Posts Tagged engage!

What I thought of The Networked Nonprofit

I just finished reading The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change by Beth Kanter and Allison H. Fine.  If you haven’t read it, you probably should.

Why?

Because it’s chock full of tangible, realistic changes that organizations can make in order to move towards becoming a Networked Nonprofit.  The book defines Networked Nonprofits as “simple and transparent organizations.”  They are simple in that they stick to what they are good at and they streamline their efforts according to what works and what doesn’t.  They are transparent in that they communicate with their audiences about their intentions, plans, successes, and failures.  Best of all, they engage in two-way dialogue with their audiences– acknowledging the essential role of people in enabling social change.

One of the examples that I found most interesting was from an organization I had never heard of– the Surfrider Foundation.  The Surfrider Foundation is the essential Networked Nonprofit in that it relies on its volunteers not just to spread the word, but to ignite action.  Though I had never heard of it, 10 seconds after visiting the organization’s Twitter feed, I found that members were doing good in my community along the Potomac/Capital Crescent Trail.

Though the book focuses on streamlining nonprofits and making them adept to change in order to succeed, I found much of the contents relevant to my every day life.  At work, I focus on social marketing– helping people become aware and able to make decisions that hopefully lead to a better, healthier life.  As this book attests (page 131), “social media can be used to affect change directly.”  I certainly am a believer that social media can be used to bring messages to wider, hard-to-reach audiences, but this book reminded me that it’s not just for pushing out messages– it’s for engaging in conversation.

For example, I hadn’t given crowdsourcing too much thought, but I loved the idea that engaging people early on, in the planning stages of a project, could actually lead to a much deeper engagement (more likely to lead to actual action).  The book mentions The Humane Society’s video contest launched in response to Michael Vick’s dogfighting scandal.  Check out what it ultimately resulted in– though controversial, it was a huge conversation-starter for the organization.

The focus on microplanning and learning loops, which emphasized  tweaking things along the way based on insights gleaned, related directly to my experiment with Google AdWords, which I made a few changes to along the way to encourage success.

Compared to the other books I’ve read over the past few months (Groundswell, The Long Tail, and Engage!), this came out on top, along with Groundswell, as a favorite.  I liked that it was simple with actionable steps that real organizations could take to facilitate change.  Similarly to all of the books, Networked Nonprofit pushes organizations to interact with audiences in a new way on social networks.  In order to be successful, organizations must not just talk and not just listen, but interact. In order to make the change from a fortress (least transparent) to a transactional (some transparency) and ultimately a transparent organization, humanizing communications is crucial.

Many of the ideas relayed in the book can be applied at any organization.  Imagine using Doodle.com to schedule meetings with partners (whose Outlook calendar availability is unaccessible) rather than lobbying 10 emails over the course of a week.  Imagine engaging in casual dialogue on Twitter and encouraging others to weigh in.  Imagine  editing documents in Google Docs and having access to them 24/7 via the cloud rather than a clunky shared drive.  Sound nice?  Sounds like the future to me.

For Mad River Glen, there are many lessons to be learned in this book.  In my opinion, they’ve done a great job at staying simple and sticking to what they’re good at.  Compared to many of their competitors, they’re more of a ski mountain than a ski resort, despite that a four-season resort might help them bring in money year-round.  Though they’re retweeting actively on Twitter, they could stand to interact more– actually using the platforms to facilitate conversation.  I would love to see them use crowdsourcing to engage their audiences– for example, they could use the new Facebook questions feature to encourage fans to vote for the name of a new trail, or in the social change realm, use Facebook events and Twtvite to mobilize their audiences to take part in a post-season clean up to gather any trail accumulated over the ski season.

PS: While Googling, I came across this MSNBC post on the same topic with some great nonprofit success stories in it. Check it out!

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Engage! Business + Brands + Social Media

Brian Solis’ Engage! is a great study of the current social media landscape. For those who are sold on the importance of businesses engaging on social media platforms, it takes things a step further by looking at the tenets of the business world, like customer relationship management, social media policies and standards, and vendor relationship management. Solis approaches social media keeping sociology, anthropology, and ethnography in mind.
Engage!

Similarly to Groundswell, Solis emphasizes the importance of a strategic approach to social media: just joining in order to establish a presence is not just elementary, but a recipe for disaster. He emphasizes that social media is used not just to reach out to customers, and not just to reach out to potential customers: focusing on Social Relationship Management (SRM) is what it boils down to. Just like in Groundswell, Solis celebrates the end of traditional media as the gatekeepers to communicating with the public.

One thing that Solis’ book excels at is the organization of social media– both visuals and lists help to explains sometimes complicated theories. There are many useful lists and outlines in the book– a collection of four P’s and four C’s as adaptations of the marketing mix, a list of social search tools, and an outline for corporate social media policies, to name a few.

Anyone who has dabbled with social media strategy has seen the Conversation Prism, but I had never thought about who to attribute it to. I enjoyed actually reading an explanation of it, because my previous encounters with the prism were more of a demonstration of the complicated nature of social media.

Solis’ Conversation Prism helps to map “the conversation” by cataloging social networks within certain categories (i.e., social bookmarking, blog platforms, and forums). The epicenter of the prism is the organization, which must listen, strategize, and execute social media tactics. The second circle is the workforce, which represents the fragmented nature/reality of social media within very large organizations, where different departments (i.e., customer service, marketing, and PR) will require varied involvement in an organization’s social media activities. The third circle is the actual conversation: where the interaction and engagement actually takes place.
Conversation Prism

What I learned from the Conversation Prism is emphasized throughout the book: various factions within a large organization will want to participate in social media activities, and they all have legitimate reasons to do so. Without a central “hub” or group to facilitate that participation, fragmented communications will become a reality, only diluting the potential power of social media rather than harnessing it. One thing that really spoke to me in the book that helps to address this challenge was Solis’ example of Intel Insiders, their social media board of external advisors that serve as a sounding board and a guiding force. This is definitely something that Mad River Glen and other organizations should consider when developing social media plans. Cognitive diversity is pronounced across social media platforms, and people outside of the company with varying experiences and expertise can serve as a mini focus-group and produce a wealth of ideas.

Here’s a quick look at the Intel Insiders program:

Beyond the social media board of advisors, there are several important lessons for Mad River Glen in Engage! For example, rather than segmenting the What’s New page of their website by social media platform, they could use a tool like FriendFeed to develop a lifestream, which would integrate updates and provide more of a realtime look at what’s going on across different platforms. In several places throughout the book, Solis mentions transitioning the online relationship to real life. For Mad River Glen, this would be a breeze– anyone who is engaging with them on social media is likely to be a skier. Using Meetup.com could help facilitate this.

Overall, I found Engage! to be similar to social media itself in that it was disorganized and a bit overwhelming. At times, it felt like I was reading a series of diary/blog posts rather than a sequential book. At the same time, underneath the somewhat confusing and overwhelming surface of the book, Solis shared some fantastic insight and demonstrated his clear knowledge of the social media realm. Despite some shortcomings, I think the book is an essential read for any social media pioneer within a large or small company– from defining ROI to establishing a conversation index, Solis’ expertise is worth sharing.

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