advisory Board. Many of them expressed concerns that there is not an organization-wide strategy for using social media, and that in the absence of ownership there are more data and interaction silos being created. Don't fall into the silo syndrome trap. Learn from the mistakes of the past. Ask questions about the total relationship with the supporter now. Is that MySpace friend an activist? Is that LinkedIn connection a donor? Is that Twitter follower also on the direct mail list? And don't invest in solutions that only create more islands.
The Illusion of Control
Web 1.0 was about controlling the one-way message. Web 2.0 is about engaging in two-way messages. The only remaining control is the illusion of control. You can avoid having a conversation. You can even pretend the conversations aren't happening elsewhere. Good luck with that approach. I'm sure it will work out just fine. This is just as true as when I first blogged it. If you want to succeed using Web 2.0, then you need to give up some control. Control of the message. Control of the messengers. Control of the control. Lose control. Find success.
Friendraising Not Fundraising
If the reason why you want to use social networks is just to raise money, then stop now. It doesn't work that way. An article in the Washington Post notes that "fewer than 1% of those who have joined a cause have actually donated money through [the Facebook Causes] application." The premise of the article misses the point and ignores a fundamental principle of fundraising ― you need to build to build relationships with people before you try and raise money from them. Later in this series I'll go into some reasons why the thinking and practice around these kinds of applications are flawed. Focus on friendraising first. If you do a good job, then the fundraising will follow.
Hope from the Hype
So why does social networking matter? It's not merely just another communication channel. It's the most human channel. In the book People to People Fundraising, I talked about the "Changing Nature of Community" and how "never before have people been able to transcend the physical boundaries of location, language, or other limitations to connect with one another in such powerful ways." Communities matter. Social networking matters. The other important aspect is that social media represents a cost effective way to engage potential new supporters in large numbers compared to traditional channels. And it is the lingua franca for dealing with Generation Y and younger-minded supporters. There is still a lot of hyper-hype, but the opportunity and potential is very real.
The First Step
Get a champion in the organization. They don't need to understand the latest techno widget or the nuances of StumbleUpon vs. Digg. They don't have to be social media butterflies, but they need to have influence and support in the organization. Your champion is going to make some of the choices and challenges ahead of you a lot easier to overcome. Who's your champion? Find one now before Part 1 begins.
This article was originally posted on Connections at http://forums.blackbaud.com/blogs/connections/archive/2009/04/22/creating-a-social-networking-strategy-part-0.aspx by Steve MacLaughlin:
Steve MacLaughlin is the Director of Internet Solutions at Blackbaud and is a frequent blogger, presenter, and writer about technology trends in the nonprofit industry.