Proceed With Caution

July 28, 2011 § 3 Comments

Prospect research, social media, and ethics #APRA2011

The 2011 APRA International Conference is underway, and alas, I cannot be there. I am observing the twitter feed from my perch in Chicago, however, and seeing that there is some really great conversation going on. I wish I were there!

One of the interesting conversations is about (what else) social media! Folks are debating the ethics of using social media as a source for prospect research content. I’m gathering from some of the tweets coming from Austin that people think the information shared through those channels is fair game. Jeanine Flores tweeted the question: Is it still too soon to use social media and analytics? My response is no, it’s not too soon, but I do think that researchers always need to be discerning about the source.

My rule of thumb when gathering information about prospective donors goes to the following question: Would the prospect be happy to see the information in their profile if they were to have access to it? If the answer is no, then you shouldn’t use the information. Some may argue that if the social media is in the public realm, open and available for anyone to see, it’s okay to use it to build solicitation strategy. While the information may be out in the open, it is important to consider the intended audience. If a blog is out there to share with family and friends, even if it is open for anyone to see, gathering any information from that source can pose a risk to the relationship between that prospect and the organization.

To illustrate my opinion, I will say that any information that someone posts on LinkedIn is fair game. This is a professional networking site, and the intention of using this tool is to expand your professional network. Presumably, the end users want their information to be discovered here. Facebook, on the other hand, is more personal in nature. Also, I don’t assume that people have a clear understanding of the privacy settings on Facebook. While I would not say that everything shared there is off limits (if you do indeed have access to it), be mindful and discerning. For myself, I will simply not look for or use any prospect information from Facebook.

In addition to this debate, I saw a few tweets referring to the need for every organization to establish a social media policy which includes something about prospect research and ethics, or that the confidentiality and ethics statement for the prospect research team includes something about the use of social media.

The bottom line on social media as an information resource: be discerning, proceed with caution, and when in doubt, don’t use it.

Social Media Evangelism: Part I

July 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Ten Commandments of Social Media  

How to make social media work best for you 

I have recently taken on the role of Social Media Evangelist at my church as a part of the effort to get the word out to the community about all of the wonderful goings-on there. I have been promoting the use of social media among all of our members, inviting people to tweet, update their Facebook status, and check in on Foursquare. The pastors have even gotten in on the action! Just today, Pastor Vernice preached from her new iPad, and created a hash tag for the sermon. So cool!

As the self-identified Social Media Evangelist for Broadway United Methodist Church, I have been approached by members of the congregation to teach them how to “do social media”. So, I am preparing to schedule a class for the early fall. Meanwhile, I’m having lots of conversations with folks and dispensing advice on the fly.* I thought I would write down a few rules of thumb here as part of my brain storming and preparation. Here I have assembled my own Ten Commandments (this was not an original thought – there are many “Ten Commandments” lists already out there from other social media evangelists, but these are my own.)

  1. Thou shalt be social: Social media is social! Social media is less about technology and more about relationships. It is more important to understand the culture and etiquette. Social media is a conversation, and like the dynamic in any relationship, there’s give and take. It won’t give anything to you if you don’t give anything to it. But like many relationships (hopefully), you can easily pick up where you leave off.
  2. Thou shalt not worship false idols: You are smarter than your computer or “smart” phone.  Technology itself is useless and dumb until humans interface with it. It is people and how they interact with technology that makes it so amazing.
  3. Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s smart phone: Social media isn’t for everyone. You should use social media to the degree that it is useful and natural to you.
  4. Thou shalt choose appropriate technology: Choose the tools that are right for you. There are many applications out there, and if you’re just diving into to social media for the first time, you don’t have to use them all. Start with one or two tools that most of your friends are using, because you want to be where your friends are, anyway.
  5. Thou shalt have fun. If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth the bother.
  6. Thou shall not disrupt your face-to-face interactions. By now, we’re all used to people being focused on their smart phones in meetings, on the bus, and in random social situations. Be mindful of the people around you.
  7. Thou shalt be patient with people who are not engaged with social media. Many people who don’t participate in social media will  judge it without understanding it. As you get into it, you may find that people assume that Twitter is stupid and Foursquare is a waste of time (and we all know what it means to assume anything). Don’t be deterred by the nay-sayers, and persevere with your own interests and engagement.
  8. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Before you share anything, be sure to check your sources and confirm whether or not the information you want to disclose is true, and your sources reliable. Don’t contribute to the stream of misinformation.
  9. Thou shalt practice social media etiquette. Be nice, and don’t take the bait from trolls. Positivity begets positivity. Be a good citizen and keep the discourse civil. When others are not civil, disengage from the conversation. Cite your sources, don’t use obscene language, and don’t forget to say thank you!
  10. Thou shalt focus on quality over quantity. Success in social media isn’t when you’ve accumulated the most friends or followers. Rather, it is about the quality of your interactions. If quality is your focus, your community will grow organically with relationships that are meaningful to you.
The “Part I” of this post suggests that I will follow up with sequential “Parts” that will cover different aspects of social media. I expect to continue developing the class for my church here. I hope you enjoy it! Feedback is gratefully welcome.

*Please note that I do not identify as a social media expert, guru, master, or supreme authority. I’m more of a dilettante, dabbler, amateur, or tinkerer.

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