By Sue Nyoni
In 2009, I led the first series of social media workshops offered as part of the Dodge Technical Assistance Initiative. At that time, only a handful of the people attending were convinced of the value of social media to their organizations. Many of them weren’t even really sure what “it” was and were completely unfamiliar with Twitter and Facebook. As a consequence I had to spend most of the time defining social media and then demonstrating its potential value to them. It wasn’t easy and there was some serious resistance.
Fast forward two years, and here we are with a new series in full swing. The series consists of a full day session which covers how to strategically plan for the use of social media in support of mission and goals, followed by five tool-specific webinars. Much has changed in the intervening two years. I didn’t need to explain what Twitter and Facebook are, nor did I have to convince anyone of the potential value of social media to their organizations. It was clear that everyone in the room now knew WHAT “it” is, but they still didn’t know what to DO with it.
Every organization attending had already made some foray into the social media space, with varying levels of success. What they felt they lacked, however, was confidence in their ability to use these tools to maximal effect. They were unsure how to integrate social media into their missions, goals, programs and processes.
The landscape of the social web has certainly changed since Dodge first offered this series. New platforms have come and gone, and the reach of existing platforms have shifted. While the technology may have evolved, the challenges for many nonprofit organizations remain the same: not having in-house expertise and support; not having dedicated resources to commit to social media efforts; not knowing which tools to use and how best to use them; the frustration of trying to keep up with the latest and greatest tools.
Given these challenges the most practical advice I can offer is to be realistic about what you are trying to accomplish and the resources you have available to you to make it happen. It’s OK to start small. You don’t have to be on every single social network. In fact, unless you have dedicated media staff you can’t do that and do it well. Far better to focus and get the basics down. With so many tools and so little time to master them all, it is very easy to get caught in flurry of social media activity without actually accomplishing much. It is far more effective to pick the one or two tools/networks which best support your goals and learn them well so that you can use them well.
This foundational approach is what we are trying to achieve with this series. Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll share with you some tips for getting the basics down. In the meantime we’d love to hear your experiences with social media.