You work at a nonprofit organization. Perhaps you even lead the organization. Your group has a website, an email list, maybe even a Facebook page (because everybody tells you that you have to have one). In the back of your mind, though, you have the nagging feeling that other groups are doing more, or better, with social media. You wish you had a tech-savvy friend who really gets it about nonprofits who would sit down and explain to you what the heck is going on.
Heather Mansfield is your new best friend. In Social Media for Social Good, she lays out what you’re likely doing now (and how you can do it better), what else you can do now, and what you may want to be doing soon. (Just to show you how friendly she can be, in May 2013 Heather published 33 Must-Read Updates to the book. I wish more how-to authors would do the same!)
What you’re probably doing already is what the author calls Web 1.0. You took written materials and photos you had on the shelf, posted them on the web, and left them there for people to find (the “static web”). Maybe you even got around to updating them on a semi-regular basis and supplemented them with an e-newsletter (the “broadcast web” described in the 33 Updates). Web 1.0 is still crucial. If you do nothing else, follow Heather’s suggestions on how to improve them. (You will find examples and checklists at the end of each chapter to make it easier to put her suggestions into practice.)
We are already well into the age of Web 2.0, the social web. Read the middle section of this book to figure out how to be social online: it is a new skill set for most nonprofits and it can be learned. Read this section also to learn what you could do for your mission with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and photo and video sites like Instagram and Youtube. Are you blogging? Blogs are the quiet powerhouses of social media. I strongly recommend you read that chapter.
Since this book came out in 2011, the world has moved quickly on to Web 3.0, the mobile web. Today, over 40% of the people who view your website or read your email do so on a mobile phone or a tablet like the iPad. You have to make your organization accessible and attractive to them, or else you’re losing a lot of the benefits of being on the web in the first place. Read this section for tips on how to get those people checking their mobile phones on the subway to check in on you.
Your tech-savvy friend might also be so enthusiastic, she tells you more than you want to know. Heather does that sometimes. This book also has some of the “you must” intensity that true enthusiasts bring to their subject. If you’re a cynical reader, you might wonder if, in this book (and even more in the 33 Updates, and in the highly informative webinars that Heather offers), she’s not proselytizing for more jobs for people like her.
I read the book in a different light. Heather Mansfield strongly believes in your organization…AND in the power of social media to help you change the world. It truly pains her that you’re not taking advantage of the tools that are out there. She also points out that early adopters of new media learn how to use them best, and they’re best positioned to learn the next wrinkle when it comes along. That makes sense, but not every organization has the capacity of CARE, or Partners in Health, or NPR. You have to figure out what your organization can do. So, accept her help, and use your own judgment. But stretch yourself a little. If there’s one takeaway message from this book, it’s that social media will create new possibilities faster than we think, and we need to be ready to take advantage of them.