Treat Social Media Like Your Old-fashioned Network


By Robert Windon

About 10 years ago, I was lent a copy of the book, Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty by Harvey Mackay. It is one of countless great books on networking; Harvey’s message is not simply that networking is important but that it is most effective when the network is created before it is needed. While I had always believed in the power, and necessity, of networking, this book ingrained in me the importance of growing your network so that it is there when you need it- or more accurately, it is there before you need it.

Ever since social media marketing became a buzzword there has been great debate about how it should be used and its effectiveness. Large organizations devote countless resources to creating content, analyzing quality of posts, and adjusting tactics based upon that information. But smaller organizations often do not have the same time and resources to dedicate to social media and, therefore, do not invest at all. These organizations act like if they are not going to engage in large social media marketing campaigns, then there is no value in social media.

But these organizations that skip social media altogether, either by design or by default, forget that behind all social media is a social network. And that network works the same way your old-fashioned network does. That old-fashioned network is there to help you get a job, to help you find the best doctor in your area, to help you spread the word about your new product or service, and much more. The common theme is that your old-fashioned network is in place so that you have people to reach out to in times of need.

Recently, I watched a non-profit organization I cared about get thrown into a crisis. This organization mobilized quickly and did the right things; they organized their members, they pushed their message out via social media with quality content, and even appropriately created and used a ‘hashtag’ to drive the conversation. The problem they encountered was that they had not developed any of their social media platforms and, therefore, their posts did not have the reach necessary to spread their message.

Small business and non-profits that might not see the value in, or have the resources to dedicate to, full-fledged social media marketing should still invest the time to basic social media networks; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to name just a few. Not all platforms are appropriate for all organizations but these organizations need to invest enough time and energy to find out which platforms are best for them as well as how to grow and engage followers. It is important to have these followers when either a crisis hits or when there is simply a need to communicate information to a lot of people quickly. Furthermore, this does not solely apply to the organization itself. Officers and board members should be encouraged to develop and maintain a social media presence- many people who will not follow nor engage with an organization can be reached through personal connections. It is difficult to get all employees to advocate for a brand on social media but at least having officers and board members ready to push out the organizations message is crucial.

Smaller organizations should not ignore their social media presence simply because they do not have the resources of larger organizations. They ought to create a plan that develops their social media presence within the constraints of their resources. The value of this presence might not be felt today or tomorrow but, if it is there when it is needed it will be invaluable.

Robert Windon Robert Windon is a lawyer and communication professional from the Chicago area and currently living and working in Munich, Germany. A former prosecutor, Robert now consults with small businesses and non-profit organizations on legal and communication issues. Email: LinkedIn

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