Using Social Media for Personal and Organizational Success
When asked what three things organizations need more of to really make an impact on their work, the response is often: time, talent, and treasure. Even in our own lives, this ubiquitous trinity is what we crave; we want more time, sharper skills (in ourselves and our colleagues), and more money.
So how can social media help us—as individuals and organizations—better achieve all three?
We’re all busy. In fact, it’s probably the number one complaint-brag we all hear and, unlike many other resources, time is finite. We cannot make more of it, so we have to do our best to maximize what little we have.
Meetings and e-mail are often the two biggest time sucks in our day. Controlling how much time you spend on these can help you work smarter and focus on your real priorities. Internal social networks, like Yammer or Chatter, help you collaborate more efficiently with your colleagues without endless e-mail chains or countless hours in meetings.
Nearly a year ago, we introduced Yammer at the Foundation Center. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of sharing ideas, working on projects, and virtually meeting people in our offices that I hadn’t before (particularly useful since we have five offices across the United States). I can quickly post a question to the entire organization, or just a select group of people, and receive thoughts and feedback, while reducing my Inbox’s burden and the time I spend in meetings.
Yammer has also been a great place to discover unexpected talents and skills on our team. Of our nearly 150 member staff, only a few are invited to a meeting or an e-mail chain at any given time. While this helps in managing e-mail overload and room capacity, it doesn’t afford everyone the opportunity to participate—which could be detrimental to a project if they hold certain unrecognized expertise. And Yammer is easy for everyone to pick up, since its functionality is comparable to Facebook’s; but the posts are not publicly accessible.
An organization is only as effective as the people who work there. No matter the size of your operating budget, the clout of your CEO, or the brilliance of your programs, your team is the deciding factor in the success of your work. Keeping up with the latest industry trends and new technology is critical.
To stay current, most people follow industry blogs, leading experts, and their peers through Twitter lists or by subscribing to blog updates via RSS or e-mail alerts. Though still popular, RSS feeds were dealt a heavy blow with the retirement of Google Reader in July 2013, leaving an opening for new RSS readers, such as Feedly, and even greater opportunity for social readers/magazines, like Flipboard or Pulse.
Flipboard, my personal favorite, allows me to beautifully collect Tweets, Facebook updates, photos, links, and articles from different sources in one easy-to-sort place. Then, right from the app, I can share content directly to my own social networks, or even create a curated magazine from articles of my choosing. Doing this not only updates you on the latest news, but also establishes you and your organization as an influencer in a subject area.
Moreover, if your organization is looking for new talent, social networks have increasingly become a destination for recruitment. LinkedIn, the professional’s social network, allows you to search for individuals with specific skill sets, see their recommendations, and even contact them directly. Twitter is also fantastic for locating talent, allowing you to gauge prospective employees’ passions, their communications style, and other interests or skills that could enhance your team.
Whether you’re a start-up nonprofit or an endowed foundation, money plays a pivotal role in your work. For grantmaking institutions, it’s often not about fundraising, but investing in internal capacity (for example, staff skills, new technology, additional staff); or scanning the landscape for innovative programs to fund, new collaborators, and new opportunities.
Social media saves your organization time (which is money), and helps build and recruit talent, but investment is required to fuel the development of those things. Twitter, Facebook, and many other social media are free; however, the tools needed to automate, simplify, and track success over time often come with a price (in addition to staff time—which is also money). Not surprisingly, more and more nonprofits are funding full-time positions to build their own social media capacity, but many grantmakers aren’t following suit.
So build the case for greater organizational investment in social media by defining your objectives, highlighting similar organizations reaping success— perhapseven your grantees. Take some of their sample Tweets, Facebook or Google+ posts, and point out what they’re doing well. Use data from Topsy, Twitalyzer, RowFeeder, and other tools to back up your position. People often disregard what they don’t understand, so help them learn by showing them how social media would work at your organization, and how the landscape looks.
Be sure that your social media isn’t limited to your communications team. Program officers, IT staff, and even your executive leadership should participate in real-time conversations, share relevant content, and build relationships with people from across the sector. Share your latest research reports, the successes of your grantees, or host a “Tweetchat” to meet new people working in your issue area. Sharing valuable content and engaging others drives the social media experience. So don’t be afraid to be less formal and more conversational.
Using social media once struck fear into the hearts of executive officers. Now it’s commonplace and a great tool for helping your organization tell its story and develop its staff. So, if you’re not Tweeting, posting, +1-ing, or pinning yet, there’s never been a better time to start. n