Avoiding a digital ghost town

June 13, 2013       The NonProfit Times      

Is your nonprofit joining the social media phase with a plan or just because everyone else is doing it? If it’s the latter, you might find yourself presiding over a digital ghost town before too long.

Jon Warnow and Joe Solomon of 350.org lamented in “Nonprofit Management 101” that too many nonprofits enter the social networking scene with a “build it and they will come” approach. It’s easy enough to put together a Facebook page or create a new website, but getting people to actually visit them and actively participate is a little bit harder.

If you want to avoid having your own digital ghost town, Warnow and Solomon suggested following these seven steps that the learned while building 350.org:

  • Realize What’s Required: Just starting an online community and seeing what happens is a recipe for disaster, said Warnow and Solomon, so it’s critical to properly allocate resources in advance.
  • Empower a Community Builder: Behind every amazing online community is an equally inspiring and dedicated community builder. Find someone who has a passion for sparking conversations and connecting people to fill this role.
  • Lift Up Your Wired Champions: In general, the 80/20 rule applies to online communities — 20 percent of the network will drive 80 percent of the content. Warnow and Solomn wrote that the people in this 20 percent are your “wired champions,” and they are the secret to social networking success.
  • Prioritize Stories – Both Yours and Your Community’s: Sharing the story of your organization and the people it touches is the best way to build relationships and draw people in.
  • Be a Conversation Starter: To transform your community into a conversation hub, figure out a way to ask a question with your update, and start a dialogue.
  • Share Thanks in Spades: Gratitude is the chief currency of an online community, so express your thanks for member contributions generously and frequently.
  • Invite Everybody Outside: As you build your wired community, think about ways to bring your supporters together to meet you and each other in the real world.