Sure, we all know that the young seem hard-wired to ‘get’ new technologies (oh, but their time will come!). We know they text as often as talk with their phones. We know they seem impatient if not downright sloppy with their casual conversations. But do we know that the average twenty-something donates about $340 a year to philanthropic causes (Admission: I did not give that much)? That 57%+ twenty-somethings have volunteered on a charity project in the last year (Disclosure: I can take some comfort for belonging to that statistic)? That 37% of them joined their charity’s social network in the last MONTH (Alright, such social networking was not an option when I was twenty-something)? These statistics are from the Chronicle of Philanthropy‘s summation of recent reports sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Edge Research and Sea Change Strategies, and by Johnson Grossnickel Associates. Is your organization ready to reach out to them? Are your people ready to be reached BY them?
Discussion of the impact of social media seems to me to focus on the excitement of numbers and swelling quantities of followers, no matter the goal or message. Keith Olbermann of MSNBC‘s ‘Countdown’ did an about-face about Twitter about a month or so ago, and – though he puts on an air of bemused indifference – he enjoys reporting his swell of Followers.
But like any tool, social media really are only as useful as the people who use them for the tasks at hand. And the task at hand is to cultivate an engaged community of like-minded individuals who want to be kept abreast of developments in their chosen fields/interests. Allyson Kapin recently posted a great list of “10 Things Every Nonprofit Should Know About Social Media and Online Communications” in these nonprofits’ efforts to make contact with those twenty-somethings who sleep with their phones lest they awake a few minutes behind the business and social cycles.
True to her nonprofit vocation and professional audience, Ms. Kapin begins by pointing out the need for analytical data. Such data can tell your organization not only the numbers of people who have come in contact with your website or blog, but how they got there (via which links or keyword searches). ‘Google Analytics‘ is a free/open-source package to help your company keep track and collate such data. The evidence can help you tailor your outreach and might give insight to other social media avenues as well.
On the ‘technology side’ of the ledger, we were a bit surprised, but delighted, to see that enewsletters are still an excellent means to get the message out: they are cost effective, information rich, environment friendly, and can be professionally designed as templates ready for various and variable content:
Enewsletters can easily generate a lot more clicks then social media outlets such as posting a video to YouTube. Furthermore, according to the latest benchmarks study by Convio, enewsletters are one of the most “cost-effective ways to build relationships with new constituents, increase engagement, and educate supporters about your organization’s mission.
As the list moves from the technology (Facebook and Twitter get places on the list, of course) to the intangible quality of your organization’s uses of the media, the theme is one of transparency and personality. Name who writes the posts or tweets, though the writer might be working for a committee within your organization. Update the profile(s) of relevant content makers periodically (i.e., a few times a month, at least). Update the blog more often that that!
Keeping the tweets and posts fresh is not always enough, either. Content is king. Keep the stories interesting and draw the audience in (A ‘Don’t’ on the list: “Don’t bore your community with wonky status updates or tweets.”). Be informative but narrative, so your audience is drawn not only in to the story, but drawn to follow stories across postings. If your organization has already focused some resources on social-media outreach, do not forgo traditional means in the process: press releases, mailings, community workshops… all still have important roles to play. Even if your organization is comfortable with its social-media outreach (indeed, perhaps especially if it’s comfortable with its outreach!), a review of the list to see if you are taking full advantage of your resources could certainly help. We all need checklists and reviews to stay on top of this development.