Three years ago I was a social media skeptic. I couldn’t really understand what benefit social media could have for a charity, little own why their CEO should be engaged on social media. If you have read some of my other blog posts you can see how radically my perspective has changed. Now I view social media as an important tool for nonprofits and their leaders. A little while ago one of the radio stations I listen to was talking about job positions that are likely to go away in the future and “social media expert” was one of them. Initially I was a little surprised by this, and I am not sure that we will see these types of positions going away in the near future. The reporters rationale for this prediction was that soon professionals, spokespeople and leaders of organizations will really need to become their own “experts” and will need to become adept at managing their own social media for the benefit of their organization. Makes sense, I suppose you don’t see companies posting for email experts or telephone experts, and social media is after all becoming just one more way to communicate with your users and stakeholders.
Getting back to the skeptical about social media thing, since my perspective on social media has changed so much; I am always on the lookout for other charity CEOs who are active on social media. I am most interested about those who share their perspective on it. Now at times reading these blog posts can be a fairly biased study as CEOs who are not active on social media would not be blogging about it, therefore most are likely to view social media in a positive light. Nonetheless I did come across an interesting blog post written by Simon Blake. When describing how social media is changing our landscape Blake (2014) describes;” It shifts how we connect and communicate with those around us and has huge potential to amplify our voice with and on behalf of users. It has created new boundaries between us and our staff, trustees, funders, service users, friends and between our personal, social, private and work interests and lives. It makes us more open to scrutiny, challenge and praise. It potentially makes us ‘fair game’ for the media, for partners, our objectors and our supporters for more hours each day, more days each week and more weeks each year.”
Blake goes on to describe;” Social media also makes it less possible or desirable for us to rely on well-polished press releases, sentences well-crafted by others with perfectly formed opinions.” For the most part I would say I am a fan of well-crafted messages with polish and professionalism. However to Blake’s point there is something to be said about messages and interaction that is a little earthier. Many nonprofit organizations work very closely with and for people. I think there is something that inherently resonates with our stakeholders when they feel they are hearing the “real “story about what we are doing for children, or families. Not the polished messages are not the real story or the truth, but there appears to be an authenticity or a genuineness to content that does not feel so prepared.
Another one of Blake’s quotes that resonated with me personally is:”…social media is revolutionizing the way we lead, the way we live and the way we connect with ourselves and others. It is changing the way we in the voluntary sector expect to achieve change and create the better world we seek. That makes it a big deal.” I think he is right- it is a big deal. Being engaged in social media allows us to hear from stakeholders and amplify our cause’s message in a way that has not been available to us at any other point in history.
Blake makes the further points :”….that is why we must embrace social media as CEOs – leading our organizations to maximize the benefits it brings in helping us achieve the change we seek. Who better to experiment, make mistakes and give others in our organization the permission to do so themselves?” Clearly maximizing the benefits to our organization is an important reason a nonprofit CEO to engage on social media. Additionally as Blake points out, it is a new way to exercise leadership. Managers and leaders have known for some time that if you want your teams to be innovative you must create a culture that does not punish people for making mistakes. As soon as you become overly punitive of mistakes you will shut down any form of risk taking which essentially shuts down creative thinking and innovation. A great way to reinforce your teams willingness to think creatively about better ways to fulfill or maximize you mission is to model some of these things yourself.
Blake,S (2014) Why social media is important for Chief Executives as retrieved from: