Why? Because after surveying a broad cross-section of non-profit executives across the U.S., they found that while 88 percent of them are "experimenting" with social media, only 51 percent are actively using social media in their organizations, and an astounding 79 percent aren't sure how to demonstrate its value to others in their organizations.
Over the years, I've worked with a lot of non-profits and I can tell you one thing for sure: these aren't dumb people. In fact, they're some of the smartest people in marketing and, more importantly, they're committed to what they do. So why are they having such a hard time figuring out how to use social media? The answer has implications far beyond the non-profit world and speaks to marketers everywhere who are struggling to convince clients to embrace social media.
Probably the most telling comment on the report comes from Stephanie Bluma, co-lead of the study: "While two-thirds of nonprofit executives believe social media has a positive impact on their communications with external audiences, they are less convinced about social media's resonance with donors, journalists and policy makers."
Sound familiar? Unless you work on big consumer brands all the time, chances are you've had similar push-back from your clients, even if they aren't non-profits. "Well, that social media stuff is all well and good," they say, "but our customers are too old/wealthy/poor/whatever to be 'tech-savvy' enough to use that stuff. They're not a bunch of kids."
As non-profit execs and other clients reject social media and deny that their audiences are actively engaged with the Web, newspapers are going out of business, civic engagement is at an all-time high online (especially, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, "the wealthy and well-educated"), and nearly half of U.S. adults are using a social networking service. As far as the "digital divide" goes, 79 percent of U.S. adults are now Internet users -- a 67 percent increase from 2005 -- and 59 percent of Americans have accessed the Web from a wireless device. Clearly, we're past the point of "oh, our folks don't use the Internet or social networking!"
So, why the reluctance by so many non-profit executives? The answer consists of three parts: 1) a misunderstanding of how to use the medium; 2) difficulty measuring results; and 3) ignorance. If I had to add a fourth, I think the "we've always done things this way" inertia effect is probably a very prevalent (but unspoken) factor.
Luckily, conquering these objections isn't difficult. It just takes education, logical thinking, and flexibility. Here are some tips:
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Sean Carton has recently been appointed to develop the Center for Digital Communication, Commerce, and Culture at the University of Baltimore and is chief creative officer at idfive in Baltimore. He was formerly the dean of Philadelphia University's School of Design + Media and chief experience officer at Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc.
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