One Key to a Successful Nonprofit Social Media Strategy
I just read an eye-opening Harvard Business Review blog article about the Six Attitudes Leaders Take to Social Media, demonstrating how business leaders are beginning to embrace the real opportunities social media offers. Most, however, are still on the wrong side of the fence (the article includes an assessment tool link to help you figure out which side of the fence your own organization is on vis-à-vis “readiness” for social media).
If your boss were asked to define social media, what do you think he/she might say? Think about it.
Hmmn… You look concerned.
How many thought your boss’s answer would be along the lines of: A bunch of different technological tools – like Twitter and Facebook – that let us send messages to constituents? How many thought: Something our marketing and IT folk do that’s a big time suck? I see a lot of hands up in the air!
The aforementioned article may be worth sharing with your boss. The key take away? Social media is about people; not technology. And if you want to connect with your people, there is no better way in the current marketplace to do so.
So, why aren’t more for profit CEOs or nonprofit E.D.s on Twitter? Less than 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs on Twitter attempts to answer that question, while also suggesting the benefits on which they’re missing out. The key advantage is up-to-the-minute brand management. Specifically:
(1) Real-time feedback;
(2) Open line of communication (great for getting new ideas about what folks really want/care about);
(3) Discovering new things (it’s instant market research), and
(4) Creating a perception that you’re at the very least current, if not cutting edge.
So, given that today’s technology enables transparent communication that can lead to significant sharing of new ideas, collaboration, engagement and investment by like-minded constituents, how do we get our leaders to open their arms to the opportunities? For the most part, even in organizations that use social media successfully, the function is either outsourced or given to a low-level staff person charged as the “online information officer” or “social media manager”. Our leaders are not usually paying much attention, let alone leading the conversation.
Leaders have always led the conversation. So why should social media be different?
Again, as noted in the aforementioned article, there are potentially acceptable reasons. Not everyone is naturally cut out to “tweet”. It does take a willingness to embrace a learning curve, and often our top leaders simply do not have the time to devote to this. I have a suspicion that any leader who does manage to fit this into his/her schedule will have a competitive advantage; still, it may not be realistic to expect this will happen.
Yet, if you dig into the definition of realistic it does mean showing awareness and acceptance of reality. And hopefully our leaders are coming around to the acceptance that social media is not a fad; rather, it is at the forefront of a true and revolutionary change in the way we exchange information and do business. Leaders have a unique role in that they should be framing and defining the need for change within their organizations. In this way, being realistic is being pragmatic and practical, rather than ideal. How many of our leaders think they are being pushed into social media because it’s an ideal – something that is not at all practical?
We have a conundrum – a perplexing puzzle with no clear solution.
The challenge is not insurmountable, however. We can put the pieces of the puzzle together. At the very least, we can make leaders aware of the issue. Ultimately, they hold responsibility for leading organizational transformation. When leaders leave the tweeting to others, then aren’t they really empowering others to shape the conversation, connect with the consumer, breed brand loyalty and ultimately drive the bottom line? Framed this way, leaders may start to see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
Perhaps a leader will want to delegate the “tweeting” per se, but they should be making a conscious, thoughtful, informed and most of all active decision to do so. And this delegation should, of course, be done within the context of a coordinated, strategic plan; not a free-for-all.
“Leadership attitudes, and the organizational culture they spawn, are critical to social media success” say Anthony J. Bradley and Mark P. McDonald, co-authors of The Social Organization: How to Use Social Media to Tap the Collective Genius of Your Customers and Employees. Your leader can be your most fundamental asset or liability.
What are your thoughts on having your fearless leader becoming a big Tweetie Bird? Do you think it could give you a competitive advantage? Or does it strike fear in your soul? Who do you think make the best organizational Tweetie Birds?
Your thoughts and comments are welcome!