In a post today on Beth’s Blog, a question is raised regarding the efficiency with which nonprofits address their social media workload. As we learned from last week’s reading, it has become increasingly important for organizations to engage in social media as “networked nonprofits.” Doing so means that organizations must relinquish some traditional control in order to capitalize on the full potential of social media. However, for a nonprofit’s online presence to effectively serve their mission and carry an intended focus, some structure needs to remain in place. The Maturity of Practice Model shows steps through which nonprofits should transition to effective use of social media.
In this four stage model, organizations progress from “crawling” to “flying” as they implement social media policy. It all begins with drafting a plan and gaining support from the organizations departments. The plan must then be approved and agreed upon by management and key stakeholders. Next comes implementation, with the appointment of a social media position and training on social media practices. Finally, the organization can be considered an effective Networked Nonprofit when “staff use social media effectively to support organization objectives,” and the “social media policy includes a social media work flow or crisis response flow chart and it is used.” (Source: http://www.bethkanter.org/work-flow/ )
While admittedly naïve, my knee jerk reaction to this, particularly the idea of flow charts dictating dialogue on social media, was that it is too structured. As we have also recently learned and saw in the article that Emily posted last week, social media is best served with a human touch. The notion of pre-determined robotic responses passed down from PR decision makers contradicts and devalues that sense of personal interaction. However, on giving it further thought I can definitely see the rationale for this approach. For one thing, it increases efficiency by determining who is responsible for responding to social media commentary, and prevents confusion within the organization. It also provides a plan of action for crisis situations, and a way to deal with criticism which can become more public than ever on social media. Staying on top of this is one of the greater challenges faced by Networked Nonprofits, so having response mechanisms in waiting is crucial.
(I thought the Air Force flow chart provided a good example of how to deal with criticism.)
These are all things to keep in mind as we study how social media works in the nonprofit sector and prepare for potential jobs in the field. Presenting a consistent, unified message that represents our organization will be critical to success, and we will certainly be asked to adhere to, possibly even develop, sound social media practice in our professional lives.