Category: Marketing and Brand Development
Social media is an Internet platform that allows word-of-mouth communication not restricted by space or time. I can toss an idea into the Internet cloud, and a lawyer in Greenwood, a doctor in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a musician in Beijing can access the idea when it’s convenient. That has never been possible in the recorded history of our species.
A virtual dialog ensues where each participant offers feedback to fine-tune the idea I tossed into the Internet cloud. They leave a piece of their expertise. Architect William McDonough, used a social media platform to solve a specific problem. He invited collaborators to donate small increments of time and talent via the Internet. This group designed a large water-pump that doubles as a merry-go-round. Using indigenous materials and local labor, an African school now enjoys clean fresh water pumped by students during recess.
Digital word-of-mouth communication is a reality that will not go away. It is a global round-the-clock phenomenon in the midst of exponential growth.
Worldwide there are over one billion people who access the Internet today. With the proliferation of cell-phones, and WiFi access, that number will triple within a few years. Has anyone ever said, “Word-of-mouth is the WORST form of advertising”? What if your message can touch three billion people?
In an online Q&A format sponsored by The Chronicle of Philanthropy (July 2007), Cause Marketing Expert, Kristian Darigan, of Cone, Inc. (a strategic communication firm in Boston, MA) claimed,
“ in NOP World [National Opinion Polls] The Anatomy of Buzz, we are told that 92% of all people valued word of mouth more than advertising (50%) and editorial promotion (40%).”
This valued type of dialog is at the heart of all social-media.
The numbers and diversity of these social media sites often strikes fear in the hearts of NFPs and FPs. All organizations must stay on top of this tidal wave of social media, however, or they will drown in their ignorance. Small steps taken today can have tremendous impact on the health and longevity of organizations that have a web presence.
A quick trip to www.SmallerIndiana.com can offer a glimpse of a social-media platform in action that isn’t scary at all:
“Smaller Indiana makes creative people and innovative ideas easier to find […] share your ideas and engage with Indiana's most creative and inspired souls...working together to build community, culture and commerce.” (Emphasis added)
Smaller Indiana was established by Pat Coyle and Douglas Karr in December of 2007. Within seven months the membership is hovering around 2,600. Social media sites-- like Smaller Indiana--are populated with individuals who are like-minded and congregate around central themes. There are many sub-groups within the Smaller Indiana community, ranging from the Life Sciences group with 62 members, to the Creative Commerce: Art and Design group with 197 members.
Examining the diversity and sheer numbers associated with online communities is far beyond the scope of this article, but Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” is a must-read for in-depth analysis of this digitally-enabled diversification. Mr. Anderson, editor of Wired Magazine, contends the 80 / 20 rule has is closer to 98 / 2 on the Internet.
Social media platforms will continue to grow rapidly as an ever-increasing number of millennials (those born after 1985) jump on-line. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 70% of Americans--over 140 million people—access the Internet, with tens of millions belonging to at least one virtual community, and 16% of them visit social networking websites such as MySpace, and Facebook. (June 2007) This should be particularly appealing to NFPs because it costs nothing but time to gain exposure to this audience.
Advertising and editorial promotion are top-down strategies that can be used only by organizations that have a budget for the talent and/or broadcast ad space-- a luxury item for most NFPs. If we are to believe Ms. Darigan, the majority of people view these sources as un-trustworthy anyhow. NFPs boast transparency and trustworthiness as benchmarks of their sector. It’s a perfect fit!
If For-Profit organizations don’t use social media they are wasting precious word-of-mouth advertising opportunities. If a Not-For-Profit ignores social-media, they are negligent. Donors trust NFPs to keep administrative costs low, so this fear surrounding the use of social media must be conquered. Not-For-Profits must put a foundational-stake in the Internet—NOW-- by implementing a thought-filled and easily-maintained social media campaign. Donors will view your NFP as a worthy steward for their money.
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