Ah-ha Moments and Social Media (aka Why YOU Can and Should Use Social Media!)

Philanthropy411, in partnership with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Kim St. John-Stevenson, Communications Officer at the Saint Luke’s Foundation.

by:  Kim St. John-Stevenson

After hearing several presenters at #cof10 discuss how innovation and technology are literally colliding in the world of philanthropy, I had several ah-ha moments about social media and why so many of us are deathly afraid of it.

Ah-ha #1: We need research to validate social media is worth our investment. So, in the quest for a bit of real-time research, I did a quick, unofficial poll on what folks like/dislike about using Facebook, Twitter and/or other forms of social media. The results were interesting…read on:

“I don’t use Twitter because I don’t have time to follow folks and don’t have time to communicate everything or everywhere I am going.”

Note: It’s not as time consuming as people think and you do not need to communicate trivial info.

“I love FB. I don’t have to respond and I get to keep up with tons of friends and family.”

Note: It’s also a great way to keep up with colleagues and partners.

“Only use twitter through work, not going to tweet my every move. FB is fine for keeping up without having to be on all the time. Just wish they would stop fiddling around with the privacy settings”

Note: Social media is still evolving, so the rules of engagement are being “tweaked” along the way.

“I Like both a lot, but would give Twitter the edge for information/news happening right now.”

Note: Following people or topics of interest can be very insightful. For instance, following my fellow tweeters at this conference allowed me to learn highlights from sessions I was unable to attend.

The comments received in this unofficial poll mirror what I heard through the conference about social media. So what’s it all mean?

Ah-ha #2: Social media is still new to lots of folks and so it’s perceived as “risky.” In philanthropy, we often shy away from risky.

So with that, here’s my thoughts on HOW you get started if you haven’t already (and I give credit to folks like Holly Ross of NTEN, Perla Ni from Great Nonprofs and Sean Stannard-Stockton from Tactical Philanthropy who are trying to educate us on this fast-moving social phenomena):

  • To borrow a phrase from Nike, “Just Do It.” You need to take the plunge and get onto Facebook and Twitter.
  • Start “following” the people or orgs you’re interested in. That will give you an idea of the ways to use these tools.
  • Start “following” your grantees, not in a stalking way, just as a way of learning more about their work.
  • Do spend some time crafting some policies for use of social media – there are lots of great examples on the web – google “social media policy” and you will get some good results.
  • Don’t let social media overwhelm you. Instead, view it as one more tool in your arsenal for telling your story.


3 responses to “Ah-ha Moments and Social Media (aka Why YOU Can and Should Use Social Media!)

  1. Thanks for this post! I just wrote about social media measurement – to answer that question “What’s the value”
    http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2010/04/is-social-media-worth-it-for-our-nonprofit.html

  2. Thanks Kim for helping promote Social Media in Cleveland…”just do it” is right…it is the new phone book, and you HAVE to be in the phone book!