“I’m too old for social media.” “The gen Y’ers can be on social media but it’s not for me.” “It’s a waste of my time.” I’ve heard many statements like these from my colleagues- smart, innovative baby boomer executive directors and senior managers. I keep wanting to yell (and sometimes I do) and tell them that they are wrong- it’s not just for those under 30. It’s not a fad. It’s here to stay and we in non-profits can especially benefit from social media. We can engage, connect and organize through social media. We can educate and help more people understand the issues that we’re passionate about. We can raise our organization’s profile.
My journey in social media began about 5 years ago. I wasn’t an early adopter. I’m not a techie in any way. Using technology has never been easy for me. I did hear about Facebook from my son when Facebook first started, but for the first few years I didn’t see a role for me or NYCH.
But as social media became more predominant with the advent of new platforms, I became more interested. As I began learning more about it, I became excited about the opportunities and possibilities. As someone passionate about community development, I started reading about Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and other examples of organizing using social media. My mind raced with all the amazing engagement possibilities but I still didn’t really understand how to use social media. But I was ready to learn. I found some early adopters in non-profits and invited them to NYCH’s management meetings. Even though the management team was polite, I’m sure many of them were thinking, “Oh no, here’s another crazy idea from Shelley”.
We started learning and experimenting. We got on Facebook, then on twitter. I read, I went to workshops and encouraged other staff to learn. We provided training opportunities and several staff got excited about social media. And we were off! We tried a bunch of things- some worked, some didn’t. I discovered Twitter and got hooked. We developed a social media strategy and then revised it a few times, based on our experiences. We learned to measure our impact. We tried using social media to raise our profile, to share our digital stories, to fundraise, to talk about issues we’re concerned about. As time went by, we learned a lot and found our social media voice. We now have over 40 staff tweeting and more than 2,000 twitter followers, we’re on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, Linked in, You Tube and we’re launching this blog.
And now I will come back to my baby boomer colleagues with some advice, whether they want it or not! Start trying new forms of social media. It’s another way to engage with existing and potential supporters. Figure out what works best for you. Check out other organizations. Find some champions in the organization and give them opportunities to lead and be creative. Develop a social media policy. And most importantly, don’t try to control social media. You can’t approve everything. You have to let go and trust. Mistakes will be made. It’s okay. It really is.
You can follow Shelley on Twitter @shellzuckerman