Gosh. Social media are actually social.
Shady characters lurking in dark corners. Predatory psychopaths waiting to pounce. Strange, sweaty creatures emerging from the alleyways. People who’ve never been to New York sometimes have this idea that the city is only what they’ve seen in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.
What you probably don’t know is that Taxi Driver is actually an allegorical film about the internet. Shady characters, predators, sweaty teenage boys. You may try to claim that Scorsese made his film in 1976, back before there was an internet, but I’m telling you: he knew, man. He knew.
And social media has thrown users another wicked curveball. What about privacy? We’re just supposed to put all of our information right out there? And Tweets–Tweets!–are now being indexed by both Google and the Library of Congress. Then the New York Times runs an article like this one, or your best friend tells you about PleaseRobMe.com, and all your fears of stolen identities and home theft are confirmed.
Still, don’t let your privacy fears keep you from exploring the social media. Despite the strangers, curious acronyms, and strange technical mysteries, the internet can be a real community. Every community has its bad apples, of course, but in our travels, we’ve found social media participants to be quite generous.
A few months ago, when Facebook opened up to users the option of vanity URLs, businesses had to wait three weeks before snagging one of their own. Three weeks in and “BigDuck” was long gone.
So when Facebook instituted a policy allowing every Facebook user to change their username once–and only once–our cruise director Farra sprung into action. She friended the gentleman with the BigDuck moniker, charmed his pants off (not literally, as far as we know) in that way only Farra can, and convinced him to give us his name. Fans can now find us at www.facebook.com/bigduck, thanks to his generosity.
Something else you should remember, particularly if you’re exploring social media on behalf of your nonprofit organization: most of the people who have “liked” your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter like you. They connect to your issue. They care about the cause. They don’t actually want to hurt you.
So the social media are like New York City after all. As long as you don’t do anything foolish–tweeting “OMG, locks busted, alarms down, office closed til Tues!” for example–it can be one of the friendliest places in the world.
Here’s a general rule: if you wouldn’t tell a stranger or mention it in front of your grandmother or index it for eternity on Google’s massive servers, don’t say it, post it, or tweet it.
Otherwise, fear not, nonprofiteers: socialize mediatastically.