We keep hearing that social media use has to support our strategic objectives. Still, it’s difficult to resist the lure of shiny new platforms, even for hyper-focused Graham Machacek, director of marketing communication and business development at Volunteer Canada.
They integrate these channels with the association’s web site and the microsites for specific initiatives. Take the examples of last year’s landmark research on the changing face of volunteerism and Get Involved, which matches volunteers’ interests and personality with the needs of volunteer organizations.
Face-to-face meetings and conference calls are also important ingredients in the mix.
A web that works
“It’s a web that works together,” says Graham, “furthering the objectives of Volunteer Canada, namely promoting thought and practice leadership as well as its relationships with stakeholders and its own organizational health and sustainability.”
Graham insists that “everything always relates back to our mission. Each media is used according to its demographics and strengths. For example, we use Twitter to share links and Facebook more for conversation and opinion.”
Let me disclose that Graham is a client. Naturally, I met him volunteering, for the International Association of Business Communicators.
Recently I produced an annual report with him. When we were planning, president & CEO Ruth MacKenzie expressed her desire to collaborate with the association’s many stakeholders.
So I suggested we create a report in an interactive blog format where members could express their opinions on specific questions and share their stories. Grasping how this would his would help them listen and shape their brand together, Ruth and Graham immediately agreed.
Conversations with stakeholders
This interactive format stimulated conversations about the burden of volunteer screening in sports leagues and similar groups as well as the role of new Canadians in volunteering, underscoring the importance of these issues to Volunteer Canada leaders.
What’s more, it demonstrated that Volunteer Canada wanted to hear from members who would be more interested in the report than Facebook updates. As Deborah Gardner, executive director of Volunteer Toronto, told me: “It meant a lot to us that we were asked.”
Graham urges non-profits that have not taken the plunge “to recognize that social media is here to stay. You need to collaborate with your audience to define your brand and these channels help you do that. Your brand isn’t only about how you want to be seen, but how others perceive you,” he says.
“Anybody can sit down and tell you what their brand values should be, but you need to take a look at how people see you. That’s especially important for nonprofits.”
Reflecting on a recent podcast he produced with social media guru Brian Solis, Graham pointed out that “ín this day and age, people have more power than ever before to influence change. If you base everything on the objectives, then chose the right channels, you will do the right thing.”
Volunteer Canada “is very progressive and innovative, so there were not any issues,” he notes. However, communicators for nonprofits who run into resistance are advised by Graham “to say why it’s important, why it drives your objectives. And put your time and energy into deciding which channels are getting the most traction.”