Social Media: Does Your Boss 'Get' It?
In June 2007, I presented my first social-media training to a group of small nonprofits in Lowell, Mass. At the time, nonprofits primarily used only MySpace and YouTube. Facebook was made public nine months previous, and Facebook Groups only just began to be used as community-building tools by nonprofits. It was the optimal time for early adoption of social media by nonprofits, and it's no coincidence that nonprofits that embraced these new tools in 2006 to 2008 are today the most successful nonprofits on the social Web. There's definitely a math to social-media synergy, and those that start early have both time and math on their side.
At this first training, it was no surprise that almost all of the attendees were battling the "my boss doesn't get it" conundrum. The media made MySpace, and social networking in general, out to be dangerous, life-threatening even. Executives were terrified by the legal implications of using social-networking tools. Long-term professional communications and fundraising staff had a hard time accepting the aesthetic of new media. It went against everything they had learned in their careers about design and online messaging. And almost all executives had a very difficult time letting go of control and embracing the concept of empowering supporters and donors to be content creators and fundraisers for their nonprofits online.
Flash forward five years. Executives have come a long way in understanding the social Web. However, as I travel the country this year giving trainings on social and mobile media to nonprofits of all sizes, I'm somewhat flummoxed that the No. 1 complaint by nonprofit social-media practitioners is still that, "My boss doesn't get it! What can I do to make him understand?"
It is borderline tragic that it is taking this long for the "a-ha!" moment to trickle up. Social media is no longer new, and the mobile Web is rapidly upon us ... now. It's troublesome to say the least that nonprofit social-media practitioners still struggle to get the buy-in and the support they need from executive staff to launch and maintain successful social-media campaigns. Social media is not a fad. It's a fundamental shift in how our supporters communicate with each other and with us, and ultimately in how they donate and get involved with organizations.