How do you lead in an uncertain future? Thomas Jefferson once said, “Every generation needs a new revolution.” For us working in the nonprofit world I think we may be overdue. As we celebrate our July 4th holiday I would like to challenge your thinking on what the future may bring for nonprofits. For many of the people I talk with, they are all concerned about the global economic conditions fearing, at worst, another severe global depression and, at best, a stagnate economy for the next several years. I believe the best way to have a better future is to create it. Because of several major changes I see, nonprofits that succeed in moving forward have to change the way they do things if they hope to continue to succeed. I do not believe incremental improvement or standing still will be enough to help create the revolution we require if we hope to leave the world better place for our children.
I think innovation is the most powerful tool in the successful nonprofit’s toolkit moving forward. But how do you innovate in challenging times with less resources available and increasing demand for your services? I believe applying technology to many of your most pressing challenges by getting a better understanding of what opportunities exist and how to augment your efforts. New technologies can impact your stakeholders in many different ways. Many of your best donors and contributors are getting to an age where they may not be able to provide the kind of support to which your organization has grown accustomed. Many aging stakeholders’ physical conditions have become more limited and many are adjusting to hearing aids, less physical mobility, and increased dependency on others to help them with their activities. On the other hand many middle aged people are becoming caregivers for several generations of their families, leaving less time to volunteer with nonprofits.
I can hear you out there grumbling, “Tell me something I don’t know, Tripp.” I believe this is the good news for you and your nonprofit organization. You have an increased opportunity to serve your communities in many different ways. Your programming must reflect and take advantage of these new trends. Can you organization create opportunities to be involved with all the many different generations within the same household? Many organizations are just beginning to offer programs for the whole family, a social mixer, so to speak. By taking advantage of your staff’s creativity you can increase your customers’ involvement in your organization. Have your younger customers help your older ones by bringing them together in activities that use both their capabilities and gifts.
One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is how access to low cost / high touch technology dramatically changes the cost structures for your nonprofit organization. In the past, a nonprofit organization would have to invest significant resources in creating and engaging their communities. Today’s social technologies allow you the opportunity to be in front of your stakeholders on a regular basis. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest all offer incredible opportunities to communicate with your key stakeholders in a way that was done only in person in the past. You can use these technologies to keep people apprised of your progress, promote special events, and in some cases, help you find the most involved people in your community.
This ongoing communication capability is the changing power of an individual who has become effective at sharing stories in a number of media. It also can amplify perceived weaknesses in your organization. I’ve found once people learn to use new technologies they expect to use them in all aspects of their lives. Once the tipping point is reached you must adapt or risk becoming extinct.
For many of my partner organizations we are helping our teams better adapt to the new paradigm. We are helping leverage the best from their many of the stakeholders by teaching our teams to delegate more and create more leadership opportunities for their volunteers. Both formal and informal mentoring programs are creating excitement for the many different stakeholders across their organizations. To complement the ongoing communications strategies we are providing contests, special events, and technology that will allow our communities to be more involved on a daily basis.
These opportunities create a revolution in how responsive we can be in promoting our mission to a wider variety of stakeholders in our organizations. But what is our mission? Next week we will share an exercise that will help you reconnect with your mission and help extend your organization’s capability to engage your community.
If you’re a nonprofit and you are not using social media, you may be missing a key ingredient to developing stronger relationships with your key stakeholders. It might seem obvious to you, my reader of my blog, that social media is critical to your organization’s long term success in sharing your mission, vision, and values beyond your organization. But, of course, you already know this or you wouldn’t be reading this blog.
I don’t see social media as a standalone process for most of the organizations I work with. It is part of their marketing mix but cannot stand alone and be successful. For many of my client organizations, they have failed to embrace social business as a concept. I find that their failure in social media has come from three key breakdowns. Without these three elements, it’s very difficult to get any traction in your new social marketing efforts. It took me a long time to get the hang of social business, but once I understood these strategies I started seeing results from my time investments.
The first element is that you must reach critical mass before you start to see the results you expect. Now what is critical mass for your efforts? I find that even a small targeted following can insure success on the right social platforms. If you build your following based on similar interests and values, you will begin interaction almost immediately if you provide content that has value to this group. You also must consider who your ideal partner is for your information. Many unsuccessful nonprofits have huge followings with limited engagement with their followers. They send out their messages to the world, but wonder why they have so little interaction with their community. Sending out messages using only one way is like traditional advertising, you need huge numbers to get any results. Try to engage several people every day and you will start to see your messages taking off. Then use different search tools to help find the right people. I could write a blog on this topic alone and still have a lot more to share on the concept of targeting your message and how to influence key people in your causes marketing efforts.
The second element is that you get more by sharing some great information than you do by sharing a lot of average information. People are very busy today and they don’t have time to go through 100 tweets to find a gem. They are looking to find great information for themselves or their fellow peeps. Sometimes they are looking to keep their name in front of others and other times they are looking for a solution to their own questions. Make it easy to find and share your information and they will share it. Learn how to find great material and then share or create it. There is nothing wrong with using others’ content to help build your own credentials and expertise. I have built lasting relationships based on sharing a review or article for a well known author.
The third element is to share others’ information in the spirit of giving, but not expecting to get anything out of every time you contribute. I know that not every I share is brilliant but I appreciate people sharing it with their friends and people in their community. Take time to share others first and after a short time you will begin developing partnerships with key people within your community. They will share your message with others. Some people will never share your message with others. They come from the world of there is not enough business to go around. It’s not true, but they feel they are so important that you can’t live without their wisdom, they may be right and you should still share it with others. You don’t know what future influencers you might meet along the way. I found several of my best guest bloggers in this way.
The bonus tip for today is learn how to keep the spotlight on others and your efforts will be rewarded tenfold. I discovered the more I do for others, the more I get back, not always from the people that you highlight, but by people who appreciate your efforts for the community. When I follow people, I always try to find something of theirs I can share with others. It’s my way of starting the relationship on a positive note. I also use Follow Fridays on Twitter to highlight new people I uncover in my reading to help them build a stronger following. When someone is new to a platform, I try to help them get positive feedback early so they can feel more comfortable sharing with others. I always say it’s a very quiet place on Twitter when you first start out, but providing early support can make all the difference to the new person out there.
I hope this helps you understand several key philosophies behind social media. I will be sharing more in-depth breakdowns to some of the platforms I use and some tips on how to use social to amplify your reach for your cause over the next several weeks. Stay tuned and don’t be afraid to share this!
This week’s guest blogger on Market Leadership Journal is Bob Leonard of acSellerant. I’m pleased to introduce Bob to the readers of the Extraordinary Partnerships blog. I thought his insights on using social media might be helpful to all of you. I learned about Bob while working on a project for one of my MSP clients. Bob brings significant experience to the B2B space and has worked with many leading technology businesses to help them grow to the next level. This week, on Wednesday, Bob is going to be sharing his thinking on why your business must explore social media to grow your business. He will share the strategies that have helped his clients successfully move into social media. At the end of the blog, he will offer a white paper that many of you have been asking for and I’ve asked Bob to share with you. So read Bob’s guest blog and get his white paper on the evolving role of Cloud services in your business.
Bob Leonard is the managing consultant at acSellerant. He’s a veteran B2B marketer with stints as a marketing executive at Interleaf, GTE, and EMC. Prior to that, Bob worked in Sales and Sales Support at Digital Equipment Corp. Today Bob works with SMB (20 to 100 employees) B2B IT providers (ISVs, MSPs, SIs and VARs); helping them grow their businesses, navigate an evolution to Cloud Services, and maximizes valuations in anticipation of a business sale.
You can find Bob’s blog at Market Leadership Journal.
It seems like everyone is talking about social media these days. To communicate with your partners, to keep in front of prospects, it’s all about using the new social media. And we all know that the key to successful partnerships is communication. But aren’t we getting a bit out of hand here?
I’m not an antisocial media guy. I think it’s a great tool. I’m just saying you shouldn’t abandon other, more traditional marketing methods in your rush to get to social media. Marketing is still about choosing the best tool to accomplish your goal. There’s a very old saying that if all you have is a hammer, you see the world as full of nails. Social media is one more tool in your toolbox, not the only one.
All of your marketing tools have pros and cons. Social media is no exception. It’s excellent for immediate, ground-breaking communications. You can quickly monitor what people are saying about your company and respond to those comments. No doubt about it, monitoring and adding to social media postings can prevent a public relations nightmare. But social media is ephemeral. Tweets and postings are overwritten by new tweets and postings at incredible speed. People rarely go back to see what was being talked about before they signed on. How do you make certain that your partners have seen a message you sent or have all of the information needed?
Not all marketing is of the “here today, gone tomorrow” variety. There is information you want to have available to your partners, clients, and prospects on a regular basis. You want to keep your name in front of your partners. You want to provide information they need to present your solution to their customers. Social media may not be the best tool to accomplish those tasks. In the next few blog postings, I’d like to explore some of the more traditional marketing tools and how to use them in new ways. I’d be very interested in hearing how you’re using old tools in new ways. Let me know!
Tripp Braden is a marketing consultant who specializes in developing seven figure partnerships. Discover how to grow your company through extraordinary partnerships by visiting http://www.HighGrowthBusiness.com where you can find resources and products to increase your success.