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.
If your nonprofit can't get the support it needs in social and mobile media and is still forced to wing it on a zero budget, here are some tips to help you illuminate and mobilize the skeptics:
Find your voice and channel your enthusiasm
Be insistent and firm. If that is that not your personality type, then try to step out of your comfort zone. Asserting yourself at work is often the missing piece to success.
Compile stats to share with executives
Share information such as 98 percent of adults aged 18 to 24 use social media. Or the second most visited website in the U.S. and the world is Facebook; 71 percent of Americans watch online video; Foursquare has surpassed 1 billion check-ins; one in three Americans access the mobile Web every day; 73 percent of Americans send and receive text messages. A quick Google search of "social media stats 2011" pulls up a wide range of stats.
Find your competitors the Web
If they have well-executed campaigns, send executive staff links to their profiles on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare, Tumblr, etc., with a note that you fear your nonprofit is falling behind.
Learn how to integrate your website, e-newsletter and "Donate Now" campaigns with social and mobile media. Your ROI is directly related to how well-integrated these tools and communities are with one another. Trust me ... as someone who has browsed more than 100,000 nonprofits on social-networking sites over the last (almost) seven years, I know that most nonprofit social-media practitioners need training. They don't think they do, but they do.
Get executive staff on a webinar
I'm presenting a free mini-webinar on social and mobile media for executive staff in January (Contatct me at email@example.com for details.)
Add your social- and mobile-media responsibilities to your job description. Then at your next annual review, at least seed the idea that you can't add these new responsibilities to your job description without dropping time spent on other duties. Your boss can say no, but you need to be firm. Perhaps even ask for a raise — it never hurts to ask.
Ask for an office smartphone
You are going to need it. Yes, yes ... I know. Your nonprofit has no budget for it. Ask anyway. If your nonprofit is not experimenting with social media on the mobile Web, you are missing the early-adoption phase and you'll regret it three years from now when fundraising and currency in general is mobile.
All that said, the truth is that there is no magical word or case study that you can present to skeptical staffers to make them instantly get it. It's up to you to be proactive, insistent and ultimately not take "no" for an answer. It's in the best interest of your nonprofit and ultimately your long-term career in nonprofit communications and fundraising.