As the leader and voice for your nonprofit organization, should you as the CEO or executive director use social media as part of your organizational or personal leadership tool set? Certainly, your marketing communications staff has talked about the benefits of effective social media integration that personalizes your organization’s brand with the voice of its leader – you. But getting into the habit of regular tweeting, Facebooking, or experimenting with new tools like Instagram is another story.
It’s not that you don’t think it is a good idea. But you are probably, like most who work in the social change sector, incredibly busy. Maybe you are muttering to yourself “Who can find the time to do social media?” It isn’t a matter of finding the time, it is a matter of making the time and starting with some steps. Have a conversation with your social media team and ask these questions:
- What do you spend time doing now that you could do better via social?
- What other executive directors in your field that you respect, follow or and feel inspired by are using social creatively?
- What are your strengths and preferences and what is the best match in terms of social channels?
- How will social improve things you already KNOW and value?
The executive director for the ACLU-NJ, Udi Ofer, had that exact conversation with his staff when he was started last February and set up a Twitter account @UdiACLU and started using Instagram and YouTube to answer questions about marriage equality, DOMA, police misconduct, and other issues on the organization’s docket. While the communications department has suggested the idea, he was on board from the start. He does his own all of his own tweeting and as his communications staff reports, “enthusiastically at that!”
Udi was not on Twitter before he started tweeting for his organization and was a Twitter novice, but he was opened to sitting down with his communications staff for a half hour tutorial where they showed him the basics of using Twitter and how to do it from his mobile phone. What did the trick was a “How To Tweet” cheat sheet that not only included the simple mechanics, but also sample tweets from other ACLU leaders around the country, subtle form of peer pressure. Says Eliza Stram, ACLU-NJ Communications Associate, “I was able to make the sometimes intimidating prospect of tweeting approachable and very doable. In other words, if your peer at another ACLU Affiliate can do it, then so can you!”
Stram also says that her new boss was very open and enthusiastic in trying out this new way of communication with reporters, civil liberties activists, and their supporters. Says Stram, “Without that openness, I don’t believe he would be having nearly as much fun with Twitter as he is now.”
By using twitter, the ACLU-NJ’s is not just sharing what ate for breakfast, Udi provides quotes on his organization’s most important cases and issues to reporters, in addition to their traditional press release or emailed statement. He is also publicly debating civil liberties issues with reporters, lawyers and followers. As Eliza notes, “Something that would have been impossible to do unless you were sitting with him in his office. ” There is the occasional personal tweet, but these serve to make him seem approachable and human.
While Udi is the face of the ACLU-NJ in the organization’s “official” communications such as press releases or in newspaper articles or sound bytes on the evening news, Twitter has become the place where he injects warmth into the organization. Says Eliza, “This is accomplished through the “Ask Udi Anything” project, which asked ACLU-NJ’s followers to pose questions about his goals for the organization and even what his favorite karaoke song is! By answering the public’s questions in a video Udi became an accessible, humorous, and more personal face for the ACLU-NJ.”
Udi is just one example of nonprofit CEOs and leaders who use Twitter and other social media platforms. Take for example Robert Falls who is the artistic director of the Goodman Theater he not only uses his personal Twitter account to highlight the Goodman’s shows, but also to share creative ideas, connect with peers, and discuss the art of theatre.
Getting Past the Learning Curve
Don’t let the learning curve get in the way of adopting social media as a personal and organizational leadership tool for your organization as Alexandra Samuel advises in this recent post on the WSJ. While learning any new skill or tool will feel daunting when you start, if you can get started with small steps and practice it daily for a short amount of time, like Udi you’ll be a whiz in a matter of weeks. Samuel also offers some ways to approach social media as a personal leadership tool. This include:
- Create a Leadership Dashboard: Using a tool like Mention or Feedly, you can put together a small list of leadership blogs or publications and set aside 15 minutes a day to read.
- Stay Focused: Use online visualize tools to mindmap ideas
- Amplify Your Voice: If you are sharing articles suggested your staff or colleagues “read this,” switch the channel to something like Twitter.
- Social Media Golf Course: Find a tool or channel that is simply fun and have some play time.
If you are a nonprofit CEO, how did you get comfortable with incorporating social media into your personal and organizational leadership tool kit? What support and encouragement did your staff provide? Do you have an “ah ha” moment from social media a leadership tool that convinced you it wasn’t a waste of time?
At the end of the month, I’ll be facilitating a workshop at the 92nd Street Y in NYC call “Social Media Mindsets and Toolsets for Nonprofit,” an interactive workshop is for executive directors and organizational leaders that work for nonprofits and want to learn tips and techniques for scaling social in their organizations. The workshop is co-presented by Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society. This will be a great opportunity to take a deep dive about these issues.