Great Motives. Good Question. Wrong Context.

How can we use social media to raise money?

That question was presented last week at a breakfast meeting to some of the brightest social media enthusiasts I know. We divided into small groups and brainstormed ideas to support three startup nonprofit causes.

We knew little about the grassroots projects other than what we were told in the three-minute overviews presented by representatives from each cause.

I sat in my group struggling to engage. My mind was churning with unanswered questions screaming to be asked before we jumped into the weeds with such a tactical question.

As others in our group chatted, I began to question whether social media were even the right tools to achieve the desired results.

Here’s my underlying philosophy: Social media are tools that can be used to engage members of a community in conversations. From that simple philosophy flow questions such as:

  1. Who exactly is our community? Who do we want to talk with?
  2. What do we want to tell members of this community? Why? What do we want them to do with the information we share?
  3. What conversations are already going on? How can we best listen to what others are saying, and then join in?
  4. Within the existing conversations, what is not being said that we’d like to add. Should we initiate new conversations to get people talking?
  5. Are there other people we should invite into our community? If so, who are they? Why would they want to become part of our community, and what would they find relevant in our conversations?

Before using any tool, it’s important to ask, “Why?” Why are we doing this? What’s our purpose? What are we trying to accomplish? For example, if I were a carpenter, I’d like to know what I was building before I began to swing a hammer. Who knows, I might even realize that a hammer was not the right tool at that stage of the project.

My mantra is strategy before tactics. Let’s know why and who and what before we jump into how.


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