Baby steps to “social media maturity”

{Editor’s note: Beth Kanter also published this on her own blog. You can read it here.}

I first heard about the “stages” of social media implementation from Beth Kanter:  First, you crawl. Once you’re steady, you walk. Once the road is paved, you run for it! Last year, my organization took its first steps. We’re not “flying” yet, or even running, but it’s amazing what can happen in just a year with just a little help from your peers. 

January: It Started With a Book
At FIGHT CRIME: INVEST IN KIDS, I wanted to know what worked in social media – and also what didn’t. At the annual staff retreat last January, we selected The Networked Nonprofit for our bookclub discussion. It was a fascinating look into how several nonprofits are using social media in ways that are both clever and effective. Over dinner and a bottle of California red (thanks to our San Fran staff!), we discussed how the organization might utilize social media in similar ways. The wheels were churning with staff at all levels and in all departments.

August: Stealth Measurement Takes Shape
In August, FIGHT CRIME joined a peer learning experience led by Beth, a Visiting Scholar with The Lucile Packard Foundation. Through monthly phone calls and a closed Facebook discussion group, I tested (“try to vary the type content each day of the week”). I asked questions (“Does posting on the weekend create more user engagement?”). I was put on the spot (Beth: “So what did you learn from that? What are you going to differently?”). I soon discovered that building a social media infrastructure wouldn’t be easy, but paving the road now would allow to drive more easily in the future.

Peer Learning Takeaways

  • Reporting begins with benchmarking. I’ve created my own deadlines for social media reports. Those are now included with our traditional media reports.
  • Everything is an experiment, and flexibility is key. In October, Facebook introduced new features on the analytics pages. Beth adapted her lesson that month so we could focus on how the changes would affect our reporting process.
  • Share successes and failures. Beth calls this the “try it and fix it” approach. Each month we went over our “homework” and I got to hear about effective strategies from other nonprofits. One size does not fit all. If something isn’t working, abandon it.

December: Breaking Through to Stakeholders
As 2011 came to a close, our board members wanted to know what we were “doing” about social media. At the annual Board meeting, we presented our year-in-review of social media efforts. This presentation was key to get upper management to think “digital first” for our campaigns and future media efforts.

What’s Next: 2012 Social Media Week DC
While the Packard learning group has formally ended, in many ways I’m just getting started. Next week, I’m moderating a panel for the first-ever Social Media Week in DC. The panelists include two other Packard grantees, Danielle Brigida (National Wildlife Federation), and Alison Carlman (Global Giving). I’m also thrilled to include Carie Lewis (Humane Society of the United States) and Alison McQuade (Emily’s List). We’ll be talking about how to report social media results to stakeholders. I’m excited for these panelists to share their success stories with the DC nonprofit community.

After just one year, social media is playing a front-and-center role within the organization. Social media doesn’t replace the traditional outreach methods, it only enhances those efforts.

What “stage” of social media is your organization or company at? What tools or experiments will you use to advance? How do you want to utilize social media in six months, or over the next year?


About Meg Biallas

Thoughts From A DC Intern Turned DCist. A twenty-something goes beyond traditional tourism to achieve Washingtonian authenticity.
This entry was posted in DCist, Non Profit, politics, social media. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Baby steps to “social media maturity”

  1. Sarah Koci Scheilz says:

    Meg, this is a great story-turned-how-to. Really enjoyed reading about this transformation. And furthermore, congrats on landing the moderator gig! So fun! You’ll be live-tweeting, I hope? If there’s a way to read a transcript afterwards, let me know. I would love to learn from the people on that panel.


    • Meg Biallas says:

      Thanks for sharing this post, Sarah. We will be live-tweeting with the hashtag #SMWnpo, which will probably be most active from 2 – 3 pm EST on Monday, so you can follow along. I’ll also do a blog summary later in the week. I’m really excited about our panelists.


  2. biallasonline says:

    Great write-up! Enjoyed the read.


  3. Barb Cooke says:

    Meg, read your post on Beth Kanter’s blog and felt like I was reading a biographical statement. Just bummed that I am in a “Maryland” organization and can’t come to DC for Social Media week. Have fun and keep us posted!


    • Meg Biallas says:

      Also, Barb, so you know: We will be live-tweeting with the hashtag #SMWnpo, which will probably be most active from 2 – 3 pm EST on Monday.


  4. Meg Biallas says:

    Barb: It’s always good to feel like you’re not alone with social media challenges. All are welcome to the Social Media Week events (and my panel is free), so long as you can get yourself downtown! Thanks for reading.


  5. Pingback: On Graduation (or: What are We Doing Here Anyway?) « FeminisTech

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