2 min Read
July 21, 2010

Take a dip in the refreshing waters of social media

As part of my summer reading binge, I’m just diving into Beth Kanter and Allison Fine’s important new book, “The Networked Nonprofit“. Beth and Allison couldn’t be a better-suited team to write about how nonprofits can use social media: both have been blogging on the topic (Beth writes Beth’s blog while Allison writes A. Fine blog), writing other books on networks and social change, and doing all sorts of neat related things.

The preface of their book includes this sage advice to its readers:

“…we ask for one thing in exchange: for organizational leaders anxious to jump into the what and how of social media, please practice using the tools yourselves. It’s the only way to discover social media’s power to change the way we think and work. We also hope you will trust the people within your organization to do the same, and encourage them to connect with the world in positive, creative ways.”

Amen, sistas!

I know from personal experience how important practicing using these tools is. Likewise, I know that you have to entrust and empower your staff to do the same on your organization’s behalf.

I admit it: when I was first told about Facebook (by someone many years my junior), I just didn’t get it. Share updates? Send messages? Share photos? Why not do that stuff via email? Kids today, I growled. (My first reaction was even worse with Twitter.)

And then I remembered Mr. Stewart. Mr. Stewart was an inspiring art history teacher I had in high school (I know! My high school actually had art history! And life drawing! How cool is that?). After a few months of studying art, we had to actually make some. In fact, we had to paint. And after an hour or so of trying to paint, I had a whole new level of respect and appreciation for the artists we were studying and their work. In fact, a whole new level of understanding opened up.

These days, when I hear about a new social media tool I try not to poo poo it. Instead, I sign up – and commit to using it for a trial period. I often begin by thinking that I’ll use it for 3 months or so and then pop off if I hate it, which helps me stomach tackling it. And then it usually turns out that I love it.

These days, I’m convinced that Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and other social media are making both my personal and professional life better. (They’re also eroding the line between the two – but that’s a topic for another day, friends.)

Using these tools, even for just a few months, will help you understand them better – even if you choose to abandon them later. I find that exploring them via a hobby that you love (Golfing? Dancing? Sewing?) often helps, too.

So strip down and dive in: you might find the water’s warmer than you think.