Organizations that can really adapt and use social media need to simplify. Simplicity boils down to:
1. Identify the essential
2. Network the rest
It's about letting go - the staff or the organization doesn't have to do it all. It's also about having the ability to stop doing programs or activities that don't work. It's also about streamlining decision-making and being more nimble.
A few weeks ago, I asked for your stories about how organization's simplify or are designed to be simple from the get go. This post, from David Venn, was one of the responses.
I’ve been a communications professional in the field of adolescent mental health for over two years now. The way I think about audiences and communication has been transformed due to a better understanding of the concept of simplicity. I realized that I could listen to other organizations working on adolescent mental health, build relationships, collaborate, and ultimately reach more people with less effort.
My communications efforts were focused solely on getting our audiences to see what we were doing; visit our website; listen to our message. I was acting like a self-absorbed three-year-old on a trampoline – “Look at me! Look at me!” Sure I was communicating, but the result was that few people were listening.
Armed with a better understanding of social media and the tools, I realized I didn’t need to blast out our message to everyone at once all the time. I started listening to youth, parents, and health professionals already using the social media who were passionately engaged in our issues, not necessarily our organization.
I also discovered that I could use listening to build collaborative connections to other organizations via the social web, both locally and nationally. I no longer felt alone. I was working with an informal network of organizations that had resources and reach beyond our organization’s capacity and were also focused on our same issues.
I learned that if other groups were pulling like us, weren’t we all just playing a big game of tug-o-war.
So I dropped the rope and started pushing.
I became less concerned with the content that I was creating and started listening to the conversations that our audience and similar organizations were engaged in. I put less emphasis on one-way communications like websites, newsletters and press releases, and focused on more two-way mediums like blogging, Facebook and face-to-face exchanges. I also set up RSS feeds and bookmarking tools to monitor the work of other organizations I was interested in.
Instead of trying to find ways to “pull” other people and organizations to into our world, I began to focus on how I could “push” youth mental health into theirs. I stopped communicating and started collaborating!
I began to explore innovative ways to integrate our message with the work of other organizations I discovered through listening, even those that were not directly connected to youth mental health. For example, our team partnered with the ViewFinders International Film Festival for Youth and started an animation camp that allowed young people to create films about mental health problems. The films were premiered at the festival and we shared the animation creations on YouTube and through our blog.
Our team also worked with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to develop a youth mental health strategy. Through our shared networks we developed a community on Facebook for people who were passionate about youth mental health and who wanted to share their values in the creation of a policy document.
In addition to feeling a new found excitement about connecting with other organizations through the social web, we are developing, our approach also has another unexpected benefit – simplicity. That allows us to work in this networked way. We don’t have to do all the heavy lifting. We’re able to accomplish much more than by operating in a silo. We are able to focus on what we know best – youth mental health – and our partner organizations bring their best assets to the table.
Sometimes the best way to move forward requires you to step back, drop the rope and reflect on a few questions:
- What organizations can you engage in that you haven’t already explored?
- What are they doing on the social web? How can you work together?
- What unique resources does your organization have that you can share with your partners?
- How can you simplify your communication efforts by using social media?
- How can you start to make the shift from “me’ to “we”?
David Venn works as a Communications Advisor with the Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health where he is dedicated to enhancing the mental health and well-being of young people.