It’s not about the tools; it’s about relationships and what is possible. Speaker (and SSIR blog contributor) Marcia Stepanek gave this advice to the more than 250 attendees at yesterday’s Social Media on Purpose conference (sponsored by Tides and SSIR) at Stanford University—and it was just one of many golden insights of the day for nonprofit leaders looking to develop strong social media strategies for their organizations.
Marcia illustrated the power of social media in the social sector through examples. She pointed out that social media decentralizes leadership, shifting the locus of power outside organizations (as evident in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure controversy), and creates shared awareness and solidarity, particularly around political advocacy (as with the “We are all Khaled Said” campaign). She also discussed how social media democratizes philanthropy—it demands that nonprofits 1) understand who their supporters are and 2) prove their impact by showing rather than telling (the moving Heather McNamara’s Story for NewYork-Presbyterian made the point). She suggested that nonprofits deputize members of their social media community and use the tools they create (videos, photos, etc.) for greater impact, and stressed boiling down goals (by or with whom, how much, by when), the need for experimentation and measurement, and not giving up too soon.
Representatives from 12 different social media platforms—along with speakers from nonprofits that have run successful fundraising and awareness campaigns on those platforms—built on Marcia’s sound strategy advice throughout the rest of the day.
Facebook’s Libby Leffler suggested that all nonprofits do five things: create regular programs, use a lot of photos, engage with other groups, make the most of all available Facebook tools, and track everything through analytics—not just to see who you are already connecting with but to decide how to connect to people you want to connect with. Carly Severn from San Francisco Ballet (which currently has 148,000 Facebook fans) explained how the ballet repackages and reuses photos to create fresh content and makes sure to connect with fans in the day-to-day, even when the season is over or the company is traveling.
Twitter’s Jim Prosser said the company is trying to build a global town square. Breanna DiGiammarino from crowdsourcing site Indigogo and Shauna Carey from Room to Read described successful campaigns they’ve run that relied heavily on Twitter (Love for Karen Klein and #RTforLiteracy are two). Their advice was to use Twitter to spark authentic dialog, show your community what’s happening, and just dive in—don't wait to have a full-time staff or perfect content.
LinkedIn highlighted its Board Connect resource (see Beth Kanter’s take on it here), as well as how to track down pro bono talent through Advanced Search. (LinkedIn’s Head of Social Impact Meg Garlinghouse created network “inMaps” for all attendees—if you weren’t so lucky, see your own here). Later in the day, Ramya Raghavan got heads spinning even faster as she walked through seemingly endless tools and ideas for how nonprofits can use YouTube and Google+. Did you know, for example, that nonprofits can use YouTube for live streaming and Google’s Hangouts to do virtual live press conferences (like Jimmy Carter) and host webinars? We didn’t.
The day ended with a presentation by Natasha Deganello Giraudie, CEO of Micro-Documentaries, a company that produces short, documentary-style films for social and environmental organizations. Natasha said that nonprofit leaders who want to use film to advance their missions need to—as publishers—step away from themselves and ask: Who is my audience, and what are their aspirations? She said to think of films in terms of whether they are affordable, actionable, and authentic—they need be personal: “Before I listen to you, I want to know you and I want to like you.” One example film Natasha showed was (RED)’s “Meet Connie.”
Other social media platforms highlighted were Change.org, GreatNonprofits, Causes, Fundly, CafeGive, and ShoutAbout, an interesting new tool that places nonprofit links at the bottom of relevant articles on news sites.
For more on the conference and social media generally: Read the #SMoP13 Twitter feed, browse SSIR’s archive of social media articles and blog posts, and listen to Beth Kanter’s Nonprofit Management Institute podcast on building a networked nonprofit.
Read more stories by Jenifer Morgan.