Monday, January 25, 2010

Don’t Start What You Can’t Maintain: The Backside of Social Media

I've been noticing lately that there is a wide range of nonprofit use or lack of use of social media. Some organizations create their Facebook pages and do a terrific job of updating, providing fresh content, connecting with their fans, etc. Others create their Facebook pages and then rarely update them or rarely connect with their fans. Some organizations do a great job of using Twitter while others seem almost afraid of the commitment it takes. Debra Askanase of Community Organizer 2.0, asks some important questions of organizations and emphasizes the "relationship" building aspect of social media. Bunnie

Don't Start What You Can't Maintain: The Backside of Social Media
by Debra Askanase, Community Organizer 2.0

Social media is FUN. You get to make new friends. And pass along really interesting information. You get to ask others to help you change the world and support your cause. You meet all sorts of wonderful, generous people. But what are you really doing? You are creating gathering places, living rooms for discussion, kitchens for cooking up ideas, in order to develop real stakeholders. Social media is, after all, an engagement strategy. You want to create online ties that engage, create relationships, and move people to act on behalf of a cause, company, or organization. After you spend all that time creating those relationships, you have to commit to maintaining them.

What happens when you can't be there all the time that your stakeholders want to drop by? Or if you decide it's just too much work to cook meals regularly for all of those guests? Maybe your organization realizes that it's hard to maintain all those relationships, and just as difficult to post regular content.

This post is a look at the back side of starting a social media presence: the obligations of maintaining it.

It takes three to six months of work to build up an organization's social media presence. I think it takes a minimum of three months to start seeing a return on that engagement. Don't start if you can't commit to maintenance. Select your platforms carefully – what do you have time to maintain, and which platforms will take more time and resources than your organization has currently? The hard truth is that you have to commit to keeping that virtual kitchen stocked with food, and the virtual living room accessible. That means keeping the blog fresh with new content, communicating regularly, creating real relationships on social networks, and offering information and conversation topics on platforms regularly.

If your company's social sites are not tended to with care, then your organization is actually risking its online and offline credibility.

Here are some quick thoughts on the repercussions of not tending to your online presence:

People stop caring.

In the hyper-paced world of social media, your followers and fans quickly lose interest and forget you. Here's the test: the last time you or your company took a break from creating regular online content (conversations, news, articles, etc), how many people asked you where you were? There are a lot of organizations vying for time and attention online. Tend to those relationships regularly and cultivate lasting ones. The real test is creating relationships where someone writes to ask: "How are you? Haven't seen you posting much lately."

People stop spreading your news.

Viralness is a key factor in social media. If you aren't maintaining connections, people are less likely to pass along your content. Relationships strengthens the desire to "do good" for others, whether that's passing along content, recommending your site, or suggesting someone become of fan of your Facebook Page.

You lose friendship credibility.

If you're not there for them now, will you be there later? If you post content randomly, or only sporadically engage online, how can they count on you? If you are a regular news source for information in your field, you need to continue to do that. What if you posted content regularly, gathered a following, then stopped? When your organization decides to resume, it's lost its credibility for being dependable, and for maintaining the site. It may very well have lost viewers it cannot ever regain.

It's tempting to think that "no one will notice" if you are not maintaining your homes regularly, but someone always drives by. It's also tempting to think "it's all right if we don't put up any new content for a month." But someone cares, and misses it. That fan who would've done anything for your cause is a lot less likely to do that when they don't know why you went away for a while…or when you are coming back.

There is a marketing credo that it is much cheaper to keep a regular customer happy than find new customers. No matter what type of organization you are, it's easier to keep your existing following than to build a new one.

What do you think? Is your organization struggling with this very issue? How are you addressing the issues of time/maintenance/engagement?

You can contact Debra at


  1. Good advice!

    I also think that there are some generational strengths at work here. What may seem burdensome to a Boomer is like breathing to Gen Y-er. (Or even a Gen Xer like me!)

    It also requires a willingness to let go of control. Scary for many!

  2. It is scary for many, but if you try to keep control all of the time. Things can get too complicated, and you lose control (eventually) anyway. I believe.

    R. Cristi
    Author of Blonde Joke book!

  3. This is a well thought out post. One missing link though is the fact that not everybody who signs up for this social networking sites are there for business or career reasons. There are many who are there just to satisfy their inner self so they don't see the need to continuously release news or quality content on their pages just to keep it updated.

  4. You must make sure to choose a platform wisely that is you cannot raise funds with family and friends. Next is that your idea should not be vague. Then set up a goal choose that fund raising strategy that is well planned.