Social Media for Nonprofits: The good, the bad and the ugly

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Image by Kaptain Kobold via Flickr

I love social media.  I also know using it effectively is a powerful advantage for the nonprofits who make the investment. Thanks to that enthusiasm, I sometimes gloss over the medium’s downsides. So when Katya Andresen called for “good, bad, and ugly” posts for the March Nonprofit Blog Carnival, I knew it was time to paint a more complete picture of social media for nonprofits.

The Good

I’ll cover this one quickly, since my entire website is basically a shrine to what’s “good” about social media.

The Bad

Not Free

Social media marketing is inexpensive, especially compared to more traditional marketing methods like direct mail or advertising, but it’s not free.  Even if you don’t need a consultant or designer to help you get started, the amount of time and energy you need to invest to see results is significant.  Additionally, the tools change constantly, so the time you spend learning how to use Facebook today will have to be re-invested in three months when Mark Zuckerburg decides to change the interface.*

Mistakes will be Made

Playing it safe in social media is a waste of time.  There are too many voices and they are shouting too loudly.  The only way to make the investment worth the effort is to figure out which tools, techniques and messages resonate best with your people.  Which means making guesses about what will work and seeing what happens.  If you are doing it right,  some of your ideas will fail.  That has to be ok.  As Clint Eastwood would say, “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.”

The Ugly

Have you ever read the comments people leave on newspaper stories? Most are vile enough to shake even my faith in the internet’s power to serve as a medium for valuable discourse.  Sometimes people are  mean for the sake of meanness, sometimes they lash out because they have a very important message to communicate, but don’t know any other way to express it.

In both cases, when incivility goes unchecked, cesspools result.  It’s your job to make sure your little corner of the internet isn’t one of them.  An enforced code of conduct is a good place to start.  Read this one from Ubuntu before you write your own.  It’s the best example I’ve seen for how to create rules without assuming bad intentions on the part of your community members.

Your Turn

What did I miss?  Share your own version of social media’s “good, bad, and ugly” in the comments.

*This is why I recommended Facebook guides like this one from Grandma Mary.  When Facebook changes, she sends updated versions of the guide for free.

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