Afraid of Losing Control with Social Media? Guess What, You’ve Already Lost it!

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Philanthropy411, in partnership with the National Network of Consultants to Grantmakers, is currently covering the Council on Foundations conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by Sokunthea Sa Chhabra, Director of Interactive Communications at the Case Foundation.

By:  Sokunthea Sa Chhabra

This is my first time attending a full COF conference, whereas I’m used to going to the more techie/communications conferences like NTEN’s NTC, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that Holly Ross, executive director of NTEN was on a panel yesterday with Sean Stannard-Stockton, Perla Ni and Julie Trell on The Role and Effect of Technology on Social Innovation. It’s no surprise that much of the conversation revolved around social media and how foundations can leverage it for promoting their issue areas, grantmaking and communications. The surprise, though, was hearing the apprehension in the audience around the risks of jumping in due to loss of control.

Then, when I went to a panel today that my colleague, Kristin Ivie, was moderating – a session called Get Online and Thrive Online: What Foundations Need to Know – with Adam Coyne of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Marc Fest of Knight Foundation and Jake Brewer of Sunlight Foundation, this same sentiment was expressed among the crowd.

Working at a foundation that lives and breathes social media and innovation, and supports risk-taking and experimentation, I sometimes forget that it is a bit scary to take the plunge into unknown territories like social media. Also, as the director of interactive communications at the Case Foundation, this is right in the middle of my world, so I’ve really drank the cool-aid. At this end of the adoption spectrum, all I (and the rest of us at the Foundation) see are the benefits.

I’m glad that both sessions had very similar answers that ring true. Here are some points from the panelists to consider if you’re hesitant about starting with social media:

  • You lost that control as soon as these tools were developed. Things can be said about you without your participation.
  • …And things will be said. So, why not be a part of the conversation, know what’s being said, and be able to respond?
  • Foundations are in a great risk position. At the end of the day, even if something bad is said, you still hold the money and make the decisions.
  • Think about getting online with social media like how you interact in person at a cocktail party. There are risks with what you say with inter-personal contact, why treat your online audience differently?
  • You can manage that risk by making sure your messaging is clear among your employees and developing some general guidelines to put in place.

Everything we do at the Case Foundation has social media built into the strategy, and it has tremendously helped us  – we’re able to better do and communicate our work, engage people, test our theories, and reach larger audiences in different ways. If you need more nudging to get on, check out our Social Media Tutorials at www.casefoundation.org/social-media-tutorials. It includes a quick video that explains social media strategy for your organization in a quick and easy way, simple resources to help you get started with various tools, and recordings of live streamed Q&A sessions we had with the best thought leaders in the area of social media for social good.

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