Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Making Your Social Media Strategy a Reality: Reflections, Challenges and Next Steps

The symposium wraps up with reflections from Mitch Hurst and Milt Sharp. Participants will be challenged to think about how they can get started with their organization's social media strategy. Plus three lucky participants will win Flip Video Camcorders!

Community Engagement 2.0

Check out this quick highlight from the Community Engagement 2.0 session. Noelle Haille of IMPACT Silver Spring captures some of the dialogue with Charles Lenchner, Director of Online Organizing for the Working Families Party in New York. The afternoon session highlights the work of Noelle along with Monica Garreton Chavez from Logan Square Neighborhood Association and Reemberto Rodriguez from the Silver Spring Regional Center.

Online Communications

Demetrio Maguigad, New Media Manager for the Community Media Workshop helps participants understand how nonprofits are using online communication tools to advance their mission and build their organization.

Overseeing Your Organization's Social Media Strategy

Angela Siefer, Founder and Chancellor of Shiny Door helps Exewcutive Directors and organizational decision makers examine the basic tenets of establishing a social media strategy for their nonprofit organization. The afternoon portion of the session will feature a discussion with Kim Brumber - NeighborWorks Rochester, Justin Massa -, and Bill Traynor - Lawrence CommunityWorks.

Introduction to Social Media Strategy

Demetrio Maguiguad and Lovette Ajayi of the Community Media Workshop introduce participants to social media strategy through an interactive session modeled after the ever popular social media game

New Media, New World: What's It All About?

Follow the opening session of the NeighborWorks Symposium Social Media and Web 2.0: Engaging Community and Achieving Mission. Mitch Hurst, VP of Interactive Solutions with the Scofield Company will set the stage for the symposium via a live chat with Gavin Clabaugh, VP of Information Services with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Making Life Simpler with RSS

For many of us, checking our favorite online news sources has become as much a staple of our morning routine as that strong cup of coffee. Although many of our frequently visited sites are easily accessible from our past browsing history or stored in our internet browser Favorites, RSS feeds, short for Real Simple Syndication, eliminate the need for us to navigate to multiple sites in order to get our fix.

The key to managing your RSS feeds is setting yourself up with a good reader. Google Reader is a great tool (and a personal favorite) to easily keep up with all your favorite blogs, but there are also a number of other subscription services available. These services pull the latest news and updates from all your favorite sites directly into one page, making information easy to manage. Once again, the folks at CommonCraft have another great video that sums it up in less than four minutes and provides a step-by-step how to set up your RSS feeds.

Although a little dated, this piece from Tech Soup gives ten solid reasons why the non-profit world should be using RSS feeds. The No. 1 reason on TechSoup’s Top Ten is top for a reason: RSS makes the web easier to read – saving all of us time. And of course, if your organization has a blog, having an RSS feed available to your readers, is critical if you want to get your site noticed and build some buzz on the Web.

You can get started by setting up an RSS feed of NeighborWorks news.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Use Your Voice

When asked to contribute an entry to our Social Media Symposium blog about, I happily said yes! I manage this professional networking site that launched earlier in March 2009. It is designed specifically for emerging and established community development leaders. The goal of the site is to facilitate communication across all types of community development corporations (CDCs) and among people with diverse backgrounds and skill sets. It provides the industry with a platform upon which to share ideas and experiences, access professional development and career opportunities, and create a more effective and diverse field.

That first paragraph reads so nicely because I lifted much of it from a press release that went out shortly after we launched the site. It's a very well-written, manicured introduction, but when contributing to a social or professional networking site, the voice of the contributor tends to become much more familiar, less this blog entry. I think that's part of the appeal of belonging to an online community. In fact, I find that the more conversational and relaxed users are with their tone on the site, while maintaining the appropriate level of professionalism, the more interested I am in reading.

Recently, we surveyed our site members to find out what they had to say about

“I love to hear what is happening across our nation in the housing market...I love being able to bump ideas off of others who may have already gone through what I am going through with my organization. Being young and new to the non-profit housing market, it is great to learn from seasoned individuals and organizations.”

“The opportunity to network with other non profit organizations has assisted in increasing my capacity and that of the organization.”

“Good platform for exploring our work and movement for change.”

These are the voices of our site members speaking to the impact a well-managed professional networking site can offer. This is why people join and engage. Users contribute, comment, ask, answer, and learn from one another. It reminds me of the model our instructor used in my Community Economic Development class to represent a well run community where capital circulates and helps the community to flourish. In this scenario, the capital is information and the members of the community are the ones who govern the process.

This is the part of the blog where my supervisor stops and thinks to herself, “Ah, very good grasshopper. You are learning!”

And, I am learning…as we all are. That's the whole point., as with many professional networking sites, subsists mainly on user-generated content. I learn from you, and you learn from me. That’s why it works.

Debbie Wise writes a blog for called, New to the Neighborhood and this is her voice.

A Bit About Blogs

If one measure of an organization’s effectiveness is its ability to communicate frequently with its constituents, then an active blog is an important tool. Blogs have become one of the most powerful sources of news on the web.

Short for “web log,” Merriam-Webster defines a blog as “a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.” Probably the most straightforward (and ubiquitous) tool in social media, blogs are only as strong as their content, readership, and ability to connect with other sites.

While most successful blogs allow readers to comment on postings, blogs are noticeably more static than some of their social media counterparts. This static structure demands that bloggers keep their site interesting. While an eye-appealing web design and interesting topics (along with solid writing, of course) are huge, the key lies in keeping content fresh. (and yes, this blogger can attest to the challenge!)

According to EchoDitto, there are three basic keys to building a successful blog:

  • Engage with other blogs and your own readers
  • Keep the material fresh and exciting
  • Give people a reason to return

For more on non-profit blogging, check out the Non-Profit Blog Exchange and blog tips at Have Fun-Do Good.

If you're headed to the Chicago NTI, don't miss the Blogging 101 workshop with Shirley Sexton of See3 Communications Tuesday from 4:30-6:00 at the Palmer House Hilton.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Buzz About Twitter

Want to know what your best friend had for breakfast in 140 characters or less? Ok, maybe not. Many people have written off Twitter because they just don’t really care about such trivial status updates. The fact is that Twitter has more to offer than updates on the daily grind of your friends and family. Perhaps you’ve heard about it in the news lately?

Clearly the use of Twitter in the recent post-election Iranian protests captured the interest of many Americans – social media users and novices alike. Those high profile tweets gave people around the world a window into what was transpiring in the streets. To be fair, tweets can be subjective and unverifiable in many cases, but you can’t deny the widespread visibility for the Iranian election protests that was created via Twitter.

Last month, just before the Iranian elections elevated the Twitter profile, Time Magazine’s cover story featured the communications site. The article highlights an intriguing aspect about the use and evolution of Twitter - namely that much of the utility of Twitter was really created by the users themselves. Both “@ replies”, used to respond to other users on Twitter, and “hashtags”, topics identified with a # in front of them to help organize conversations, are user-driven tools and have transformed Twitter from a micro-messaging service to an interactive conversation. (Incidentally, hashtags are also quite popular with conference organizers so stay tuned for more information about how you can follow NeighborWorks Social Media Symposium on Twitter.)

A recent Pew study published in February 2009 sheds a little more light on Twitter users. Not surprisingly, they tend to be young, mobile and active in other social media spheres, such as blogs and social networks. The study also revealed that the biggest audience for micro-messaging services like Twitter is between the ages of 18-34. However, with its recent explosive growth, we may see this change. Twitter experienced an impressive 1,298% growth in users from April 2008 to April 2009. To put that in context, Google’s growth during that period was 9%, Facebook’s 217% and MySpace -7%. While Google’s user numbers still dwarf those of Twitter and the social networks, Twitter appears to be taking hold with everyone from your teenage daughter to nonprofit organizations and Fortune 500 companies.

So do you Tweet? Still not sure how twitter works? Tune into this video by CommonCraft for a quick overview. Or check out CNET’s Newbie Guide to Twitter.

Tapping Into Facebook

With such a wide variety of tools available to entertain and engage, it’s easy to see why Facebook has grown into a diverse online space of more than 200 million active users – young and old – from around the world. At its core, Facebook allows its users to connect with friends and (more importantly) their networks. However, Facebook has evolved to also connect organizations, constituencies, and like-minded groups – making it an extremely valuable tool for the non-profit community. You can create a page for your organization, post events, pose questions to your constituency, comment on responses, blog, video share, and link to interesting sites and articles – among other things.

There’s a substantial amount of material on the web about Facebook for non-profits. TechSoup provides a great starting point for beginners interested in launching a Facebook presence. After getting comfortable with your personal profile and creating a basic page for your organization, check out these very specific (but helpful) best practices for maximizing action and interaction on your non-profit page. Beth’s blog also offers a compilation of resources for non-profits to use Facebook effectively.

As with all new technologies, however, we’re learning that Facebook can’t do it all – well at least not yet. Folks got pretty jazzed when Facebook rolled out its fundraising tool, Causes, but the team at Blue State Digital explains why fundraising via Facebook has yet to prove itself. So while you may not raise millions overnight, you can build a constituency that can be tapped for resources – whether they be time, talent or treasure. The Timpano Group highlights what it considers to be some of the big fish and smaller fries in the non-profit community that are using Facebook successfully.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Social Networking: What's It All About?

Lost the business card of that interesting contact you met last week? Need to quickly mobilize your constituency for a meeting? Want to know what your local politicians are up to in Congress? At its core, social networking sites create a shared space where users can express themselves, connect with others, and – most importantly for us in community development – encourage “offline” action and interaction. Still not sure what it’s all about? You might find this simple video from CommonCraft helpful.

Like the friendly folks at CommonCraft show us, the value of social networking sites is that they allow our network of friends, family, and colleagues to be visible – making it easier to connect with not only our networks, but our friends’ networks. Joining these sites is as easy as providing a name, e-mail address, and as much (or as little) personal information as you’d like.

Facebook’s ability to cater to users interested in developing both their personal and professional networks has attracted over 200 million active users. Twitter utilizes the idea of “micro-blogging” – allowing ordinary people, celebrities, politicians, community leaders, and others to quickly communicate with thousands of their “followers” through “tweets” of no more than 140 characters. While these two are by far the fastest growing sites, LinkedIn – a tool geared specifically for professional networking – has also gained a loyal following.

For our purposes in the non-profit world, these tools provide us with yet another way to connect with our peers and our communities. Does your organization already have profiles on the top social networking sites? If so, here are some tips for Facebook and Twitter to help you maximize your use of those sites. Just getting started on Facebook? Here’s a little guide that might find helpful.

Who Uses Social Media?

And what exactly are they doing?

While online activities like social networking continue to be popular with young people, the number of adults and older generations online is growing exponentially. The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that the number of adult internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years. In fact, women over 55 make up the fastest growing demographic on Facebook.

But social media is about more than just social networking. There are many other ways people create content and interact with each other online. Forrester Research uses a social technographic profile to depict how US adults are using social media. The Forrester profile includes creators, critics, collectors, joiners, and spectators. According to their online survey, in 2008 the largest percentage of US adult social media users were spectators (69%)- defined as people who read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch video from other users, read online forums, and read customer ratings/reviews. The next highest usage was among critics - people who post reviews, comment on someone else’s blog and contribute to online forums. In third place were joiners - known for visiting and maintaining profiles on a social networking site.

So what are you? I guess at a minimum, you’re a spectator since you’re reading this blog. If you want to step it up and be a joiner, check out Leaders for Communities.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What is Social Media?

Everyone has a unique relationship with technology. Whether you’re the first iPhone user on your block or unsure of how to properly use the word “tweet” in a sentence (or likely somewhere in between) – most would agree that online tools and other technologies are rapidly changing the way people communicate.

Social media tools stand at the forefront of the latest in online communication and organization. Ranging from popular social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to training tools such as webinars, and collaborative tools such as wikis, social media encourages online dialogue and participation in the hopes that it will yield offline results.

While we haven’t found one, universally recognized definition of social media, we like what the Corporation for National and Community Service has to say about it:

Social media, social networking, Web 2.0... there are many names for it, but the
important thing to know is that the phenomenon of people interacting and
contributing online is not going away. This is the new way many people use the
web and it opens up exciting new doors for all of us.

As NeighborWorks® prepares for the upcoming social media symposium, we refer to social media as web-based tools that allow users to generate content and interact with each other by sharing information, opinions, documents, photos, videos and interests. Some of the more popular uses of social media tools are for social networking, blogging, and video and photo sharing.

Still not sure what we mean by social media? Check out this great video by the clever folks at common craft. i3yswapghf

Already using social media? Comment below and tell us what tools you're using.

Coming Soon: NeighborWorks® Social Media Symposium

NeighborWorks® America is excited to announce an upcoming, innovative symposium entitled Social Media and Web 2.0: Engaging Community and Achieving Mission. The symposium, scheduled to take place August 19, 2009 as part of NeighborWorks® America’s week-long training institute in Chicago, will provide participants with an understanding of social media tools and how they can be used strategically to engage communities and improve communication.

Featuring highly interactive sessions along with experts who specialize in maximizing social media’s potential for nonprofits, we hope this symposium will encourage organizations to think about communication, fundraising, and community engagement in new and creative ways. Novices and tech-savvy participants alike are sure to leave the sessions with ideas on how to not only create and enhance their online presence, but to also integrate their social media efforts into their existing programs and activities.

Join us as we explore the value social media offers nonprofits. Registration is already open!

Stay tuned to our blog for more info on some of today’s latest social media tools as well as updates on this exciting symposium.