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Tell Us Your Social Media Story

March 18, 2009

Social-media-men

Next Tuesday, I'll be delivering a keynote presentation on "Social Networking 101: The Importance of Engaging Youth Through Web 2.0 and Beyond" at a Youth Development and Outcomes Conference hosted by the Performance Institute. Among other things, I hope to provide a brief overview of social networking sites and how nonprofits are using them to advance their mission.

For weeks now I've been trying to overcome my fear of speaking in public. I'm only 25, with just four years of work experience under my belt. I mean, what if I get laughed off the stage or people start chucking rotten tomatoes at me?

Fears aside, I was able to put the final touches on my presentation last weekend, and this past weekend I worked on my introduction. I've been dreading writing the introduction because, as Beth Kanter noted last week, it's the hook, the key to grabbing an audience's attention, and therefore the most important part of the presentation.

Taking Kanter's suggestion, I decided to start with a story. Here's the story I came up with:

Although I only started working full time four years ago, I've been working with social media since I was a teenager. I grew up with the stuff. And the more immersed in social networking sites I become, the more I believe in their power to move people to action.

While at college, I got involved with our campus programming board, which was responsible for putting on events in various locations around campus. Despite the fact that events were paid for by students -- a portion of everyone's tuition went toward campus activities -- most of them were poorly attended.

I'm biased, of course, but we put on some great events in my four years as an undergrad. Chris Rock, Dane Cook, John Leguizamo, Ben Folds, Less Than Jake -- the list goes on. I mean, for kids my age, we're talking big-time celebrities. But even with that kind of talent, we couldn't get kids to leave their dorm rooms.

In my senior year, I was elected director of the campus activities board. By that time, kids were using IM services like AIM (this was long before Twitter) to chat with friends, and Facebook and MySpace were beginning to build buzz.

One of our campus activities board members came up with the idea of using these social networking tools to increase attendance at our events. Since the services were free and required minimal amounts of time (time most of us were already devoting to social networking sites) we jumped on the idea. First, we created an AIM account for the campus activities board and began to update the "away" message with information about upcoming events. We also made sure to point out the existence of our AIM account at our weekly meetings and promoted it on event posters and on our Web site. Then we created a group on Facebook and started sending out friend requests to other students with information about upcoming events. Even if we only attracted an extra ten people to an event, it was well worth the small amount of effort required on our part.

That was my first experience with social networking sites and it taught me something about the power of social media. Facebook and IM made it easy for students to share ideas and suggestions with the committee. And by joining the conversation (setting up a profile on Facebook), listening to other students (reading their profiles, learning about their interests), inviting them to tell us which artists they'd like to see on campus, and actually following through with some of their suggestions, we ended up serving a larger percentage of the student body than we could have through more traditional means.

My goal at the Youth Development and Outcomes Conference next week is to convince the eighty nonprofit professionals in the room that the negative stereotypes which define the "wired" generation are the very same tools that can be used to engage them. And the first step to increasing your impact in this brave new Web 2.0 world is to understand where and how your target audiences engage with social networks. Do they "tweet" or FB? Are they LinkedIn? Do they post videos to YouTube or v-cast on Vimeo? If you don't know the answers to questions like that, your chances of engaging the youth of today are pretty slim.

So, how is your target audience using social media and social networking sites? What tactics are you using to engage 20- and 30-somethings? We want to hear your story. Don't be shy...

-- Regina Mahone

Comments

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Question: Is the conference about identifying outcomes that include social network use? I'm curious

Hi, Beth -- The conference intends to promote developing positive outcome measures. I was asked to speak about how organizations can use Web 2.0 to engage youth. I think my contribution may be the apple in a bowl of oranges...

I plan to give an overview of how organizations are using social media, and will touch very briefly on social media ROI (but will point to your blog for further insight/examples).

great. thanks. I have some posts on social media metrics on measuring
engagment ... let me know how it goes and if u use slides point me
them

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