Social media’s great. I’m on Twitter and Facebook nearly everyday (and LinkedIn once in a while). It’s how I stay current with people, organizations and issues in my networks and fields of interest. I can instantly connect with lots of folks and keep my finger on the pulse for things I need to do my job effectively…or just kill time.
You don’t have to look much further than success of Facebook or Instragram selling for $1bn to know that tons of people take this stuff seriously. Last year 73% of Fortune 500 companies were active on social media and 88% of nonprofits have experimented with social media. And a McKinsey & Co report found that there is up to $1.3 trillion in untapped value from improved productivity using social media. Impressive stuff.
But I don’t just want to add to the existing heaps of others praising the virtues of social media. Rather, I want to highlight some of the “traditional” forms of communication that are likely to be essential to nonprofits and businesses forever.
The very definitional of “social”, interacting with people face-to-face is what helps to forge lasting relationships – both personally and in business. Part of building connections and trust with people is providing them with the cues and authenticity that can only come from body language and tone of voice. There’s that famous research on the effectiveness of a speaker that found the impact of a presentation is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and only 7% the words you say. So, yes, face-to-face contact is pretty important. In the nonprofit world, think about how many six or seven figure gifts are secured without in-person contact. Few to none.
Encompassing face-to-face contact, but also other forms of communication, like phone, handwritten notes, personalized emails, etc, meaningful contact shows a level of care and consideration that is pretty hard to achieve in social media. Tweeting to someone is nice and all, but it’s not personal. It’s publicly viewable by literally everyone. Ditto other social networks. And direct messages on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. are really just another form of email. Social media is definitely a great added value piece on top of other forms of communication (i.e. multichannel comms), but it would be very hard to build real, meaningful connections with donors and other stakeholders through social media alone. Facebook has shown that by its abismal track record as a fundraising platform.
What I hope I’ve got across here is that social media changes everything and changes nothing. It has revolutionized how we consume and disseminate information and connect to others, but still takes a backseat to personal contact when it comes to building meaningful relationships.