So far our efforts with social networking have produced mixed results, which is not unaligned with our expectations. All in all, though, I’d say it’s been a success.
I’ll start not with the strategy, but with the functional areas of the organization we’re trying to impact. Our first serious efforts were on behalf of Susquehanna Service Dogs (SSD), which is a program within Keystone Children & Family Services. SSD holds PawsAbilities, its major fundraiser ,in March in Harrisburg PA. It is a 2-day event and its success relies heavily on a large turnout.
This year we heavily promoted the event through Facebook groups and local event websites. We recruited influential bloggers with service-dog credibility, to urge people to attend and/or to donate. We tweeted before, during, and after the event. We did live video streaming from some of the most fun events–like the dock dogs. It was a lot of work!
The end result was more press coverage, happier vendors (they got much more exposure), a more connected support community, and about the same turnout as the prior year. Given that the prior year was a year of very high attendance, and given that the US economy is very different this year (especially in mid-March) we’re calling this an enormous success. The blogs are continuing and are generating real followers and creating distinct communities, which is wonderful. The Facebook group has grown from about 25 members to over 700 (a squad!) and even our flagship website, www.keystonehumanservices.org is receiving new traffic.
Lessons learned so far:
- This is a lot of work, and it doesn’t seem to fall naturally into any one area of corporate responsibility. In our case, IT is the champion, but that seems to be relatively rare. Whoever takes the lead needs to be prepared to add a fair amount of workload.
- The online toolset is still in a state of flux, so be prepared to try several before you land on the one(s) that are best suited to your organization.
- Be prepared for internal skepticism. There are still people in my organization who firmly believe that computers are time wasters, and that most people don’t need access to the Internet. As much as I would sometimes like to dismiss that thinking as irrelevant in this decade, I need to take seriously the underlying concerns. We have serious work to do, and we mustn’t let ourselves get distracted by fads. I need to be able to justify this effort with clear strategy statements and with clear results.
that’s all for today . . . .
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