Be a part of the community, don’t take advantage

I was recently reading an article written by Tom Foremski at zdnet in which he discusses the misstep of corporations jumping into the world of social media with the intentions of social sales and nothing more.

His comparison comes from an individuals desire to use the social qualities of social media versus the corporate vantage point of commercial purposes. I particularly like the following quote,

"At parties, people will avoid that person that is selling something. Friends that invite their friends to tupperware parties, or multi-level marketing, are tolerated for a while, but not for long. Similarly, companies that use social media as sales media must understand there is a time and place for it, or they risk harming their brand."

His point is valid but is there more to take away other than “corporations use social media for social sales and that’s bad”? I believe there is.

In the realm of nonprofits there is a grey area to be found. A nonprofit exists because of a community that supports it. Therefore, it stands to reason that nonprofits should embrace social media and become a part of the community. We now stumble upon the fine line.

Be a part of the community, don’t take advantage of it. When a corporation finds a target demographic that has come together using social media their gut reaction is, “like shooting fish in a barrel.” But this backfires. Why? The answer is in the question. Why is a target demographic coming together? Have they come together to discuss how much they love fly fishing, for example? If so, this group would naturally attract companies selling camping equipment, but they don’t want to talk about camping, they are there to discuss fly fishing, any talk otherwise will only annoy them.

So if you want to reach out to new groups make sure they want to talk about what you are bringing to the conversation. Just because a group exists in the community where you have a volunteer garden, does not mean that reaching out to them will result in finding gardeners.

The point: Although social media offers hundreds of groups, communities, and avenues for sharing information, deny the temptation to interact with them all. Successful social media is having a strong community and this comes from similar interests, trust, and good content. Focus on what you are “putting out there” rather than how many times you are putting it out there.

Moral of the story: As a nonprofit use social media to share your story, show the world how you are making a difference. And in doing so, attract new donors and volunteers, just make sure they are joining the conversation; don’t try to sell camping equipment to fly fishers.

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2 Responses to Be a part of the community, don’t take advantage

  1. [...] I am not trying to contradict my recent discussion of not taking advantage of the online community, but rather would like to build upon it. The simple fact is that if you put your content in front [...]

  2. [...] I am not trying to contradict my recent discussion of not taking advantage of the online community, but rather would like to build upon it. The simple fact is that if you put your content in front [...]

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