Posts Tagged groundswell

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.


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 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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Read This: 9781422125007

According to Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, the groundswell is: “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.”

Through research, case studies, and personal experiences, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research explore the past, present, and future potential of the groundswell and its implications for the corporate world.  While groundswell technologies like Facebook and YouTube are changing the way that consumers interact every day, the authors insist that this must change the way that companies think, listen to, and interact with them as well.

Their thinking is, if customers are already talking about your company online, why not harness that for the good of the company?  In fact, their principle for mastering the groundswell is, concentrate on the relationships, not the technologies.” As new social platforms launch frequently (like Quora), it’s not about mastering them all or even establishing a presence on them all, it’s about determining which will be best to foster relationships with new and existing consumers.

Written in 2008, a few things make this book noticeably “old.”  Twitter is listed as an up-and-coming tool that should be on everyone’s radar- clearly they were right about that one.  The book states that one in four online American adults visit social networking sites at least monthly, but I would guess that the number is higher now.

The book directs readers to its account, but it hasn’t been updated regularly since July 2008.   Though some of the statistics have changed, and the tools have evolved, the book is more about the overarching concept of embracing the groundswell, which is even more important to companies today than in 2008 when the book was written.

I think one great recent example of a company embracing the power of the groundswell is Old Spice.  Their Old Spice Guy videos gained an immense following on social media– so much so that traditional media noticed, and that sales spiked noticeably.

One valuable tool to note is the Social Technographics Profile, which allows organizations to examine the online behaviors/trends of their target audiences.  This model divides Internet users into several categories: creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, and inactives.  I would classify myself as a joiner and a spectator: I read many blogs regularly, but rarely make my presence known by commenting or contributing, which makes me a spectator.  I also join a variety of social media and social networking sites, which makes me a joiner.

Something that has probably changed since the book was written is that use of something like Twitter encourages almost all of its users to be creators: sure, there are some who join simply to read Kim Kardashian’s tweets, but I would guess that more than 18% of Twitter users are considered creators, though 18% is the estimate provided for online creators in the U.S.

It’s safe to say that the amount of people suffering from groundswell approach-avoidance syndrome have only increased since the book was written in 2008.  Just about everyone can agree that social media cannot be avoided, and through the case studies in this book and documented thoroughly on the web, the business case is strong.  What’s not so simple is remembering that going full steam ahead and establishing social media presences on every platform you can find is not the best approach- in fact, it’s an awful one.  Actually stepping back to analyze the goals, establish a strategy, and determine appropriate tactics is a true challenge in a world where technology is evolving rapidly (thanks to the groundswell!).

The POST method described in the book is a great way to ensure that social media efforts are grounded and well thought out.  By establishing a foundation focused on People, Objectives, Strategy and Technology, the emphasis truly lies in the relationships, which harps back to the major principle for mastering the groundswell.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Groundswell.  The numerous case studies give explicit examples of the challenges, successes, and failures that embracing the groundswell promises.  I would definitely recommend it to others at any level within a changing company– especially a large company– as a basis for changing the way they think about audience interaction and the foundations of communication.

By the way, the title is a reference to this post on Digg’s blog.  Read Groundswell (the ISBN number is in the title) if you’re curious to find out more about it..

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