Friday, October 10, 2008

9 Steps to Prioritize Nonprofit Social Media Training and Experimentation

Here's my contribution to this month's Net2ThinkTank question posed by Amy Sample Ward,

"What are the key questions nonprofit orgs should ask to help them determine how to prioritize social media training and experimentation as they do their technology and organization-strengthening planning?"

1. What are the goals you are trying to achieve this year?

2. Which social media tools could possibly help you achieve those goals?

If you don't know the answer to #2, ask yourself, where can I get a general overview of social media tools, along with examples of how nonprofits are using them?

Some places to find this kind of information are TechSoup, NTEN, Idealware, Aspiration, and the New Organizing Institute. Mobilizing Generation 2.0 by Ben Rigby has a pretty good overview of most social media with examples of how nonprofits have used them. Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age by Allison Fine has some good examples as well. You'll want to check out the ever evolving We Are Media: The Social Media Starter Kit for Nonprofits, too.

4. Once you've got some ideas about the kinds of tools that you think might help you reach your goals, ask yourself, how much time, money, and in-house staff expertise do we have to learn how to use these tools, set them up, and maintain them?

5. You'll also want to ask yourselves, which tool(s) are your staff the most excited to learn about and experiment with? The reason social media is "social" is because it requires a fair amount of time interacting with its users. If no one on staff wants to interact with your supporters, social media tools are not a fit for you.

6. A last factor you can use to narrow down your list of tools is to survey your supporters about the tools they already use, and would be interested in using with your organization. I can't tell you how often people ask me if I think their supporters would listen to a podcast. My question back is always, what do your supporters say?

7. How will you measure your tools' impact? Different tools have different ways to measure their impact from site and page views, to subscribers, to "friends," to links back to you, to donations, to anecdotal evidence. Finding the right measurement tools needs to be part of your training and experimentation plan.

8. When will you decide whether or not to continue putting time, money and energy into using a tool? Don't expect quick results. Think of yourself as a restaurant owner. Sometimes a new restaurant opens and is mobbed with people right away, but more often than not, it takes time to build up a steady clientele.

You should have a time frame in mind for when to decide if something isn't working, and try something else instead. Whatever you do, please don't abandon your out-of-date, un-updated blog, Facebook group, Twitter feed, etc. for some potential supporter to find, and then decide that your organization is lame because the most recent information on it is from 2006. If it's not working, delete it.

9. Finally, it is important to use time and resources wisely, but there are no guarantees that social media tools will help you achieve your goals, so enter into your experiments lightly, with hopeful, but realistic expectations.

These are playful tools, and they work best if you are having fun with them. If your staff is saying, "Aaargh! We have to spend time on the (blog, podcast, Facebook page, Twitter, wiki, fundraising widget etc.). What a pain!" You may need to pick a new tool, provide more training, or ask yourself, how can we have more fun using these tools?

Cross-posted from NetSquared.

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