The Missed Beat in Social Media

Photo by Flickr user Franco Bouly.
It’s tough to engage now in a serious conversation about successfully running a nonprofit without social media playing a central role in the discussion, but at some point it will be so deeply embedded in our thinking and workflows that we won’t be talking about it as a distinct subject anymore. But even the best of the folks figuring out to effectively use social media strategies in building great nonprofits and advancing mission-based work mostly seem to miss a critical beat, and the worrisome part of that for me is the risk that this missed beat stays missing even as social media thinking becomes more deeply embedded in our work.

The most simplistic conversations start with an exhortation: if you aren’t doing social media you have to start right away! The sophisticated conversations at least start a few steps back, pointing out the importance of setting clear goals, being strategic in which social media tools you use and how you use them, and having a strong evaluation tool so you can figure out how well it’s working and make adjustments along the way.

Even those discussions, however, often miss what an even more critical step, namely having a clear understanding of the point of using the social media in the first place (an issue that Jon Stahl, Gideon Rosenblatt, and my BrightPlus3 colleague Ted Fickes bantered about in the comments section of a recent blog post: “The Engagement Pyramid’s Missing Step“). ‘Engagement’ doesn’t mean much unless it’s tied to both a clear goal and a clear understanding of what’s required to accomplish that goal.

It sounds so obvious, but most nonprofit discussions of social media strategy and technique seem to hint at this obliquely (at best) or overlook it altogether.

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