Tag Archives: strategy

traveling without moving

I’ve been watching Beth Kanter traipsing across the globe over the last couple of weeks, as she traveled to Australia to give some workshops and a keynote on social media for nonprofits. She’s been blogging and twittering and uploading pictures to Flickr the whole time, and I’ve checked in with her updates a couple of times to see how things were going (mainly to see if she had met up with my friend Jules Woodward, the Executive Director of Flying Arts in Brisbane — she did).

One of the best things she pointed to during this trip, for me, was the blog maintained by Seb Chan, of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, fresh + new(er). (Thanks to Beth Kanter for the image.)

Seb writes about all manner of things touching on social media and how cultural organizations (including museums, performing arts venues, and others) can use these tools to get things done. The depth and intelligence of the coverage of this space on this blog is just superb — among the best I’ve seen.

A recent post that spoke to what I’ve been working on lately was Seb’s review of Groundswell by Forrester senior analysts Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. I recently finished reading Groundswell myself, and I’ve been busy incorporating its ideas into the round of workshops on social media and nonprofits I’m in the midst of right now.

One of the most useful points I’ve found in Groundswell is the importance of planning for how engagement in web 2.0 will change your organization — how it works, how it processes information, how it responds to praise and criticism, and more. Some of this you can’t plan for — but you should at least know that change is likely.

Put simply, if you do engage, you organisation will change. If you engage strategically then this change can be managed and paced appropriately. For some organisations it might be most appropriate to deploy a range of ‘listening’ techniques and technologies before leaping into a poorly planned social media project. Even here at the Powerhouse we’ve had social media projects fail because we have over-estimated our intended audiences and their predicted behaviour. {Seb Chan, fresh + new(er)}

Often, I think we embark on social media “strategies” thinking that we are going to change our audience’s behavior — that we’re going to “get” them to do something we want them to do.

This is the sort of strategy that is likely to fail. People don’t like being “gotten” to do stuff. If there’s one thing people can sniff out, it’s coercion.

That’s where my other favorite part of Groundswell comes in (and Jeremiah Owyang talks about this a lot, too): Fish Where the Fish Are.

It’s not about getting people to do something new, so much as it is about going where they are already engaged, and getting down with them there.

That’s why the folks at Forrester are always banging on about this POST method of theirs — it makes you look first at the people you are trying to reach, second at what they are already doing online, and then you can start talking strategy and tools.

I banged on about this myself at some length during my class at Mount Holyoke on Friday, when I presented to a roomful of alumnae of various ages on how they can start thinking about using tools like blogging, social networking, and photosharing for their own nonprofits.

I used the occasion of my own 15th reunion at Mount Holyoke to sharpen some of my favorite event-broadcasting-through-social-media skills. As a result, I know I experienced the weekend very differently — I was more reflective, more thoughtful about how I spent my time, where I stood, and what I noticed — because, I suppose, I wasn’t just there for me. I was thinking about what you might want to see, what you might care or not care about, and what I might be otherwise taking for granted.

If you want to see some of what I got up to during my reunion/social media workout, you can check it out on:




and coming soon to YouTube…


unintended consequences – the good kind

Nonprofits all around us are making decisions RIGHT NOW about how to engage in social networks, and many of us in the field have to fight a desperate feeling of running hard just to keep up – the overwhelming conviction that everybody else is winning friends, donors, hearts and minds through the savvy use of social networking sites, and that we are MISSING OUT.

This impels us to hurry into building a profile on FaceBook or MySpace or whatever other site presents itself to us, and then we either hover anxiously around the computer with bated breath, wondering when the scores of users will find us and friend us (anyone who has compulsively checked their blog stats will know how this feels) OR ignore it for a couple of months, check back, find no activity (or only spammy activity – hi Tom from MySpace!), and shrug in disgust and say it was all a bad idea anyway.

It is not, necessarily, a bad idea anyway.  What is certainly a bad idea is rushing into things without a plan. 

What are you trying to accomplish?  How will you define success?  How will you measure success?  How will you justify your investment of time and resources to your governing board, your executive director, your co-workers?

A couple of weeks ago, I created and posted two logic models to help people– myself included — think through two basic decisions:

  1. Should my organization use a Social Networking Site?
  2. Should my organization use a custom or an existing Social Networking Site?

I posted them on Beth Kanter’s wiki for social media metrics and several people chimed in to flesh out and improve the documents.  If you are wrestling with these issues, I highly recommend taking a gander — not just at the logic models, but at Beth’s whole wiki.  It’s a great compendium on how to measure and plan your social media strategy.

I am fascinated by the issues that have come up over the past few months while I’ve been exploring this subject.  Done right, the creation of a social media strategy is a hugely valuable exercise that makes you think very critically about things like:

  • Who is our natural constituency?
  • Of that consistuency, who are we effectively reaching WITHOUT social networks?
  • Why?
  • Of that consistuency, who are we NOT reaching without social networks?
  • Why?
  • Is this group(s) currently using existing social networks?
  • Are they likely to within 1 to 3 years?
  • Who might lie just outside of what we think of as our “natural constituency” that might be reached on social networking sites?

I’m particularly interested in this last one, lately.  I have found that social networking sites are endless sources of surprise and counter-intuitive revelation. 

I believe that nonprofits should plan their engagement in social networks, certainly, based on what they already know.

But I also believe that nonprofits should allow themselves to be surprised – wrong, even – about who might be interested in them, their work, and their mission. 

That sometimes, the law of unintended consequences brings us GOOD things. 

Sometimes it seems like my personal involvement in social networks does nothing but bring me beautiful little surprises: new friends, new ideas, new opportunities… 

Of course, there was that beautiful little surprise when I got my first post-twitter cell phone bill — and realized I had forgotten to up my SMS allowance in time…

But I digress.

As the wikipedia entry for unintended consequences says, when it’s good, it’s serendipity.  When it’s bad, it’s just perverse.

And speaking of serendipity, I noticed Jeremiah’s post last week about his upcoming webinar titled Your Social Networking Strategy: Join or Build?  and rather than spend too much time thinking about how he has clearly been reading my mail and rooting through my dustbin, I decided I would throw caution to the winds and enroll.

Here are some of the burning thoughts that I will be bringing with me to the webinar:

  • How can nonprofits use existing social networks to reach new markets?
  • How can membership organizations translate “friends” into “members?”
  • How can membership organizations reach their current members on MyFace?
  • How can a “built” social network (white label, self-hosted) avoid becoming yet another silo?  How can it be built mindfully, leaving the door open for integration with existing or new social networks?

Not that I expect Jeremiah to answer all those questions.  Just: that’s where my head is right now.

Of course, the webinar isn’t until December 17.  But by then we’ll probably have this all sorted out.  Right?