[Off Topic] Social Media for Nonprofits: Getting the Word Out in the New Information Age

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Last week, I had the privilege of moderating a panel on “Social Media: Getting the Word Out in the New Information Age” at the 2008 Crossroads Conference for Nonprofit Excellence in Austin. The panel came about largely, I think, because I pestered the Marketing and Development Director (aka…my sister) for much of the prior year about the fact that she was not using social media actively in her own work. That fed into one of Greenlights’s internal planning sessions for the conference…which led to them asking me to help put together and moderate a panel on the subject. Greenlights found the panelists, and it was a bang-up group:

  • Heidi Adams — Founder and Executive Director of Planet Cancer, which has gotten real traction and success with My Planet (a Ning-based social network for young adults who have been diagnosed with cancer)
  • Connie Reece — Founder of Every Dot Connects, a consortium of independent social media practitioners and consultants…who also just so happened to have founded the Frozen Pea Fund
  • David Neff — Director of Web, Film and Interactive Strategy for the American Cancer Society; he’s one of the key drivers behind sharinghope.tv

Anne Rickard at Greenlights set up a WordPress blog, and I got to be one of the first to post on it (we chatted at the happy hour after the conference, and she’s now pondering how to turn the “Crazy for Crossroads” blog into more of an on-going Greenlights blog — I’m hoping they’re successful with that!).

The panel met a couple of times prior to the panel and came up with a format whereby I would lay out some basic definitions and concepts behind social media — I relied heavily on Brian Solis’s and Jesse Thomas’s Conversation Prism as the basis for that. Then, each of the panelists would talk through their experiences using social media successfully for nonprofit purposes. We left a little time for questions at the end, but, as it turned out…not really enough!

I kicked off the panel by getting a show of hands from the ~100 people in the audience on a number of questions (my rough estimate of how many people raised their hands follows each question):

  • Have you read a blog? 100%
  • Have you commented on a blog? 98%
  • Have you written a blog post — either for your own blog or as a guest poster? 80%
  • Do you have a LinkedIn profile? 95%
  • Do you have a Facebook profile? 90%
  • Do you use Twitter? 50%

I think the entire panel was surprised by the number of people who raised their hands to a lot of these questions (not the first one — that was a gimme). We had a little bit of an, “Oh, crap…so much for the ‘highly introductory’ plan we had for this session.” In hindsight, it was a tough crowd based on the broad spectrum of experience — there was a contingent of audience members who were interested in social media but really didn’t know where to begin. But, there was also a contingent of people who were already actively using social media…and there was a contingent of people who were using it a bit but were looking for tips on how to use it more effectively. Overall, we did a good job of covering a pretty broad range of topics (although I haven’t seen the evaluation form results yet, so who knows?).

Our slides:

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: nonprofits socialmedia)

We also put together a one-page handout as a takeaway for the attendees, although we realized as we worked on that that…gee…maybe we should use social bookmarking to put together a more comprehensive resource. Connie set up http://delicious.com/crossroadsconf for us to add links to on that front.

I’ve posted a PDF of the handout we put together. The front page is the conversation prism and contact information for the panelists (including where they hang out social media-wise). The second page is a series of starter resources. That really was fun to put together, as I got to poke around on Twitter and get some suggestions from a number of the thought leaders in the social media for nonprofits space: Beth Kanter hooked me up with a bunch of good information (I’m not sure how I initially became aware of Beth, but she was one of the first people I pinged for input beyond the panel), including pointing me to TechSoup.  I also got some great information from Andrea Hill, who I had a fairly indirect connection to on Twitter (she worked at an agency where I knew several people, ran in local web development / web marketing circles, and was based in Columbus — all of that has since changed and she has now relocated to Denver to take a social media-oriented position at a social media for social change organization! I got to meet Andrea once in person before she left — at a Web Analytics Wednesday event in Columbus).

All in all, it was a fun experience. I made some new friends, learned a lot about all that is going on on the social media front when it comes to nonprofits, and, heck, actually made my big sister kinda’ proud (I think).

I’m hoping the Social Media Club Austin sees a few new faces over the coming months because of it!

UPDATE: Beth Kanter pointed out that I erroneously listed her blog as being a .org instead of a .com in the PDF handout. The correct URL for her blog is http://beth.typepad.com, and the PDF linked to above has been updated to reflect this!


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