I had an operation for a brain tumor at age 14, which forced me to learn and function differently as an adult. In some areas, I need more feedback and assistance on the job than the average person. On the bright side, this has added to my understanding of social media: These aren’t lectures; they’re conversations!
Ever since I majored in communications, the one principle that has stuck with me is, “The medium is the message,” as Marshall McLuhan so wisely put it in “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.” This came to mind as I considered the question, “How do nonprofits best market themselves in the Web 2.0 era?”
Although nonprofits, as a rule, are providing services rather than goods, we who work in the field are most interested in engaging in dialogues with people, educating others about a cause, and telling the success stories of people who have benefited from our work.
In my current position, part of my responsibility is to make others aware of how we are improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families. While we have a main website that explains our services, I decided to take it a step further by creating a WordPress blog, a Twitter page, and a Facebook Page, as well as using other social networking tools to make contacts.
The progress of each new site was slow at first, as I had limited experience using them for marketing purposes, and also understood that building a network, like a city, takes patience. However, as Katya Andresen says, “Connect with your supporters in many ways, online and off, if you want to build the deepest connections.” So in addition to using online tools like the ones above, we’ve engaged in letter-writing campaigns, spread our message through word-of-mouth, and held events that benefited people with disabilities across Georgia.
As for our blog being a social medium, originally it had been hosted at BlogSpot. At the advice of two friends in the marketing field, I suggested using WordPress for its more professional appearance and reputation. With those elements in place, our CEO, Whitney Fuchs suggested sticking more to a theme, and focusing on disability success stories, including my own.
Twitter is proving beneficial in getting GCSS’s name out there. I use it to promote the blog and our latest events, but more importantly, to virtually “meet” other individuals and organizations worldwide. Through it, we’ve welcomed comments and information from many with likeminded goals (in spite of the site’s occasional technical frustrations).
So, does that prove that “the medium is the message”? I believe so. I just keep in mind that the message always must have substance.
Eric Pudalov is community events coordinator for Georgia Community Support and Solutions, a nonprofit that serves the needs of adults and children with developmental disabilities. His claim to fame is having pounded fists with fellow slam poet Mos Def at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in Manhattan.