Learn on Twitter, Sign up on Facebook, then Show Up in Person

How can you use social media to get people to walk in the door? It’s a great question that I’m often asked. It’s big question, with many responses, but I’ll tackle one thing here: Understand your user. Who is the audience that you’re trying to reach, and why AREN’T they walking in the door yet? Once you understand what stands between them and you, you can develop a social media strategy to help. A few examples:

1) The Puget Sound Blood Center launched a social media campaign to engage new donors in their blood drives. As reported in the Seattle PI, they are now holding Tweet Up Blood Drives which are promoted entirely through social media.

The online campaign launched earlier this summer, and already the blood center has about 400 fans on Facebook and 1,200 followers on Twitter. And the blood center has a YouTube site for its online generation donators.

Many new donors walked in the door after learning about the campaign, or hearing from their own friends on Twitter or Facebook about critically low levels of Type O. Furthermore, the social media savvy donors are passing on the word, and energizing the campaign, retweeting (even if they don’t donate themselves!) and sharing their experience, even by making a video of giving blood and posting it on YouTube. From the PI again:

“They take the initiative because we’ve given them the tools,” Young said about the blood center’s online followers. “You don’t find a better group of people. To be a blood donor, you have to be a fairly altruistic person in the first place.”

From 5 to 33 percent of donors at blood drives over the last three months said they scheduled their appointments because of social media, and DeButts said he expects that number to skyrocket as school starts up and students organize drives through Facebook.

What makes this so successful? Perhaps donating blood is not as commonly talked about in this demographic, and by putting it online they are energizing the conversation, which leads to more education about both the need and the process, which results in lower (psychological) barriers, and more people walk in the door. Maybe they didn’t know it only takes a few minutes, and it’s near their office. Why do you think a third of their recent donors were inspired through social media?

2) The Obama Presidential Campaign relied heavily on volunteers to make calls and go door to door through neighborhoods. Why did so many first-time volunteers pitch in? Partially because of the candidate, but largely because the campaign lowered barriers to participation. Many prospective volunteers were nervous about walking into an office, weary of trying to represent details of policies they didn’t know. Many local offices made short, casual videos to help people understand what the culture of the office was like, and the sorts of tasks volunteers could do. Check out this one:

Avid users of social media are not looking to hide behind their computer screens. In fact we’re eager to connect with fascinating people and valuable organizations in our local communities. We seek value, social capital, and meaning. As you consider your social media strategy, think about who you are trying to reach, and how you can add value and meaning to their lives. You might be surprised what comes back to you.

How have you been inspired through social media to show up in person? What have you done in your work to connect, lower barriers, and energize people? We’d love to hear your story.

The Innovation Ecosystem: Emergence of a New Jewish Landscape

In their recently published op-ed in JTA titled “Invest in Innovation”, Felicia Herman and Dana Raucher disagree that at a time of economic downturn we should follow the “calls for greater consolidation and a return to the more centralized infrastructure of yesteryear.” These two brilliant women (Felicia Herman is the executive director of the Natan Fund, and Dana Raucher is the executive director of The Samuel Bronfman Foundation) are not looking backwards for solutions, but looking forward. They write:

We believe that the young, and often small, nonprofits that have emerged in the past decade, and the very de-centralization they reflect, are here to stay. We believe that this interconnected network of smaller, niche-based organizations reflects the organizational transformation now under way in American culture: a revolution in the way that people connect, organize and affiliate, brought about by technological advancements that have dramatically shaped our ways of looking at the world. That revolution already has utterly transformed so much of our lives — the way we shop, network, share information, learn and teach. We dont believe theres any going back.

I completely agree with their observations. In addition to encouraging you to read the new report, The Innovation Ecosystem, that they developed with JumpStart, I want to reinforce their de-centralized vision, and encouage us to questions our assumptions and the status quo of how we go about doing our business. The top down models that have worked in the past are no longer the only solution. Self-motivated, creative and empowered individuals and groups now have the ability to self-organize, creating the programs and organizations that embody the bottom-up culture that is so attractive.

Investments in innovative organizations are important, because we do need to evolve our Jewish community to continue to be relevant to its participants. Furthermore, we need to invest in helping more traditional organizations also make this shift to realign themselves with a rapidly changing paradigm. The “revolution” which Felicia and Dana refer to is in fact a tectonic shift, largely empowered by social media, that we cannot ignore. So where to begin? While the strategic questions may feel overwhelming and insurrmountable, dipping our toes in the water to begin to understand the evolving culture and the potential of the technology tools is a fruitful (and dare I say FUN) place to start.

Often I hear staff say “but where are we going to find the time to do this social media stuff? I don’t have even 10 minutes a day to spare.” While that may be true, we are spending a tremendous amount of time and energy (and dollars) in our “business as usual” routine, the products of which may or may not be the most efficient and effective way to achieve our goals and mission.

Take for example the synagogue newsletter. This 12 or 24 page monthly publication takes thousands of dollars per year in paper, labels and stamps, plus who know how many hours to write, edit, layout, photocopy, stamp and send 500, 1000, or 1500 copies each month. Can you tell me how many people read it cover to cover? What’s the most popular column? How many throw it in the recycling without even a glance? Even those who do read it cover to cover — what’s the impact on their participation, education, engagement, identity or support?

Now, can we borrow just 10 minutes a day from the team of people who put countless hours into that newsletter? I’ll help you measure the return on your 10 minutes. My guess is you’ll find it worthwhile.

There is no looking back. So we might as well start looking forward. How do you spend your 10 minutes of social media per day? What are the outcomes?