One of the biggest shifts on the social media lanscape this year are traditional organizations inching their way into social media use outside of a crisis. To date there have largely been two kinds of organizations that drank the social media Kool Aid – those born connected like charity:water and those forced to change quickly and dramatically because of a crisis (usually in funding or confidence) like the American Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina.
But now organizations are beginning to change because the tipping point of data and conventional wisdom has become such that working in old, proprietary ways is no longer sustainable. I have talked to a few very large national nonprofits over the past few months who shared with me that their direct mail donor bases are half or less of what they were five years ago. That’s scary. Of course, the recession added to the impetus because continuing to press the old direct mail button wasn’t working so well the last two years.
And yet, it’s also the emergence of the Millennials, and the closing of the digital divide spurred by inexpensive, easy-to-use social media that is forcing organizations to change. And as organizations have begun to embrace social media one thing has become very clear – without the support of senior leadership, organizations can test drive social media, but they won’t be successful in the long term. Senior leadership needs to try out the tools, engage, participate and understand the rythyms and power of social media in order to turn their organizations inside/out.
Charlene Li posed this question last week on Twitter: “What One Thing Should Leaders Do To Prep for Social Media?” Let’s modify this for a nonprofit perspective: “What First Step Can Nonprofit Executive Directors Take to Begin to Embrace Social Media?”
Remember, there is no one right way for become more connected and social, every organization, every person, will create their own pathway and journey. But, there are some first steps that have worked for leaders that were previously entrenched in proprietary behavior (like me!)
A first step could be:
- Identifying a young person to spend one hour a week to mentor you in the hands-on use of social media.
- Choose one channel, Facebook, Twitter, a blog, and spending enough time to master just that one thing.
- Take a class in social media
- Read and comment on a few blogs
What other first steps would you recommend to an Executive Director?