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July 19, 2010

Refudiate Your Social Media Inhibitions

Sarah Palin made Twipples of snickers and depression today when, in a tweet defending her assault on the English language, she compared her "creativity" to Shakespeare's -- one wonders if an aide was dispatched to spell check that one.

Unfortunately, there may be people out there who revel in such audacity of dope. Unfortunately, some people place more importance on swagger than on substance. Finally, and, again, unfortunately, nonprofits and their supporters have something to learn from this: Social media is an arena that allows you to own your message. It's just that some people prefer more intelligent sounding messages than others.

“The 21st century is a really terrible time to be a control freak,” the State Department's Jared Cohen said recently in a New York Times article titled, "Digital Diplomacy." (NYT editors clearly don't have the audacity to call it like it is: Twiplomacy.) Indeed, even stodgy federal institutions are letting go of their messaging inhibitions to venture into the powerful marketplace of ideas and human bonds that is social media.

But it's important to recognize what really matters about social media -- the social (and if you happened to see Katya Andresen's recent tutorial on this, you know I totally just ripped her off). Take Twitter, for example. Viewed one way, Twitter is a closet full of shoes. When you're about to go to some tweet-frenzied technology conference, you put on your running shoes. When you tweet a news link from the New York Times during your Monday morning coffee fix, you're wearing business casual. But what matters at the end of your walk or run in Twitter shoes is the person in them.

Did your followers connect? Were they enlightened? What did you inspire them to do and how do you know they did it? Was it what you had hoped they would do? These are all very critical questions to consider when setting out on your Twitter strategy and owning your nonprofit's message and cause.

Today Jocelyn Harmon blogged about the 5 roles you need to fill when building an online community team, and added her own number 6: the "bridge builder," a brilliant idea in this age of increasing diversity. I hate to add another node on an already growing list, so maybe we can call this a sub-role, or something, but online communities need a Message Maker. Not to be mistaken with an editor, this role is the human bond in social media.

There is no clear formula for achieving this. It takes doing, and growing into things. For some, it might also take having a dictionary on hand, but we've beaten that horse enough.

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