What You Don’t Know About Social Media


What You Don’t Know About Social Media is a guide that forms part of the Social Good Guides, a series of essential small-business guides created to support startup changemakers produced by the Social Innovators Collective. In this guide Andy Smith, co-author of The Dragonfly Effect, illuminates the many facets of social media and the best ways to utilize it to support your social venture. Some of the insights offered in this guide include the importance of laying claim to your social media space and using powerful platforms to communicate your message, the benefits of using storytelling and authenticity to get people to care about your organization, and why it is essential to have a single clear goal for what you want to achieve using social media. When asked about whether or not a social media strategy is diffrent for nonprofits vs. social enterprises, Andy responded: “Nonprofits tend to have more complex audience issues and have to strike a balance between those people who they serve and those who support the nonprofit. For-profit social enterprises have less complexity here, but need to find the right balance between their messages of good relative to product- or service-related messages.”

“Social media is fundamentally a person-to-person medium, so we expect to deal with an individual.”

Below is an excerpt from the Q + A section of the guide.

The Social Good Guides (SGG): Is the number of followers and fans enough to measure the effectiveness of your social media strategy?

Andy Smith (AS): Having an audience is necessary to amplify your efforts, but as anyone who has spoken to a large group will tell you, it’s far better to have a small group of people who are listening and engaging than it is to have a crowd that’s tuned out and waiting for something that interests them. So the sheer number of fans and followers constitutes the “website hits” of this decade. They are useful only in the sense of “is this microphone on?” but for little more than that. When applied in conjunction with other indicators of involvement (i.e., comments, shares, and embeds), the metric begins to be more meaningful as a yardstick for the proportion of your audience that is actually paying attention.

SGG: Should startups use their social networks differently depending on the audience they’re trying to communicate with?

AS: Startups need to appreciate the different appetites of users in different networks, and as there are many people who use several networks, the different appetites of the same people in different social contexts. For example, Twitter is well suited to communicating broadly with extremely timely posts – created as short, punchy, and sharable headlines – and links to deeper content. Facebook is great for slightly longer-form content that allows people to self-express their interests and values while sharing something useful with closer sets of friends. Overall the core message, the startup’s story, needs to be consistent, but experimentation will reveal the types of content that propagate best on a particular network.

SGG: What’s the importance of having a unified voice throughout all of your social media platforms?

AS: Having a unified voice is critical to deliver on three key brand elements:

1. Centeredness, consistency, and, by extension, professionalism

Even if you are a fun brand or an irreverent brand, it pays to be consistent. Customer service and finance emails should reflect their disciplines, but should also stand up to the test: Does this, on its own, fairly represent our brand?

2. Humanism

More than any other media, social media sets an expectation for dealing directly with another human, not a faceless organization. Humanism leads to customer intimacy and lower barriers. It’s more difficult to feel that intimacy if it’s difficult to reconcile language and tone across platforms.

3. Truth and transparency

Wherever a customer or an employee sees their company in social media, it reinforces their own belief and experience making their connection stronger. If the company is going to encourage employees to participate in social media themselves, it’s critical that the brand on the outside reflects the brand on the inside.

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