There is a groundswell of well-intentioned, but unfounded faith in social media as the cure-all for the lack of mission-driven design discipline.
Social media is a popular topic of discussion at every conference that seeks to educate social purpose sectors from education to human services.
Technology and social networks will never completely replace personal interaction, one-to-one relationships, and authentic community. As in personal relationships, you can’t be social without knowing your audience.
Here’s what you need to realize: All media is social media. Community exists whether you're trying to build one or not, your role is to nurture it. Your social network is already everywhere you visit, speak, and listen.
There are four key reasons why you should develop the social side of your culture of communications:
- For purpose—To intentionally develop strategic relationships and a network of supporters who support your mission. Reciprocate by helping people realize their philanthropic aspirations.
- To inspire—To motivate your peers, supporters, and followers.
- For community—To build and steward authentic relationships. The advocates, ambassadors, and believers in your cause and mission are people with goals and dreams—not just donors.
- To aspire—to become known and familiar as an influential voice of visionary and courageous leadership.
Half of being social is listening: listen to your donors; interview your funders. Get your board members involved in the conversations as often as possible.
It’s important for supporters at every level to know that the board is interested in their perspectives, not just their donations.
Inspire by Example
Be consistent and coherent with marketing and design-driven communication. Think of every aspect of your communications as an integrated platform designed to communicate why, how, and what you do. Through your consistent example, your supports will understand your narrative, hear your messages, and make them part of their stories.
Create Platforms for Community
Know where your audience is listening: There may be more relevant platforms than Facebook Twitter through which to share your message and engage your supports. Seek out opportunities for opinion columns, editorial opportunities, and sharing expert insight that can be published in business journals and blogs. Have conversations. Be an advocate who listens as much as you talk.
Understand Your Audience’s Aspirations
Know your audience to make them part of your mission. At any time, you will have multiple audiences who perceive your cause as meaningful, but who have different ideas of what it means to them.
Speak your audience’s language: avoid using acronyms of any kind; always use words that communicate with clarity to the audience you are trying to reach.
Repeat after me: “Your acronyms mean nothing to me.”
As Stephen Covey states: “Seek first to understand (how to communicate with your audience), and then seek to be understood.”
Resolve to Be Social
Mission-driven design recognizes the ultimate objective isn’t to cultivate or acquire donors, it is to build relationships, create ambassadors and engage believers in your cause.
Ambassadors recognize that every interaction is an opportunity to build relationships.
Donors will give if asked. Believers will support your cause sacrificially, often without being asked — out of generosity rather than duty.
Ambassadors will represent your organization and advocate for the cause wherever they go.
The work your organization does is meaningful, relevant, and important. To be social is to build a foundation of influence through integrated, intentional communications. Weave them into every facet of your organization as you adapt and change to make your vision a reality.