I have often found that one of the reasons that nonprofits have not integrated social media into their organisations or who are using it with limited success is not a lack of understanding of the benefits of social media, but limitations with time.
Getting into the habit of regular tweeting, posting, or experimenting with new tools, is often difficult. We all know that nonprofits are always under staffed. We know that we often have to get involved in quite divergent tasks with responsibility for a range of different projects, in fact that is something that I love, but it also means that sometimes we feel that we are unable to experiment with new tools and it is certainly true that without the capacity to properly manage social media there is little point in considering these tools.
I have often heard that there is no time for social media. To be sure, it’s an investment of time, but I actually think it’s often a more efficient use of time that offers better processes to manage our work, and though the challenges can be huge, a social presence is becoming a necessity for non-profits.
Instead of asking where we might find the time, perhaps we should ask oursleves how we might make time for social media, and when we begin to ask this question we might see that when we say we don’t have time, what we really mean is that we consider other tasks to be more important than social media, that we may not fully recognize the benefits of social media.
When I first started using Twitter I was hesitant but I was quickly amazed at how it helped me process and crystalize ideas, but most importantly it challenged me to stay current and engaged in the ongoing public conversation that surrounded our work. I very quickly learnt a lot about the organisation, the work we did and the people we were supporting.
Given the role of nonprofits we also have to understand that the capacity to engage in dialogue, to learn from others, and to be transparent (especially important when we are fundraising and funding projects with the expectation of positive outcomes for those we support).
Since using social media I have become exposed to far more than I would never have found on my own. By following the right people, I receive updates from journalists, advocates, policymakers, and members of the public and supporters, in a way that was never possible before.
I have since found that using Twitter has actually helped me to save time. In the past, I made an effort to visit various blogs, websites, and other online information sources to stay apprised of my field. I have found that by following the right feeds, of both organisations and individuals, I get that same information more easily.
When it has been used well I have found it to be a great way, particularly in large organisations, to connect different areas of the organisation and to increase understanding of our work internally. This improves the capacity of an organisation to collaborate, communicate and drive change collectively.
So while it does take time, I would say that if you’re an organization that engages in public policy advocacy or that works within communities to deliver change, then you are missing vital opportunities to reach audiences and bring about change. I have genuinely enjoyed the personal feedback, passionate support and the thoughtful dialogue that social media has allowed me to experience and I believe that without social media our relationships with our supporters would be far less rich.