A Social Path to Community Support

Social media is about more than being social, it’s about building a community, and often around areas of related interest.When it’s your real-world community you’re trying to engage, social media provides an excellent set of tools.

I recently had the privilege of participating in a discussion panel with Mike McCamon, chief community officer for Water.org, a non-profit organization that provides safe drinking water in third world countries. When Mike talks about engaging his communities, he groups his goals into three areas: friendraising, fundraising, and fussraising. I look at these concepts in the following way:

Friendraising: Friendraising is most often used to mean fundraising based on personal relationships. In a social media world, however, it’s about building a social community, engaging them, and motivating them to support your cause. To do this, you need to be interesting, passionate and genuine. Unlike the interruptive communications model used in TV or radio, social media members choose to listen to you.

Fundraising: Your organization probably has a foundation that raises funds to support the organization. Social networks play a growing role in fundraising … as a method to send an appeal to your supporters and as a method for them to share that appeal to their networks, effortlessly.

Fussraising: In addition to monetary support, there are many ways you can give to organizations (and use your network to do so). Ask your network to spend time learning about your issues. Ask them to use their reputation by visibly supporting your organization online and offline. Motivate them to evangelize for your cause and write letters of support.

Certainly, your organization needs financial donations to build new buildings and offset the costs of charitable care, but it is often other forms of support that prove to be critical. For example, when you are adding additional inpatient capacity, your organization may need to go through a certificate of need application process requiring clear evidence of community support. Your job is to reach out to people in your community, inform them about your challenge, excite them about the opportunity, motivate them to write letters of support, and share the message with other community members.

For classically trained marketers, using social media to build community support is a challenge that requires new skills and a new outlook. Amongst these challenges is the need to build a network of followers up front. Unlike communications via TV commercials, where you use the station’s network, social media requires you to build your own network. It takes time, but the payoff is rewarding, because your network is interested in what you have to say. When you begin from this point, you have a far better chance of success.

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Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

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