When I was in graduate school, we had a mantra about the work that didn’t get done: “There is always an excuse, but there may not be a reason.” We used it to remind our colleagues (and ourselves) that just because we could justify our lack of progress didn’t mean we were off the hook.
I’m pulling out this old gem because when I hear nonprofit leaders talk about why they aren’t using social media to build relationships with the people who can help them achieve their goals, I hear a whole lot of excuses and not so many reasons.
I don’t care what you ate for lunch
This is a favorite excuse of social media avoiders. The actual complaint differs person to person, but it starts with “I don’t care” and ends with some specific light topic people tend to mention in social media (weather, traffic, flight delays, etc.) Luckily, it’s also the easiest problem to overcome.
Get over yourself.
Personal chit-chat is a part of living in a human society. Social media is a communication tool, and humans engage in small talk when they communicate. If you ask after people’s children, or inquire into holiday plans when you communicate with people in person, you can bite the bullet and learn to do the same when you use online communication channels.
I tried it and it didn’t work
If by “tried it” you mean you built a Facebook page, posted links to your website and yet, you were not flooded with new traffic, or you have a twitter account where you promote press releases about your events, you have not “tried” social media.
Social media is not an advertising tool, and it’s not a magic bullet. It won’t work over night, and you’ll only get benefit from it if you use it in a sustained way. Social media is a two-way communication tool that gives you and your organization the opportunity to find, and build relationships with, the people who are likely to be interested in what you have to offer. It also gives you the chance to “overhear” what people are saying amongst themselves about you and subjects you care about. Used correctly, these new relationships can be a key leverage point in your ability to get the word out about what you do–but only if you focus on the relationships and not your short term advertising or fundraising goals.
I don’t have the technical expertise
The internet may have been invented for geeks, by geeks, but, much to their chagrin, its most popular tools have been co-opted by lay people and re-built to accommodate our lack of technical know how (and interest). That’s not to say there is no learning curve. Like any new undertaking, getting started with social media will involve learning some new vocab words, getting comfortable with new customs, etiquette and standard ways of working, but it is most certainly not rocket science. You will be able to learn. If you are nervous, or just don’t feel like navigating the journey alone, I can help.
My people don’t use social media
If this one were legitimately true, it would be a good reason to exclude social media from your marketing plan. But, before you check it off your to-do list, be sure you aren’t underestimating your user base.
My grandmother is on Facebook. My co-worker’s daughter blogs about her mission work from a part of Africa where electricity is a “sometimes” luxury. I am more likely to learn about breaking news from Twitter than I am from CNN. In other words, social media is no longer a fad for teenagers and college students. Almost every one with an internet connection in the United States, and increasingly, around the World, uses social media in one way or another–and those numbers are not likely to drop any time soon. If your organization has a need to connect with individuals for any reason (ticket buyers, donors, volunteers, clients, etc.), you can benefit from social media. Even if you work for one of the very rare nonprofits that interact only with other organizations, those organizations are also made up of people. People who use social media.
Are there good reasons to avoid social media?
In the spirit of fairness, there are reasons to avoid social media. I just hope none of them apply to you.
What are your favorite excuses for social media avoidance? Have I over looked any good reasons for not taking the plunge?
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15 thoughts on “4 Poor Excuses for Avoiding Social Media”
Mo, as usual, well-said and thought-provoking … especially for me, as I *know* I don’t have time/resources, at this point in my life, to “do” social media in the way I believe it needs to be done … yet want to start being out there so that the small steps I am taking can be part of conversations where appropriate. Aigh! Maybe you should interview me for “moms who aspire to professionalism and social media, but who are flummoxed by the lack of hours in the day” or something like that.
It does all come down to lack of time, doesn’t it? I didn’t put that one on the list because I don’t think it’s a bad excuse–it is a legitimate reason. I do think nonprofits probably need to find the time–but I’m not sure I’d necessarily say that for individuals. If you want to find the time, I’d suggest you focus your efforts in the one or two places you are most likely to build the connections you are looking for. Oh, and don’t spend time beating yourself up over all the stuff you can’t do.
You hit the nail on the head, Mo! I hear these excuses all the time, and it’s really helpful to have some great “comebacks.” Thanks for a great post.
I’m glad the “comebacks” are helpful. I’ve had my share of conversations where I wasn’t satisfied with my answers to these excuses in the past, so I wrote the answers as much for my use as anyone’s 😉
Oh yes, I’ve heard each of those excuses. I may even have uttered one or two myself (hanging head in shame).
But, when you get right down to is, social media is about being *social* and that is key in no-profit work.
I do have to admit that as the first poster said time seems to be the biggest roadblock.
Thanks for this post,
You’ve hit it on the head, Sally–the point is being social, and there is no faking it. It can take a lot of time–but less time than it would take to build relationships with the same people in traditional ways. The trick is to focus the time you have available on the social media outlets that best resonate with the people you’d like to reach.
This was a great article. This really makes me
think about what strategies that can be created to change the negative preceptions that u illustrated in your article. Any articles you can suggest?
Thanks Shariya, I’m glad it was helpful. Sometimes, just pointing out the fallacy of the argument is enough to get people to open up to the idea of social media enough to actually try it. If not, this post form several months ago might help: Expensive isn’t (always) better. It includes links to the work of several social media experts including Chris Brogan, Sonia Simone and Amber Naslund. Good luck!
Hey Shariya–I also just ran across this great video from Scott Stratten with UnMarketing about using Social Media in nonprofits. It’s excellent.
Not to be a hater, but how about: “Social Media is based upon an exploitative business model that seeks to monetize your relationships and personal/private information.”
I totally agree that Social Media can be quite effective at reaching out to people. But I also think the business model that enables social media services (like Facebook and Twitter, or other “free” services that are ad supported) undermines the social change work some nonprofits are attempting to bring about. While on one hand social media strengthens your organization’s ability to organize and mobilize for a cause, on the other hand its strengthening massive media, advertising, and data-mining companies who will use the money they earn from your participation to act and advocate against your social interests.
Social media might be a necessary evil, but I think its important to recognize that there is an “evil” involved.
Hi Ben–that certainly counts as a reason–and one rarely gets mentioned outside of geek circles, so I’m glad you brought it up here.
Facebook and Twitter are absolutely out to make money–and part of their business model is based on gathering information from people who believe they are just talking to their friends. It’s a problem that needs to be continually monitored as the technology matures and more and more people start to use it.
That having been said, I don’t think having nonprofits boycott social media is the answer (nor did you suggest that it was). There may, however, be a role nonprofits could play in helping us, as a society, find the right balance between privacy and innovative business models.
I think you’re right that this barely gets mentioned outside of geek (and media literacy) circles. That’s what makes it pernicious. It’s not obvious how these tools work and who they enrich.
I presented a grant proposal last night at an anti-racism foundation. One of the other presenting groups was a community group that was organizing to make sure that stimulus projects were going to local/people-of-color contractors. They would drive around their community looking for those big “America Works” signs and then ask the contractors where they were from and record the gender/race makeup of the workers.
Unfortunately, with a lot of media tools its not that easy to know who is behind them. Facebook’s Board of Directors, for example, is entirely white men. Their Executive Leadership team, of 13, is 2 women and 1 person of color.
I don’t think a boycott is the right thing to do. But I think there should be broader awareness and dialogue about how the new Internet economy can reinforce existing structural inequalities and injustice.
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