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How Are Nonprofits Feeling About Social Media? Inspired? Bored? Overwhelmed?

July 3, 2012

Blogger, LinkedIn and Myspace all launched in 2003. We’re almost a decade into using social media and yet one of the most striking realities when I give in-person social media trainings is the wide variety of experience of the nonprofits in the room. Some nonprofits are just getting started and perceive social media as cutting edge online communications and fundraising – while others have been using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr for years and increasingly verbalize that they are getting a little bored and waiting for the Next Big Thing to come along. The spectrum of expertise and passion for social media swings wide.

Personally, most days I love social media and its ability to foster social good and create online buzz – and the tool sets of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. change often enough to keep it interesting and there’s no shortage of new tools to study and experiment with. However, there are some days when I want nothing more than to escape from my computer and long for the days when I could relax offline and actually read a book. I struggle with burn out and the only sure fix is going on vacation without a computer, tablet, or smartphone. I am also a bit anxious for the Next Big Thing. I am waiting for the mobile breakthrough that will finally activate the nonprofit sector to convert their Web 1.0 (website, e-newsletter, Donate Now campaigns) and Web 2.0 (blogs and social networking sites) campaigns into mobile format. To witness the nonprofit sector pioneer the Social Web and then completely fall behind on the Mobile Web is frustrating.

So, where are you at in the spectrum of social media experience? Are you bored and ready for the Next Big Thing or just getting started? Are you wanting to do more, but finding it difficult to add social media to an already packed job description? Are you getting paid for this work yet!?! Are you laying a foundation for mobile success? Are you burnt out on social networking or still freshly in love, or somewhere in between? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

25 Comments leave one →
  1. July 3, 2012 5:24 am

    I am involved in a small not-for-profit… Facebook has help us market our events.

  2. July 3, 2012 7:31 am

    I was just thinking of how burned out I am today when everyone I know seems to have taken this week off! I agree – we need to get on board with mobile marketing, but it seems that many nonprofits I work with are still struggling with their website and email newsletter!

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      July 3, 2012 7:41 am

      I feel ya. I had all kinds of plans for this slow week and finding myself procrastinating and doing everything online except social media in the work sense. As far as mobile, the good news is if nonprofits choose the right CMS and e-newsletter tool, mobile will be built in and not an extra To Do, but even the CMS vendors and e-newsletter services providers are slow to come around on mobile! Anyway… enjoy your day off tomorrow. I am locking all my devices in my closet. 🙂

  3. Jason permalink
    July 3, 2012 8:45 am

    The organization I am with is a small (five staff) social service nonprofit. While we utilize Facebook with varying degrees of success, we are primarily a Web 1.0 group. And that might actually be a stretch–we don’t even use email as a medium of communication with our donors. Part of the challenge is organizational leadership; collectively, we are just not that ‘interested’ in what Web 2.0/3.0 can do for us (well a couple of the staff are, but it feels like real roll-the-stone-up-the-hill kind of effort for us).

    So to answer the question…We certainly have not reached burnout yet. We have open water in front of us when it comes to developing our social media chops. It’s just a question on whether we ditch the rowboat and upgrade to a speedboat!

    Wonderful blog btw—please keep up the great work. Happy Independence Day!

  4. July 3, 2012 9:22 am

    I work with several smaller nonprofits and many of them seemed very burnt out on social media. They seemed to be tired having to commit so much time trying to keep their pages active, and overwhelmed by the endless advice on how best to utilize each platform. Many of them just offload the social media responsibilities to the intern or youngest volunteer.

    It’s a difficult dilemma because many of them do want to engage their followers through social media and have a lot to say, but struggle to actively maintain their different pages. We are all hoping for an elegant solution to this problem.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      July 3, 2012 12:15 pm

      This is the number complaint I hear. They can’t do social media on top of everything else they are doing. It’s just not humanly possible, and at some point the extra work without compensation leads to frustration and burn out. It requires time and skill, but unfortunately social media has yet to make it in to most paid job descriptions. Thanks Vinod.

  5. Ted McEnroe permalink
    July 3, 2012 12:01 pm

    Not sure nonprofits have ever been ahead of the curve when tools, not creativity, are the main driver of a trend. Right now mobile is still based more on the platform you choose, etc., and there aren’t a lot of low-cost options. As the investment level gets lower, I have a feeling we will see more nonprofits getting ahead of the curve. For now, I’m not burned out on social… But we do need to find ways to keep it relevant and interesting for our organizations.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      July 3, 2012 12:10 pm

      Yeah…. I think you’re right in that price is keeping them being an early adopter of mobile. Social media has conditioned many nonprofits to expect tools to be free now, unfortunately. Mobile is much more cost effective than it was two years ago when text-to-give was getting so much buzz (my bet is on mobile wallets as the future of mobile fundraising) and will likely only get less expensive as more vendors flood the market, but I do think it is a myth that mobile = $$$. My mobile website is only $8 a month. It’s not great, but it works and requires no time to manage. That said, nonprofits were on Myspace, YouTube and Flickr long before Zappos, Starbucks, Walmart, etc. – businesses that routinely get praised for pioneering social media.

  6. Scott permalink
    July 3, 2012 1:00 pm

    I think it is very easy for a nonprofit to feel burned out on social media. If you read anything about social media online, it seems every day there is something new you should be doing to make your organizations more visible, more liked, or more “social.” For smaller nonprofits, this social media inundation can make an organization feel they are always behind. I think nonprofits need to remember that they can focus on one or two social media outlets, do them really well, and feel good about their online presence (especially if their “audience” feels good about it too). And as you said above, if they’ve already chosen the right CMS and/or newsletter tool, a lot of that functionality is built in. All that to say, we already may be approaching a huge social media letdown and a move either toward more mobile or back to more traditional methods.

  7. July 3, 2012 5:57 pm

    We recently attended a seminar by Obama’s campaign manager, here in Australia. He said that nothing replaces face to face.

  8. July 3, 2012 5:59 pm

    So often when I hear nonprofit staff talking about social media, I only hear about Facebook and Twitter, and I wonder where blogging fits into their strategy. With even a couple of well-planned blog posts a month–enough to cultivate brand ambassadors or build a resource library for constituents–you can add meat to your social media strategy and make the meal a lot more satisfying.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      July 3, 2012 6:11 pm

      So true. Blogging is the missing piece in many nonprofit’s social media strategy. 🙂

  9. July 5, 2012 2:31 am

    I think it’s not just money and knowledge but also time that keeps non profits from using social media effectively. It’s often expected that’s member of staff can manage social media on zero time. I work for a non profit that is evolving its social media, after several years we’re finally getting to grips with web 2.0 and everyone now realises it needs to be part of the marketing strategy not a seperate thing but it took 8 years to reach this stage. I’m also a trustee for a charity that doesn’t use web 2.0 at all because the staff team just don’t have any time to learn the skills and to manage it, although they have embraced the use of text messaging.

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      July 5, 2012 4:29 am

      Capacity comes up time and time again… hoping 2013 will be the year nonprofits finally start to hire New Media Managers. 🙂

  10. July 5, 2012 3:32 am

    The technology and opportunities are there for nonprofits, having the people to maintain it all is something else. Managing one or two effectively is sufficient for some and many smaller none profits have to find that balance.

  11. sean permalink
    July 5, 2012 5:46 am

    Excellent point Robert. Taking on a new position as social media director working on building a SM presence from scratch has seemed, thus far, quite daunting. I think maintaining the basic platforms of facebook/twitter/blogs is a full-time workload in and of itself…I am working hard to find this balance, without trying to overextend myself toward developing a social media presence across too many platforms that it becomes inefficient.

  12. Seema permalink
    July 5, 2012 6:19 am

    I feel overwhelmed with information on how to use the different platforms, best times to post or tweet, etc. I’m trying to help a non-profit organization that has zero funds to invest, or want to burden their small staff with add’l work. I’m still learning about how to use some of these platforms (i.e. Twitter–never used it before), and I already feel daunted. Thankfully I am working with another volunteer who is more savvy with these tools, but I realized that not only is the hardest part setting it all up, but to balance how to maintain it for the long run for others to eventually take over. I don’t see too many non-profits going for Web 3.0 yet, simply because they all haven’t mastered 2.0.

  13. July 5, 2012 8:15 am

    I’ve heard this problem again and again: nonprofits often don’t have staff with the time or skill-set for blogging and social media. This is where strategic use of a consultant can come in. A consultant already has the expertise and doesn’t have other responsibilities within the organization constantly crowding out social media work. Can a consultant know the organization well enough to be the voice of the organization in the social media world, while strategizing to help the organization find its own voice in that arena? A good one can! And it doesn’t have to take 40 hours a week to do it–or even 20.

  14. July 7, 2012 12:50 pm

    I advise two NFPs on a pro-bono basis re: marketing and social media and my advice is the same: start simple, do one thing well, and do it consistently. There is no way either of them can maintain FB + Twitter + blog simultaneously – at least not until they grow! “Permission” to not “do it all” seems to be important when coaching teams who are used to doing so much with so little.

    • July 8, 2012 10:38 am

      Yes, Jean Ann. And then the cost–whether in staff time or consultant fees–is less likely to be prohibitive.

  15. July 16, 2012 7:32 am

    Social media is a wonderful way for our non-profit to expand its community and offer our resources to a wider group of people, but it can be overwhelming to keep up with the constantly changing features, especially when dealing with Facebook.


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