Jill Finlayson, SocialEdge
As Visting Scholar at the Packard Foundation, it's been a living laboratory, learning about social media and networks in a philanthropy context. The conversations about what constitutes an effective nonprofit social media strategy have been thought provoking.
In the last few weeks, I've an opportunity to present and participate in conversations about social media, nonprofits, and foundations with those who work in philanthropy. I did a presentation for a group of Bay Area population research funders along with Scott Swenson, editor of HR Reality Check. The most interesting question was "What should funders think about to encourage effective social media strategy best practice?"
Last week I facilitated a workshop in Michigan for the chapter leaders of EPIP which stands for Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy and again this week for the Bay Area Chapter. A theme that comes up in these discussions in way or another is the question, "Social media for external communications makes a lot of sense for nonprofits that are advocating, fundraising, or marketing something - but what if the Foundation isn't doing that or 'selling anything.' How to or if to use social media?"
I've been thinking about that question a lot. Foundations have the opportunity to spread thought leadership through social media channels. Jill Finlayson from Social Edge at the Skoll Foundation pointed to a discussion about using Twitter for social entrepreneurs and I think some of the points could more broadly inform a strategy for thought leadership via social media channels. And these are a translation of social media nonprofit best practices.
1. Learning: A fast and flexible learning strategy that encourages listening for learning - both at the organizational level and professional/individual level. It's tracking what people are saying about the Foundation, its programs, and the issues and grantees supported. It's about field scanning, pattern analysis, and trends. There are barriers to listening- information overload, honoring professional learning as work, and getting comfortable with the tools - but these can be overcome.
2. Engaging: Once systems are in place to listen and it is embedded the work flow, the learning has to be porous. Engagement begins but through social media channels. Convening the conversation with grantees, with colleagues, with the field - is something that foundations are already doing and it can be could be done effectively through social media. People who work at foundations are experts in asking reflective questions, sharing new insights, whole systems thinking -- why not have this learning leak out to the field through Twitter or Facebook? There are challenges to navigate - which is the line between personal/organizational voice, using online to enhance and extend face-to-face relationships (not replace), and keeping sensitive conversations private when they need to be.
3. Sharing Insight: This is educating through sharing ideas, research, trends, best practices, and other content with colleagues, grantees, and the field. This is already being done through other channels - whether staff is speaking/attending conferences, publishing articles in journals, conversations with grantees or experts in the field, posting white papers and research on the web site. With my short time Scholar in Residence, I've been exposed to a gold mine of incredible thinking, discussions, and resources on topics related to my field. Nothing proprietary or sensitive, just that I've been exposed to papers, studies, links, thought provoking articles. Why not have those items shared more broadly?
Foundation people also have a good lens - so looking through the streams and sharing the best resources would save people time. All that needs to happen is a content strategy to have these valuable insights shared through social media channels. Why keep them locked up? There are barriers - mostly having a clear understanding and policy about outward facing communications and feeling comfortable.
A few days ago, I came across an interesting article about how to Tweet your corporate culture - and it struck me that the points might lead to a content strategy for tweeting thought leadership.
- Share history (Detroit Foundation)
- Talk vision and mission (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)
- Share important research (Kauffman Foundation) (Hewlett Foundation)
- Retweet useful links shared by colleagues (Greater Cincinnati Foundation)
- Recruit job candidates (MacArthur Foundation)
- Important program deadlines (Hawaii Community Foundation)
- Reveal field insights (Columbus Foundation) (Case Foundation)
- Recognize employees or fellows (Kellogg Foundation)
- Profile grantee success or support their efforts (CF Community Foundation)
- Be responsive (Skoll Foundation)
- Ask questions about the future (Cleveland Foundation)
- Answer questions about the future (Knight Foundation)
How can you use social media to spread thought leadership?
How can you use social media to make your organization's learning more porous?