Last Sunday I was involved in a Twitter conversation with watfordgap, kanter, magicroundabout and others about how much time voluntary organisations have to devote to using social media.
Paul Webster (watfordgap) made a comment that perhaps we should be encouraging organisations to start out in social media by introducing them to things like Google+ or Pinterest. I find myself disagreeing with Paul on that point and I wanted a few more than 140 characters to say why.
Before writing anything I want to make it clear that I’m not saying I wouldn’t advise organisations to use Google+, Pinterest or anything else. I hope that after working through what an organisation wants to achieve, who they’re trying to reach and what resources they have available then I’d help them to pick the best tools for the job, whatever they may be.
I’m also talking specifically about working with staff at organisations at the start of their social media journey and not individuals interested in social media for personal reasons.
The thing that I always focus on is the tools that will give them a thorough understanding of how social media works and what will give them the biggest return for the amount of time they’re able to give to it.
In my experience of working with organisations, when you get hold of someone to show them what social media’s all about you don’t have very long to grab their attention. If they don’t get some kind of benefit from it – either connecting with someone, sharing a piece of information or finding something out – very quickly then you’ve lost them. Sustained benefit from social media comes out of the personal connections and conversations with people you meet through the sharing and talking.
The other thing to consider is that they need to use a tool that will give them a return on the precious time they have to give to social media, whatever their indicator of success might be.
In my mind the answer to this is almost always Facebook and Twitter. Facebook works because of its ready made networks and with a well set up page, regular updates and clear promotion it can bring big returns for organisations. Twitter similarly is very quick to get benefits if you jump in and start talking to people.
My issue with sites like Pinterest and Google + is that although there are undoubtably benefits to some people, there just isn’t the established audience yet to make it a good use of time for organisations with limited resources. Pinterest particularly misses out on that key element of just chatting.
Anyway, that’s what I think. I’m sure you’ll tell me what you think.
Beth Kanter has also written up her thoughts on whether charities should jump onto new tool bandwagons http://www.bethkanter.org/early-wait-google/.