Michael J. Puican
This is an exciting time for mission-based, nonprofit organizations thanks to the explosion in social media.
Unlike e-commerce, which has been the huge Internet focus over the past 10 years, social networking is about connecting and getting involved, and not about buying and selling. Thanks to social media this is the perfect time for nonprofits to step up and ensure their mission is one that people are talking about.
So what is the best way to do this?
There is so much discussion about the mechanics of social networking: to blog or not to blog, MySpace vs. Facebook, creating videos for YouTube, etc. I want to focus on a crucial aspect that doesn’t have anything to do with the technology. It is the human factor. Very practically, who will do this and how much time will it take?
The first thought is often to look for a young, energetic college intern since all young people are into social networking, right? But even if you find the perfect intern who is a Facebook/MySpace/Twitter wiz, you need to ask how well they will represent your organization.
Social networking requires interaction with other individuals, bloggers and organizations. It requires someone who knows your organization thoroughly and can represent it well.
The best candidate has a combination of these traits:
- Knows and enjoys social media
- Is tech savvy (but doesn’t have to be a geek)
- Knows your organization and is committed to its mission
- Has a personable, outgoing writing style
That person may be a staff member or an involved volunteer, but it should be someone who is already involved in your organization.
The next question is how much time to allocate to the enterprise. Unlike working with your website, which may only involve responding to inquiries and thanking those who donate online, social networking is much more active.
It requires getting involved and participating in the various discussions about the issues most important to your organization. As a result, it requires much more time.
Here are rough guidelines to begin your planning:
- Two hours a day (10 hours a week): Post bulletins on your organization’s sites, visit other sites and respond to postings on other sites.
- Four hours a day (a half-time staff person): Establish a regular blog, become an active voice on the internet about the key issues involving your mission.
- Eight hours a day (a full-time staff person): Now you are social networking. Create thoughtful dialogues about key issues, develop opportunities for volunteers to interact and become involved, lead e-advocacy campaigns, regularly interact with bloggers, thought leaders, media and key organizations.
Social networking can become a major new resource for your nonprofit. However, it requires a strategic commitment of resources to tap into it. If you can make that commitment, you will find an exciting, new opportunity to build awareness and significantly improve your base of volunteers and donors.
Michael J. Puican is a nonprofit marketing consultant based in Chicago and a Shoestring Creative Group Network Affiliate. He can be reached at email@example.com or 1.888.835.6236.