dear diary: a travelogue for social media

Beth Kanter recently posted on the importance of outcome-based thinking for nonprofits getting involved in social media, and, with Alex de Carvalho, generated a great list of ways to address some of the challenges presented by social media. I’m just going to pull two items out of this list and expand on the theme a bit:

Discuss and set objectives at the outset, and not just quantitative objectives. Figure out what is measurable and be sure to include the systems to track progress. If systems to track qualitative results are not in place, then keep a journal and also be sure to share positive and negative feedback from customers with the organization.

Determine goals first and break them out into short-, medium- and long-term. Don’t get into social media if you’re not planning to stick with it over the long-term.

Objectives and outcomes have to come first. You don’t set out on a trip without knowing your destination — this is the same thing.

Think of it as a journey, and decide where it is you want to go. Then choose the right tool for the job. A day trip to the next city over calls for a car or a bus, whereas a trip across the country with several different stops will call for a more layered approach, involving planes, buses, taxis, public transportation, and yes, even walking.

Once you’ve chosen your tools, picture what success will look like. Include both quantitative and qualitative measurements.

I love Alex’s idea of keeping a journal to track qualitative results as time goes by. This method emphasizes the fact that you will not just be measuring results at the end of the trip, but all along the way as well. So keep a journal on your trip, and encourage any staff involved to contribute. Maybe a nice, inside-the-firewall blog with multiple authors would do the trick.

Think about it for the long haul. Put systems in place for the continuation of your social media use that don’t depend on certain people remaining on staff — add these skills to that person’s job description so that their successors will be chosen wisely, and so that the project doesn’t get dropped when staff changes occur.

This point also backs up why it is important to define your goals and objectives at the outset — what if there is a complete staff turnover at your nonprofit during the course of your social media journey? How will the new staff, board, executive director, understand why you started down this path in the first place?

Document your goals, strategies, milestones, and measurement plans so that your organization maintains a depth of institutional memory about the project. Nonprofits have a famously high staff turnover rate — accept this possibility as a likelihood.

Beth is right –there is a lot in Alex’s list to unpack and discuss how it applies to nonprofits. I’ve looked at two points — what do you have to say?

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