OK, confession time.

Before reading this book I was uncertain about the worth of social media for NonProfits. Sure, online platforms are great for telling the most compelling stories.  These can make folks part with their money or sign a petition, but does that create real world change?

Now that I’ve read this book I am a total convert. Don’t tell my friends, but I might even concede that click-throughs towards impacts could be as effective as marching in the street: Cue BOOMER OUTRAGE. Just imagine if you combine them both, like MomsRising.

Not only do the authors explain -with examples and templates- how to link social media analytics to real world outcomes and impacts, but they’ve persuaded this reader that it’s a reason to use social media.  

More specifically, here’s three things I learnt from reading this book:

  • Since this approach to measurement is iterative and embraces learning from failure it can offer a kind of agile strategic planning. And because it includes a planning component with an operational improvement strategy it could even work like the Scrumban agile process shown here.
Diagram from mm1.com

Social media is giving NonProfits the opportunity to shorten the organizational learning cycle and to correlate supporter engagement with their impact. And anything that provides stakeholder feedback to chip away at top-down benevolence of charities is a good thing as far as I’m concerned.

  • There’s a great example towards the end of the book illustrating how to use online influencers to drive support. This is the USA for UNHR’s blue key campaign. This section of the book provided a total Aha moment for me. The first time I’ve really understood how a nonProfit might use an integrated social media strategy to drive supporters between platforms –from Facebook to blogs to tweetathons– all the time measuring effective content and feeding that information back to influencers. It was also a reminder that the best strategies will segment content customizing for different stakeholders (or adopt different voices) on different platforms.
photo from socialbrite.org
  • Really the sky’s the limit, once you’ve adopted this approach. Not only can your NPO be data-informed but an entire network of groups seeking a similar impact -let’s say environmental activists working on protecting endangered animals- could create a data-informed nexus to come at a problem from different angles. As the authors point out, the advent of social media analytics and cloud-shared dashboards makes transparency and cross-organizational learning a real possibility.

For those sceptics amongst you just look at the incredible coalition of local and national non-profits who converged on social media and the streets to protect the Affordable Care  Act in the States. Yes, the Republican party was in disarray, but a networked multi-state movement of ordinary people organized by NPOs helped to keep it that way.