Using social media to
build relationships for
• Manager of Electronic
Communications, University of
Chicago Law School
• Songwriter, guitarist, and de
facto social media marketer
for Chicago band The Lost
Step 1: Identify Your
Goals and Audience.
• Get people to attend your
• Maintain contact with
• Find new donors?
• Attract volunteers?
• Attract attention from
Step 2: Identify Your
• What do you want your
intended audience to take
away from their interactions
Step 3: Identify Your
• Different strengths
• Different weaknesses
• Reach different demographics
• Don’t try to do everything at
• Easy to set up
• Reverse chronological order
• RSS (Real Simple Syndication)
I don’t work for an arts & humanities nonprofit, though I do work for a nonprofit and I am involved with the humanities -- I have a band that might as well be a nonprofit.
Before you even get on the computer, the most important thing to do is to identify who you want to reach and what kind of relationship you want to establish with them. This will guide the choices that you make in terms of the technologies you decide to use and how you decide to use them.
We leave every interaction with a perception -- what is the the perception you want your audience to have of your organization? What is the action you would like them to take as a result of that perception?
They have different strengths, different weaknesses, and reach different demographics. So I’m going to give you a brief overview of some of the major ones and tallk a bit about how you might or might not be able to use them.
Blogs are kind of the granddaddy of social media -- they’ve been around the longest of the things I’m going to talk about, and I’m guessing they’re the most familiar to everyone here. How many of you read blogs on a regular basis? How many of you run blogs, either personally or for your organization? What makes a blog a blog?
Back in the day, when we posted content to our webpages, a user would have to either stumble across it when surfing around on our site or find it via a search engine. They had no way of knowing whether we had posted something new to the site without navigating back to the page on a regular basis -- they had to come to us. A blog, by contrast, is able to push content to a user by means of a &quot;feed” that includes either the content itself or a link to the content. The user uses a program called a feed reader to compile all of the feeds they subscribe to. Then, every time new content is added to the blog they’re subscribing to, it shows up in their feed reader.
Anybody here use a feed reader? Chances are that you’re actually using feeds right now without even knowing it. If you use a custom home page like iGoogle or MyYahoo, the news stories on that page are populated by RSS feeds. Even a lot of mailing lists these days actually are actually converted RSS feeds.
And here’s another example of RSS at work. Anyone subscribe to podcasts via iTunes? iTunes is basically a giant feed reader that will automatically download new audio files to your computer. If your organization has the potential to produce audio content, whether music or speakers, turning it into a podcast is a great way to get that content out into the world. We don’t have time to go into how to start a podcast here, but I’ll add some links to the
Now, if you produce video content, you’ll want to think about YouTube. I’m sure most of us at one point have used YouTube to watch a video of a baby dancing to Prince or a cat flushing a toilet, but nonprofit organizations can also set up what is called a “Channel” on YouTube. This is basically a landing page that collects all the video that you’ve uploaded, lets interested YouTube community members know when you’ve uploaded new videos, and even allow them -- if you so choose -- to embed those videos on their own blogs and websites. Here’s an example of one arts nonprofit that is making great use of the YouTube platform to spread the word abouttheir activities.
What YouTube is to video, Flickr is to still images -- they can be photographs, paintings, anything. What can make Flickr useful for an organization is that you can create groups, where members share images with each other and can discuss them; those images also go out into the greater Flickr universe where they can be discovered by others looking for similar images. So it can function as both a community tool and a way of raising awareness about your organization.
Now, YouTube and Flicr are both social networks in the sense that users can connect with each other and share content, but they are organized around the content, with the social connections being secondary. Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook the point is not the content but the people -- you can use Flickr or YouTube without ever approving a single friend, but Facebook without friends is pretty much useless.
MySpace was the first social networking site to go truly mainstream, based largely on its use by musicians. Like most social networking sites, it allows you as an individual or an organization to create a profile, go out and start collecting friends; you can add photos, audio, and video, list events and news. Unlike Facebook, for example, it allows a great deal of customization to one’s profile. It’s tough to find reliable stats on this, especially because things change so fast, but MySpace seems to skew younger in terms of its audience, so if you’re trying to reach teenagers, you probably want to check out MySpace; if you’re trying to reach their parents, you’re better off with Facebook.
Facebook has been growing in leaps and bounds, and recently passed MySpace in the number of unique monthy visitors. In many ways you can do the same things -- let people know about events, post links, upload photos and videos, etc. It’s different than MySpace in that it treats organizations and commercial entitities in a slightly different fashion than regular users; you might hear reference to “profiles” -- which are real people -- and “pages” which are organizations, companies, and so on. Real people have friends, but organizations have “fans.” When I’m logged in as Aaron, I can request for anyone to be my friend, but when I’m logged in as, say, the Law School I can’t request someone become our fan. Instead it relies on the ingenious newsfeed feature, which really lends itself to viral marketing; basically it tells all of my friends what I’ve been doing on Facebook. So if I become a fan of the Art Institute, for example, or say I’m going to an event that they’re throwing, all of my friends will see that in their news feeds. In this way it’s possible for information to spread rapidly across many different networks of people.
Ning.com is less a social network than a platform for setting up your own social network. You can decide the focus of the network, the sets of tools available to members -- can they upload music or videos, can they form their own groups, and so on. This is probably the most ambitious thing I’m going to show you today, because nurturing an entire social network can be an incredibly difficult process -- but it can also be really rewarding. It works best when you already have a large group of contacts centered around a particular interest as with the University Web Developers group shown here.
Last but definitely not least is a technology that’s been getting so much attention lately: Twitter. Sometimes called a microblogging tool because you only get 140 characters in any given “tweet.” But it also has elements of an instant messaging program, email, and social networking. Essentially, when I type in those 140 characters then anyone who is following me can see them. Likewise when I log on, I see the most recent tweets of all the people I’m following. There are lots of ways to use Twitter: Broadcast marketing - you can set up any RSS feed to feed directly into Twitter, so that all of your followers know immediately when you have a new blog post. Be careful with this, because if it seems like there is no real person behind the tweets, people have a tendency to start ignoring them. 2) Media relations - every major media outlet is now on Twitter, some just feed stories added to their websites, but some have real people tending their twitter feeds, and it can be a real good way to alert those people and the news organizations they represent to the existence of your group or an event you’re planning, etc. Best way to do that is: 3) Conversations. Using the @ character you can engage in discussions with those you follow (or those you don’t), answer and ask questions. One of the things that this makes possible is 4) Connections with peers: because it happens in real-time you can get almost instantaneous advice or feedback from folks who do similar jobs. So for example, if everyone in this room could keep in touch over Twitter, you’d have a network of arts and humanities in instant communication with each other for planning partnerships, brainstorming on how to use social media, and more.
Care and feeding: The web is incredibly dynamic and changes constantly. If you’re going to use social media successfully, you can’t just set up a Facebook page and leave it there. This is why figuring out your audience and choosing the correct tools are so important. Responsibility: Is one person going to take care of all of your social media efforts, or are duties going to be split among staff, or among volunteers? If so, how will you keep them coordinated in projecting the image of your organization? Metrics: Have an idea about what constitutes success in a particular medium for you. Collecting 1000 friends is great, but is that enough? Your metrics should relate to the goals you set and should be specific to your organzation. You could keep track of, say, the number of new volunteers you gain or the number of donations that come in over a social network. For my band, the fact that we used Twitter to get one person who had never heard of us to come to a show -- that was success.
Don’t be afraid: One of the worries that I sometimes have is: what if I put all of this work into something and the site withers away? That’s a risk we have to take, and try to carry the connections and experience into the next project. If you don’t get out there and start experimenting with these technologies you and your organization will be left behind. Relationships: I’m using marketing here in the traditional sense, where you’re speaking unilaterally to someone and they have no way of speaking back to you. That sort of marketing will not work on the social web. You need to interact with people, illustrate to them the value of what you offer, answer and ask questions. Have fun: Have you ever been in a meeting where it was obvious that even the person who called the meeting didn’t want to be there? If you’re just phoning it in in one of these social media, it will be obvious to people, and they will ignore you. So it’s important to have people running these efforts on your behalf who really enjoy what they’re doing; if you’re the one who’s responsible, find something that keeps you engaged. It’s better to be engaged in one of these media and do it well, rather than to be involved half-heartedly with a bunch of them.