Social Media is the Servant of Strategy, Not the Master

July 14th, 2010

Guest post by Mike Cassidy, a non-profit Senior Executive Director specializing in membership development, engagement and retention. His ramblings can be found at www.membershipjedi.com

This post is a compilation of ideas born out of Jay’s post “Why You’re the Key to Social Media Success” in which he succinctly describes one of the biggest obstacles facing organization’s pursuit of social media effectiveness – corporate culture.

A Google search of the phrase “social media ROI” provides 694,000 results (at least at this writing). I believe I have tried almost every type of measurement and metric to alter the mindset of CEOs and leaders. In my exuberance and passion for social media and the impact it can have on non-profit organizations I lost sight of what was important. What matters to the CEO is her/his vision – no more and no less. In serving in the capacity of a consultant, colleague or employee, it is not my role to try and change that vision, it’s to execute that vision and make it reality.

Embracing social media should not mean organizational change, it should change the organization. I now take the organization’s current strategic plan, CEO’s vision, mission statement and make those the metrics of a social media strategy. If a non-profit has a strategic objective to “further engage current donors”, with 600 million people on Facebook it is a sure bet that some of them have a profile. No new metrics, measures or key indicators – we have simply created an additional platform from which to further engage stakeholders in our work and achieve existing goals.

Social media exists and organizations are in it whether they choose to be or not. For non-profits, we are seeing a shift – not only are we working to find donors/members, they are finding us…through social media. It is a slow moving shift, however it is a juggernaut and unstoppable. I recently heard a poignant expression, “you are your Google results”. Truer words could not be spoken and your results may be reflecting a message that is contrary to your organization’s mission and self-image. Those results will not change without a concerted effort to engage in social media. Throughout life it drives us crazy when people talk about us when we’re not around – here we have an opportunity to be present. Why ignore it?

Leaders may believe that if they don’t play, they cannot lose. Losing in social media can be akin to the experiences of companies like Kraft, Nestle, and BP in the social media realm. At the very least those companies are engaged in the conversation and have a strong awareness of the perceptions of their brand. On occasion, each has even taken action related to the “conversations”. As a leader, I prefer to have as many listening posts as possible in regard to my organization and those I serve and hope to serve.

We Are Not Alone

Serving as the organization’s advocate for adopting social media can be a test of passion and commitment. With the low/no cost of entry, it does cost time – your time. Personally, I have had to serve in the positions of jester, leper, and pariah in my efforts to have others adopt social media strategies. I have relied on my own white knights like Jay and his peer group to weather resistance and overcome barriers (real and perceived). There is no question social media does an organization good, just persevere and know there is a vibrant community there to support your work.

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