As social networks and social marketing have matured over the last two or three years, a debate continues as to how effective social media is to inspire action (be it making a purchase, donating to a cause, or any Marshall McLuhan lately?) and more complicated than trying to argue cause-and-effect. Social networks offer wonderfully inexpensive means to expand and magnify conversations, but they also create stunning amounts of ‘noise’ that readers have to learn to tune out without getting distracted (no easy task). But how can a nonprofit leverage the powers of social media to inspire action while also striving not to distort the outreach with too much talk?). But it seems to me that the argument is both older than modern social media (read
To inspire a desired action from constituents or customers, Michael Brito encourages organizations to practice ‘‘: “We must stop referring to customers as target audience, segments or page views; and consider that they are real people, with real emotions. We must learn to give without any expectation at all of receiving anything in return.”
If working in the nonprofit space, one is tempted to shelve such advice because Michael is speaking to commercial/corporate users of social media. But how often do nonprofits start speaking of their constituencies in such terms − especially when fundraising online and working on the assumption that ever-broader outreach will build an ever-broader donor base? If your colleagues tend to assume that the nonprofit practices reciprocal altruism simply by virtue of its existence, time for a reality check.
And the best place to start is in the office. Most nonprofits do their wonderful work with a minimal and multi-tasking staff. But unless you are a nonprofit of one, do you schedule opportunities for the staff to talk about what they are up to, and who they have worked with, and what issues have arisen in their bailiwicks? Such conversations might be great fodder for a few blog posts, sure. But they also help remind the bookkeeper that difficult and inspirational decisions sometimes have to be made on the fly. And the engaged do-gooder should be reminded that such decisions can carry unexpected costs on the organization.
The goal is to avoid people working on, and only talking about, their own part of the picture − trapped in their own silos of experience: “The true benefit of social becomes significantly diminished when valuable information fails to make its way to those who need it most. But you’ll never know any of those things if they’re hidden away in departmental silos.” The larger the organization, the more likely people are tucked away in those silos. And heaven help you if your communications staff makes up its own silo. What will they end up talking about if not their own efforts at communication?
Strive to inspire your colleagues to talk with each other before, during, and after their conversations with donors, volunteers, and constituents.