You’ve been promoted to “Buzz Director” (what, you don’t have one?)

It’s a particular crusade of mine to encourage not-for-profits to identify an internal champion (or recruit a virtual volunteer) to take on this role. Call it what you will, and David Wilcox and Beth Kanter, have both had a go at (re)inventing job labels. I like Beth Kanter’s “Social Media Coach”. But how about “Cause Evangelist”? Anyway, you get the idea.

Interest in social media among not-for-profits right now is high. A good many are researching good practice and developing their strategies for participating in and monitoring social networks and the blogosphere.

With this in mind, I thought I’d have a stab at unpicking the role of “buzz director” (or whatever). What follows reflects my belief that social media is more of a creative discipline than a technical one:

  • Before you get your feet to comfortable beneath your desk, remember that you should maintain a 360-degree joined-up view of your organisation at all times. Work across teams and departments.
  • Research the key blogs that cover the issue areas in which your organisation works, the related policy arena and other relevant topics. Find out what others are writing about your organisation.
  • Talk to everybody. Listen. Make it easy for colleagues to find you, or manufacture the conditions by which serendipity is more likely to occur.
  • If you see the never-ending strategic review dragging your new colleagues down, remind them of the reasons they joined your organisation in the first place. Get them passionate (and close) to your cause once again. Share their passion. Be energetic. Be useful.
  • Your role is to create a buzz around your cause (and secondarily, your not-for-profit ‘brand’). But resist any desire (or pressure) to “own” the cause. Far better to identify the communities where your supporters and activists are already and join in the conversation. After all, whose cause it anyway? Again, David Wilcox hits the button:

    Many of the first round of tools – Web 1.0 – were linked to existing social structures and ways of doing things. Web sites would be like magazines online. Forums online would be places you went to, just like physical events. It was quite costly and difficult to create online places, so they tended to be collective rather than personal. You now need to be in all places at once.

  • Get into web widgets. While you’re not in the world domination business, your own website can still be a magnet. Create something useful (e.g. your events calendar, appeal running totals) that your dispersed supporters can add to their own blogs. Beth Kanter can tell you more about widgets…
  • Work with legal to write your blogging guidelines. Anticipate more scrutiny into your organisation and its work (which you should welcome) and identify the possible pitfalls. Balance risks vs the opportunities. Get ready for some tough love.
  • Coach your colleagues on blogging. Help them through the inevitable rough patches. Continually give feedback on how to write, and how to be generous.
  • Talk to the press office/pr/media dept and work with them to identify key bloggers and build relationships with them to get your news and stories out. Explore the options for podcasting and video from emergency locations to get across your side of the story. Blogs can be a good way to break news that the mainstream media can pick up on and amplify. Try letting people post comments to the press releases your organisation publishes online and introduce colleagues to the concept of the social media press release.
  • Set up a group photo pool in Flickr to upload, tag, and share photo stories online with your activists and fundraisers. Create a unique tag and invite your fundraisers to post photos on Flickr using this same tag. Build a visual archive your organisation’s work. This will all have a cumulative effect over time.
  • Take baby steps and start small by blogging around an event. Josh Hallett tells you all you need to know.
  • Include blogs and social media in your next supporter survey.
  • Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t neglect those traditional methods that have served your organisation so well. Appearances can be misleading: the average age on MySpace is 35.
  • Develop social media optimisation across all your online communications. This means working tirelessly with communications, fundraising, campaigns…
  • Your role is to help colleagues to plan, deploy, monitor and refine your blogs and social media activities just as you would for any other communications and engagement tactic.
  • Share what you learn with colleagues and network with people in other organisations who sit in seats like yours to identify new ways to calculate the benefits, costs and risks of blogging. Work with them to create a framework for measuring the ROI of your blogging efforts. Join the search for a new metric for engagement.
  • Explore ways to keep in touch and to share ideas and insights and share links to new developments. Embrace opportunities for collaboration.
  • Don’t stall on starting to use this stuff until you “know the ROI of blogs”, but continually refer to your organisation’s mission and ensure that this activity aligns with your strategic goals. Plan for 6-12 months time, but start experimenting sooner. Set realistic expectations.
  • Don’t get too big for your boots and call all this a ‘project’ because it will run into the rails. Don’t call it a pilot as no one will take it seriously enough.
  • Do prepare a monthly report of activity and ensure it is distributed widely within the organisation.
  • Not-for-profits unwilling to consider some or all of the above, risk becoming irrelevant. How will your organisation be different in three years time?

Of course, this is only a start. Comments most welcome.