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Getting wrapped in the web of influence

The following blog is by Jeff Achen (guest post).

There’s a new vernacular that’s creeping into communication job descriptions in all sorts of industries including our own. I’ve been intrigued by one phrase in particular: “an understanding of the social web.”

Have you seen it? What’s your take on it? More importantly, do you have an understanding of the social web?

Beyond the basic understanding of what social networks are, how social media works, and how to grow followers/fans, I believe there is an aspect of “understanding the social web” that is a distinct skill worth appreciating, and of course, honing: How to harness the new realities of influence on the web.

In his book “Social Media ROI,” Oliver Blanchard explains how social media has changed the dynamics of influence. He writes,

Consider that the average Facebook user is connected to between 100 and 200 friends on that service alone and spends an average of about 55 minutes per day posting updates and recommendations, sharing links, and endorsing products and brands by clicking the service’s ubiquitous ‘Like’ button. To this, add personal blogs, Twitter, location-based applications, and hundreds of other community platforms. What social media does is this: It takes your basic word-of-mouth process and multiplies both its velocity and its reach.

Tie into this the notion of “free agents,” as introduced by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine in their book “The Networked Nonprofit.” Beth writes,

A free agent, as we are defining it, is a person (many times a GenY, but not always) who is passionate about a social cause, but is working outside of a nonprofit organization to organize, mobilize, raise money, and engage with others.

Largely outside any one person or organization’s control, this new reality of influence is increasingly the responsibility of those of us tasked with “understanding the social web” for a nonprofit organization. But, don’t underestimate the power of understanding something.

If you understand how influence works in today’s social web, you can put many tools to work for your nonprofit organization. One such tool set is “social fundraising tools.”

Here at GiveMN.org and Razoo.com, not to mention many other online fundraising platforms, we offer a number of peer-to-peer fundraising tools that allow free agents to fundraise on behalf of their favorite organization or cause. This includes individual fundraising and team campaign pagesthat anyone can setup for free to share with their friends, family and social networks.

I don’t mean to get into too much of a sales pitch here. It’s just that tools such as these are now part of the social fundraising and social web landscape.

There is great power in the social web. That’s why organizations are clamoring for young nonprofit professionals who understand it. We may not be able to control the tides of social networking, technology advancements or the latest social trends, but we can learn to help an organization surf the waves.

How has this new reality of influence manifested in the work that you do? How have you used your social influence or understanding of the social web to benefit your nonprofit organization? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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