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Building Change Networks through Social Media

Posted by Steve Waddell in Communications on October 12, 2010

Social media maven Beth Kanter has teamed up with Allison Fine to produce The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change. The book is a primer for moving from an organizational to network mindset through social media. This complements the shift that I described last week in terms of core behaviors.

To keep up with social media developments you should follow Beth’s blog, where I find some details about the shift are better fleshed out than in the book. For example, I adapted the diagram below from a blog about a Social Media Strategy Map Workshop to look at social media from a rather narrow “communications strategy” perspective. The colored containers identify both steps and tools to develop those steps that move from listening to community-building. Of course the steps emphasis a development stage with a particular network or audience, rather than suggest that you ever stop using some tools. However, I find the categorization of the tools extremely helpful to get through the maze of social media.

In the diagram I added the clear containers “Static Website” and “Broadcast Media” to create a comprehensive picture of communications strategies for change networks. This is a totally different picture from the one I faced for the decade of the 1980s as a Communications Director. My own big insight about social media, which is rather obvious now, is that pre-social media world was about telling people things. My organization wanted others to understand and support its viewpoints and know about its activities. The social media network world is all about creating conversation spaces where people can develop connections, ideas and actions. Both are still important.

When I saw Beth and Alison at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society last week, they presented the shift to a social media network as the Table below. It presents the social media network in terms of “BE” as a precursor to successful social media “DO”. Their book describes the “social culture” of “BE” as:

In the “DO”, particularly important are individuals working outside of the organization as free agents who organize, mobilize, raise funds and communicate with constituents. But for people stuck in the pre-social media world, they represent threats to control. I’m convinced that a global change network will never realize its goals without learning how to work with them.

However, that does not lessen the importance of social media policy, and the book has many useful and practical suggestions and references for topics like this. For example, for policy it refers you to Mashable.com, which focuses on “news in social and digital media, technology and web culture.” This includes very useful social media policy guidance.

Ethan Zuckerman, co-founder of Global Voices, was also at the Harvard meeting. He commented that Beth’s and Alison’s book is really good for organizations wanting to complete the shift from an organization to a social media networked entity. He added that we also really need more great examples of fully integrating social media throughout a change strategy. He asked for examples, and I mentioned one great example of wikipedia’s approach to developing its strategy…and discovered Ethan is on Wikipedia’s Advisory Board! Of course these examples deserve many more books of their own.

You can check out Beth’s and Alison’s presentation on the Berkman Center’s site.

Comment from Beth:

The social media strategy map post (with the diagram) that you point to is from 2008 and project called "WeAreMedia" where nonprofit and social media professionals co-created curriculum on a wiki. As we started that process, the idea of scaling social media beyond the communications perspective was only a pipe dream. Now, a few years later – as more organizations are adopting social media – we’re beginning to see that communications integration is just the first step towards scaling.

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