Beth Kanter – The Twitter 20 Interview on Social Media and Social Change

July 13th, 2009

beth kanter twitter interviewBeth Kanter is perhaps the best-known, most-respected voice in the world on the subject of using technology in a non-profit setting. A consultant to non-profits since 1993, her blog is consistently ranked as one of the best in marketing – and for good reason. It’s full of the kind of practical, tangible, viable advice that all organizations (not just non-profits) need in these crazy days of social media.

Named by Fast Company Magazine as one of the most influential women in technology, Beth participated in a live Twitter interview on July 14, 2009, covering a wide range of ideas and best practices for harnessing social media for social good.

1. @jaybaer: Does social media represent an evolution for non-profits, or a revolution? Does it change the game?

  • @kanter: In some ways, a revolution because it requires a change of culture to adopt in some cases.
  • Many non-profits are used to the “tower model” of working, not the cloud – that’s the game changer

2. @jaybaer: Is social media better used to humanize non-profits to create understanding of their services, or better used to mobilize?

  • @kanter: I think both and that order, humanize first, mobilize second. You have to develop relationships first.

3. @jaybaer: Does social media work better as a campaign for non-profits, or as an ongoing program?

  • @kanter: It needs to be an ongoing relationship building effort – versus campaign. To be effective you build your network.
  • You need to avoid treating supporters/donors like ATM machines.
  • Here’s a post on organizational relationship models my colleague @peterdeitz has great thinking on this

4. @jaybaer: Is the messenger as important as the message? Seems like the asker is a critical component in social media for social good.

  • @kanter:  Yes, but I would not use word “messenger” — perhaps network weaver, community builder, evangelist, fan is more accurate.

5. @jaybaer: To that end, many people struggle with blending of personal/professional. Isn’t that blend required for personal appeals?

  • @kanter: Yes, a blend is important, that’s why it necessary to have a social media philosophy – see Red Cross http://bit.ly/XObe7
  • @redcross strategy is brilliant – encouraging people to be ambassadors, provides personal guidelines.

6. @jaybaer: Social media levels playing field, but w/ so many NPOs jumping in, does it create dissonance for donors? How do they parse?

  • @kanter: You’re describing “issue fatigue” a hot topic @socialedge a few months back. http://bit.ly/15PTlt
  • And the cure is to get back to relationship building, and building the network before it is needed.

7. @jaybaer: Similar to what’s happening w/ Social CRM, do you encourage NPOs to add social media interactions to their database? How?

  • @kanter: Social CRM for nonprofits – it’s in the early adopter stage – those that have their CRM in good shape have a leg up.
  • There is a nonprofit version of salesforce, I suspect that will be a solution for some.

8. @jaybaer: Do you see local NPOs generating more out-of-market connections & donors due to social media outreach? Is that a benefit?

  • @kanter: Yes, local NPOs generate new donors, connections via social media – a key benefit.
  • Here’s an example from @staceymonk tweetsgiving last year – 90% new donors

9. @jaybaer: How do you feel about Facebook? Seems a natural for many NPOs. Concerns about too many eggs in that basket?

10. @jaybaer: I’m seeing some NPOs neglect their Web presence due to excitement about social media. Do you agree? Remedy?

11. @jaybaer: Most NPOs are resource constrained. Yet, social media requires a lot of blocking and tackling. How do you make it work?

  • @kanter: Suggest starting slowly, incrementally with listening 5 hours per week. I suggest don’t do it if you don’t have time.
  • About the time issue, here’s a post I wrote a while back re: time – it is still relevant.

12. @jaybaer: You write a lot about matching social media tools to the audience. How can NPOs best do that research? Donor surveys?

  • @kanter: Matching strategy to audience – research should be surveys, focus groups, secondary, and monitoring
  • One good thing for nonprofits, there’s lots of free research available.

13. @jaybaer: Social media is inextricably linked with inbound marketing. How important is search engine savvy for NPOs today?

  • @kanter: SEO is very important for nonprofit marketing plans – part of the rule of thirds (Web site, social media, SEO).
  • My colleague @jcolman who has worked with non-profits on SEO – has a wonderful deck on that topic. http://bit.ly/qAmvd

14. @jaybaer: NPOs have a lot of interactions w/donors & customers. It’s not perfect. Should NPOs have a social media crisis plan?

  • @kanter: hmm .. social media crisis plan for nonprofits, good question — important for those with communications mission (@redcross, for example)

15. @jaybaer: You’ve done a lot of work and contributed to a lot of wikis. How can orgs use wikis and crowd-sourcing more effectively?

16. @jaybaer: Much of your wiki is great stuff from your head. Some consultants fear giving away the “secret sauce” for free. Not you?

  • @kanter: I’ve found that openness and giving away knowledge leads to more opportunities.
  • I’m a Creative Commons advocate – some more thoughts on setting ideas free.

17. @jaybaer: You wrote for the upcoming book Psychology of Facebook. What’s the key takeaway? (We’ll still buy it)

  • @kanter: Still waiting for the publication! Key takeaways = a critique of the interaction design and better strategy for NPOs.
  • This post sparked the chapter I contributed.

18. @jaybaer: You speak at a lot of conferences. What makes a great event these days?

  • @kanter: Great speakers, lots of interaction, creative use of tech (e.g. backchannels), and networking opportunities.
  • And about backchannels at conferences http://bit.ly/127FaR (read this, it’s an amazing post) – jb

19. @jaybaer: Congrats on being named 1 of the most influential women in tech by Fast Company. Richly deserved. How does that feel?

20. @jaybaer: You’re now the visiting scholar for the Packard Foundation. What does that entail? Will we see less of you? 🙁

  • @kanter: Been working as scholar since March – here’s a blog post about it. It’s been an amazing learning experience.

Wow. By FAR, the most links to other amazing resources of any Twitter 20 interview to-date. It’s like an interview and wiki mash-up. Great job by Beth Kanter. Thanks to all who tuned in.

What was your favorite answer by Beth? Mine was “Facebook is a friend raising tool, not a fundraising tool.” I’ll be using that one again. You?

(photo of Beth by JD Lasica)

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