Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dear Boards Of Directors

Did you receive some staff reports in the last few months that your organization is on Facebook now? Did that get an enthusiastic nod of approval from the board? How about the report that you're on twitter? Did the members give a big thank you to the staff for making sure you're where it's at (whatever "it" is)?

And what does all of this mean? Social media can be a two-edged sword. Smart organizations look before they leap... and they figure some important things out.

Have you duplicated content already on your organization's website and now have two or three spots to maintain? Are you taking staff time just to be in different places? What's the plan? What's the goal? What's the prize? What's the point?

Yesterday there was an interesting online chat that @ALSofGNY pointed out to fellow twitterers. It was held by . A quote from that chat should be displayed in every not-for-profit boardroom in the nation: " media is not about promoting your organizations. It's about becoming part of the conversation." (Nancy Schwartz of ).

Next time you get a staff report that mentions Facebook, how about asking how the organization has become part of the conversation? Better yet, perhaps you should ask your board if you  even want to be part of the conversation?

Do you have a neighbor who continues to plant shrubs and flowers yet can't keep the grass cut? It's good to do a check of your not-for-profit basics before you put down roots in social media.

If you're not able to respond to your constituent emails today, then it's time to deal with that problem and postpone the social media which demand a commitment to constant, timely response. If your website is not well-maintained, then it's time to deal with that problem and skip social media for now. If you're not keeping up with thank you letters for donations, then you had best fix that problem before engaging in online, public conversations.

If you don't allow staff members to engage in public media conversations, then your static presence on Facebook and twitter and other social media sites is just making busywork (and makes you look pretty foolish). If you twitter stream is just press releases, then you're neither contributing nor receiving any of the unique energy of twitter.

If you don't have staff members capable of engaging in public conversations, you have an opportunity to hone some new staff skills and responsibilities. It's not about technology. It's not about traditional press releases. It's a conversation. It's a chance to talk with your clientele and peers. It's a big opportunity.  It's a lot more than putting up a Facebook page and walking away for a month, though.

It's not about simply "being on" Facebook and Inspire and Patientslikeme and twitter and and alsforums and myMDA. It's about targeting constituent groups and being an active part of the conversation. It's about promoting the cause rather than your specific organization.

This is the perfect opportunity for your board and staff to sit down and figure some things out together.

Different web-based media appeal to different constituencies. One size never fits all. Figure it out. Target and engage appropriately. Ask why you would want to engage on a specific medium. Figure it out. What are the strengths of each medium. Figure it out. What does each add uniquely to your ability to be a part of the conversation? Figure it out. Can you talk with people rather than to people in a public space? That's a big question. Figure it out.

Don't give those approving nods until you try to figure it out. Having a Facebook page and 500 "friends" means nothing if you're not part of the conversation.

We look forward to you being part of that conversation.



Sleepy said... for a free copy of The Conversational Corporation.

Anonymous said...

You are right on the mark, Sleepy. The sad fact is how many of the leadership will bother to figure it out, but will be satisfied with being on the wave of social networking?

Perhaps the phrase that you made bold should be printed on business cards and handed out at professional management conferences.