I spent last Friday with 300 of my newest, nonprofit best friends at the Social Media for Nonprofits Conference. I was able to attend thanks to a generous scholarship from Rally. Thanks, Rally, you rock!
Three hundred eager nonprofit folks gathered, ready to hear the gospel of social media from some of the industry’s thought leaders. We heard from nonprofits themselves and learned how they are “failing fast and failing forward” as they work to integrate social media into their community engagement plans. We heard from industry leaders like Beth Kanter, Craig Newmark (hello, Craigslist), Marnie Webb and others who eagerly espoused the benefits of strategic social media tools. We frantically took notes, tweeted, retweeted and raced back to our offices to implement the lessons we learned.
But as I began to organize my notes, I realized something: social media is a tremendous and powerful platform for all organizations, non-profits and for-profits alike. I think that we should become students of its lessons and evangelists of its benefits, but social media is not the proverbial “genie in the bottle” that will somehow magically transform our organizations. It is not the communication silver bullet that will carry our message to the world.
Social media is like e-mail, fax, telex, the printing press and cave drawings before that. It is one of many tools that we can and should leverage to tell our stories to our communities and those who will come after us, but it does not replace authentic relationships with each other and with our stakeholders.
I can’t wait to get to my desk today to begin to implement the lessons I learned and to build stronger relationships with my community. The thing that I was reminded of, and the lesson that stuck out the most, is that I am part of a broader community all working to make the world better. I am connected to all of them. While I can reach out to them using social media, I am connected to them because we are all committed to the same goal, not because we are “friends” on Facebook.
So, today, I have a challenge for you: how are you going to leverage social media to build authentic relationships with your community? And I totally want to hear about what you come up with, so come back and tell me about it!
You can find the slides from the presentations here.
If you are not already following the speakers and facilitators, get on it! @kanter, @dallant, @webb, @ravenb, @ineffable111, @megarling, @craignewmark, @dheyman, @claired, @matthewmahan, @chelsab, @davidjboyce1, @VolunteerMatch, @samala
Check out my tweets from the event: @nicolerhowell
Nicole Howell is the Director of Operations for Ombudsman Services of San Mateo County, and she has served as the board Co-Chair for the SF Bay Area Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPNsfba). This post and her other writings can be found at missiondrift.com.