Leeway Foundation: Changing the World with Social Networking (Intro to Social Media for Non-Profits)

The following is a workshop I gave in Philadelphia on Feb 17, sponsored by the Leeway Foundation, the Open Philadelphia Foundation, and the Bread & Roses Fund.

Changing the World With Social Networking from Leeway Foundation on Vimeo.

Changing the world with social networking: Social media for non-profits

View more presentations from Deanna Zandt.



Section 1: Ground rules
Section 2: Big picture of how it works
Section 3: Do’s & don’ts
Section 4: Tools, how-tos, metrics

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SECTION ONE: Ground rules.


Social media’s made out to be a lot of different things to a lot of people, and that’s part of why people are so hyped about it right now. One of the first things I want you to take away is that social media is what you make of it, and that’s a Good Thing. Here are some ways that people use it…

I view it a lot like a water cooler where I stop in to see what’s going on, share something interesting or funny, and just generally check in with what’s happening in the rest of the world. I don’t spend all day at the water cooler (okay, I’m an addict, I spend a lot of time there, but you don’t have to), but it both gives me a mental break from the grind and provides fodder for conversations.

The other thing to think about as communications people is overall how social media are changing the work we do. We know that in the last few years, bloggers, for example, are becoming less and less responsive to traditional means of mass communications– press releases, etc. Because so much of what social media is about is our very human need to be connected to one another, increasingly folks expect to be talked with, not at. Building relationships in a one-on-one basis can be time-consuming, but social media certainly helps ease some of that pain. Engaging with communities of all kinds can lessen some of the load you have to get the word out about your programs and noteworthy news.

One more way social media can complement the work you do is by acting as a curation filter for you. Sharing links is one of the primary activities in these spaces. The network you build can function as a personal guide to what’s important in your world, and help you find information and other people that you otherwise wouldn’t have stumbled upon on your own. This can also cut down on the time you spend trolling for information elsewhere.

This is where I insert a big caveat: social media is not (and was never intended to be) a replacement for hardcore journalism. It’s a tool that can complement it, help it, and enhance it in many ways. But certainly these aren’t the end all be all of news.

You’ll end up adjusting your digital mix of news, email and social media over time, and that adjustment will be ongoing as your work and needs change. None of this is set in stone, and you should feel free to use the tools how you see fit.




So if you’re missing from a number of social networks or media spaces, it’s a little awkward. It’s like, remember when it was OK to not have an email address? And then all of the sudden that wasn’t OK? This is where we’re going with these things. Part of that also is that you’re going to show up in search results one way or another, and social networks are coming up more and more in the top results, so this is a really good way to have tremendous influence on what comes up.

Outside of that, there’s a big social justice angle to all of these. These very public conversations about the things we care about are happening, and if we’re not in there helping to shape them, to add our perspective, to bring in voices that have otherwise gone ignored or been marginalized, those conversations will go on without us. Decisions will get made without the benefit of our experiences. That’s already been happening for the last few milennia for most of us, and it’s time to change that. But already we’re seeing people not jumping in– 80% of Wikipedia’s editors are male; largely white, single and middle to upper class. Wikipedia has already become the standard of our collective history. Does it represent you and your viewpoint? Does it represent the constituencies you are working for?

There’s an economy at work on the Internet, and it’s all about reputation. Increasingly, our lives are being built around referral, recommendation, and being known Out There. This isn’t new, or different, than how we’ve operated for eons it’s just that it’s all mapped out, and we can all see everything now.

Ah yes, influence. So, the currency of this economy You know the gift economy?  is social capital. Just like regular capital, it’s something that’s earned and invested, but not just for personal gain. This whole part of the world is about doing things because they’re a good idea, not just to Get Ahead. It’s like a simplified notion of karma, in many ways.

Here are some of the things that make up your social capital, according to Tara Hunt, author of The Whuffie Factor (with my explanations):

* Connections: Who do you know? Not just important or famous people, either. Are you connected to lots of different kinds of people who can complete different tasks?
* Reputation: What are you known for? What do people say about your expertise?
* Influence: Can you move groups of people, small or large, to take some action?
* Access to ideas, talent: Beyond your own skill set, do you have ways of reaching out to others with talent and knowledge?
* Access to resources: You may not be able to fund a particular project, but do you know people who can? Do you have ways of generating physical support?
* Potential access: Will your access to resources and talent stay static in the future, or will it continue to grow?
* Saved-up favors: We’re not writing down every good deed, but do people remember you for the ways that you help others? This is incredibly important. Is your own generosity with your social capital part of your reputation?
* Accomplishments: What awards have you won? What concrete recognition  papers or articles published, etc.  have you received for your work?

One of the biggest things is to know that authenticity is absolutely key here. Who you are  as a professional, as a person, whatever you choose to run with  needs to shine on in social media. Your voice is unique, your expertise and perspective are 100% you don’t lock them down in old school stuffy corporate speak. Conversations are important; messaging is more subtle.


Your job here is to think of yourself as a curator, and a network weaver. Connect the dots for your community, both issues and people. Dig around through this garden that you’re growing and see what’s happening. Any other metaphors I can use here?


SECTION THREE: Do’s and Don’ts

“But how am I going to raise money?”
Right. Well, let’s just get something out of the way right now:

I want you all to repeat after me. The Internet is not an ATM. Social networks are not ATMs. You can’t just walk in with your hand out—there are some social graces for us to follow. Here’s the big secret about fundraising and social networks: Nothing has actually changed there, either. It’s still all about stewardship, taking donors through the process of becoming involved with you, initiating their willingness to care about the work that you’re doing.

That’s the powerful part of sharing and storytelling, and where we can use social networks not to broadcast messages to people, but to share parts of ourselves and our work—which ultimately brings people into the circle. Here’s how.


When thinking about how to join the fray, one of my favorite analogies is to think of social media as an ad-hoc, informal get together whose attendees are constantly moving and shifting around the room. And just as you wouldn’t walk into a party, get up on a chair, and start yelling at everyone who can hear you that you’re awesome, you shouldn’t do that here, either.

Social media is called “social” for a reason. People expect to have conversations, and they expect them to be fairly authentic experiences. We’ll talk more in a bit about how this breaks down, but only 20-30% of your tweets should be tooting your own horn: the rest should be the other stuff: passing along interesting items from other people, thanking people, helping others, sharing their good news, etc.


A common fear that people have is of this new transparency. This isn’t traditionally how news works. News used to be this sort of mystical, things-legends-are-made-of industry where we went into the newsroom, we hunted stories, we argued with editors, we argued with reporters, and poof! Out came a good story. That’s not entirely gone, but people are starting to experience news in a different way, and you’ll have to take a leap of faith for a second with me on this.

Sharing the process by which you work can go a long, long way in building relationships with your community, and help engage them in the content you’re working on well before you’ll need them to help get the word out. This is a key point of social media: build your community BEFORE you need to ask them for ANYTHING.

Being transparent doesn’t mean giving away the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle, don’t worry. An example is how I started sharing bits of the book writing process when I was working on “Share This!” My editor and I had talked about me blogging my content as I was writing it, but I just found it too difficult in the end– there were just too many loose ends during most of it, and when it was time to tie everything up into a neat bow, that’s where all my brain energy had to go–I couldn’t focus on blogging. So instead, I used Twitter, Facebook and Flickr to show people what I was working on or thinking about. Short status updates relieved the pressure from me having to have a full analysis presented; people got a kick out of seeing photos of my wall o’ brainstorming or my to-do lists during editing. It helped them feel like they were in it there with me. And now that it’s coming out, a lot of folks in my community feel like they’re right there in the center of the action, because they’ve been in it with me for a year.


People also fear making a mistake,  but it’s actually an oddly good way to build social capital. People like it when you take ownership of a mistake– when you say, “Oops, bad link in that last post” or “so-and-so just corrected me– it’s actually 80% of the population, thanks!”

One reason is that this is a MUCH more informal environment. We worry about everything on the Internet being Out There forever, but remember: everything’s out there forever. Everyone’s bits. So not only are the chances of finding your slipups in ten years next to nil, but people are much more understanding–because they’ve got their own slipups to worry about.

Jaclyn Friedman, an author and coeditor of Yes Means Yes!, made a great point in a workshop I was leading about how our perception of social media is rapidly changing, similar to how our perception of tat- toos has changed in the last 50 years. Think about the attitudes toward a person who got a tattoo in 1960, versus attitudes now. Its the same with social media. Ten years ago, someone getting a swig of TMI via Google search results might have had an adverse reaction. Today, seeing something a little off-topic in a Twitter stream is not as big of a deal.




Let’s talk about what should be in your toolkit.

– Twitter,
– Facebook, despite my misgivings about it at the moment
– LinkedIn, for resumes and connecting on a more professional level
– Flickr & YouTube for auxilary work
– Blogs/websites for the foundation of your own content


Benchmark study


Reputation grooming is a term my friend Susan Mernit of OaklandLocal.com coined. Just like you brush your teeth and comb your hair in the morniing, you should spend about 20-30 minutes a day managing your online presence. There’s a full catalog of tasks in the back of the book, in the resources for individuals section, but some basic things are:
– checking your mentions, your comments, your google alerts
– checking friend requests, approve/deny
– weeding out


For mass media, bigger always has meant better. You needed capital to own a printing press, and the more papers you sold, the bigger your empire became. Quantifiable metrics, such as the number of subscribers or viewers, were key, because thats how ad dollars were determined.

If you think about it, though, those numbers were padded in a big wayin terms of television viewership numbers, for example, not every cable subscriber is watching every channel.

Measuring authority based on sheer numbers is also an im- perfect approach when it comes to digital media and social net- works. Theres no easy way to rank relevance in the online space (yet); the sheer number of friends or followers you have on any given social network service doesnt tell you that much about your authority or influence.

No one can guarantee that each and every one of those people is genuinely invested in the material youre posting. You cant count on people to be committed to any kind of ac- tion you ask for, simply because large numbers of people are consuming the material.

If we keep obsessing about social network numbers the way we have over numbers of visitors to our websites, or numbers of subscribers to our newsletters, were going to fail at being effec- tive when reaching out to the people who might want or need the most to hear the stories we have to share. In fact, sometimes smaller numbers of followers and fans who have been culled and cultivated have a much greater ultimate impact than a large audience you dont know that much about.

Michelle Greer, a web marketing strategist, explains the situation deftly using some simple math and Twitter:

1. A person who blogs about foreign films starts following people who tweet about movies like Dinner with Andre or are tweeting about the Cannes Film Festival while it is occurring. By tweeting back and forth and engaging people, tweeting unique links, this person gets 2,000 followers. Many of these followers have over 1,000 film obsessed followers themselves.

2. Another person buys followers, follows people just so they follow back, etc. The whole mentality of Ill follow you only if you follow back is just childish. Tim OReilly offers useful info all the time and will probably never follow me in my lifetime. So what? Anyway, by playing this numbers game, this person gets a whopping 25,000 followers who are more concerned about reciprocal fol- lowers than actually getting useful information.

Say Im marketing a foreign film. If I have these people tweet something with the intention of it getting as much exposure as possible, the person with 2,000 followers will probably be of more use to me. Why? Because this person will get retweeted by people who actually care what I have to say, who would have a lot to offer their own followers by retweeting my stuff.


Do the math:

2000 people exposed initially
6000 unique followers among these retweeters
600,000,000 possible impressions

vs. 25,000 possible impressions for person #2

This mode of outreach turns the traditional concept of an influential communicator on its head. Bigger used to be better, but now, effective is better. And theres no easy ranking sys- tem for effectiveness; its so dependent on individual goals that no one can possibly say, These are the top 10 most effective people in the entire world of social networking.


The last thing I’m going to cover today is a quick overview of what metrics mean.

There’s a 28-page Social Media ROI report from Peashoot. All the info covered in the report applies to commercial, for-profit enterprises, but there’s a lot to be applied to the non-profit world as well.

One of the biggest takeaways from the report is that it’s important in social media to not just consider traditional ways of measuring success. This is not about dollars raised, for example, as a direct measurement of the time you invest in having these conversations. There are other, more interesting ways — more qualitative than quantitative ways — to keep track of how you’re doing.

Here are some examples:

* Satisfaction. Look at not just the number of people talking about your work, but start documenting what they’re saying. Is it positive? Neutral? Negative?
* Authority. Are they coming to your organization as a resource, looking to you for expertise?
* Loyalty and trust. How about repeat performance — is this their first time dealing with you? How often are they dealing with you?

When working with these measurements, goal-setting becomes crucial. It’s important to keep your goals very tight, direct and focused, especially when you’re getting going. Choose timeframes that are small — having x positive conversations about your work per week.



Note that this will be a longer blog post at some point, but here are the key points from the talk:

– National broadcast (MTV) of a special on abortion. Exhale wanted to created a space where politics weren’t a part of the conversation, where women who’d had abortions–especially those 3 on the show–felt that they were loved & supported.

– Timeline: We had about 2 weeks to prep. We started working on it on Dec 8, but we weren’t allowed to announce the show until MTV gave the OK, which was Dec 22. Show aired on Dec 28.

– Tools/tactics we employed:
– Branding the campaign to be named similar to show “16 & Pregnant”
Website where people could submit messages of love/support (WordPress based site + WooTheme. Hosting was $10/month and theme was $75).
Twitter, existed already with 235 followers: Hashtag #16andloved. Used to share info about the special, and posts from 16 & Loved website, as well as engage in conversation.
Facebook, had a Cause with about 1000 members. Decided to create a Page so that updates about the campaign were more likely to appear in fan’s timelines. Used to share info, and posts from the website.
– Set up Rowfeeder to track multiple terms for analysis after.
– Blogger strategy. Asked 10-11 key bloggers in repro justice arena to participate in a call with Exhale’s ED. Gave as much advanced access as we were allowed; embargoed the rest. Asked for participants for liveblogging the show, got 4-5.
– Partnerships. Found like-minded org’s to share content with.
Live blog. Gave a place for people to congregate while watching the show.

– Outcomes:
– Twitter following increased from 235 to 465; 548 mentions of @ExhaleProVoice and  1563 mentions of #16andloved in 3 weeks.
– Facebook fan page went from 0 to 616 fans;  617 likes of posts with 1,152 active users
– Live blog ended up with 422 viewers, and it’s since been replayed 982 times
– About 25 blog posts and articles, including feminist strongholds of Feministing, Feministe, Jezebel; independent media such as Salon.com, Change.org, and Care2; mainstream media such as ABCNews, NY Post, Washington Post. Two weeks later, an article on the campaign appeared in the NY Times.
– Most important: receiving messages like the one that said, “I’ve never told anyone about my abortion. By telling your story, you took away a little bit of my shame tonight.”


More in the book….

One Response to “Leeway Foundation: Changing the World with Social Networking (Intro to Social Media for Non-Profits)”

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