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Talking Social Media with Author Rory O’Connor

The Internet and social media are powerful communication tools. In his new book, Friends,Followers and the Future: How Social Media are Changing Politics, Threatening Big Brands, and Killing Traditional Media, author Rory O’Connor discusses how digital media  is drastically impacting the way we communicate and receive information. We asked Rory some questions about how nonprofits can best take part in this digital revolution.
CM: Digital media is redefining the way we think about brands. What do you think nonprofits need to do in order to keep their brand and content trustworthy in this digital age?
ROC: Non-profits will need to find a way to stand out in an increasingly cluttered brand environment. One way to do so is to ensure that you are providing highly reliable and credible information about your topic area in new ways that audiences are migrating to – such as mobile, for example, which is exploding in importance, and of course social media. But the main things groups and individuals alike need to keep in mind is to be authentic, use a human voice, don't oversell , and concentrate on providing news and information people can trust about things important to their lives.
CM: In 2011, social networks such as Twitter and Facebook were used by the masses as catalysts for social change. How do you feel nonprofits can best take advantage of these communication weapons to promote their cause?
ROC: I would highly recommend being specific. Pick one issue, make sure it has an actionable component and is at least potentially successful. Then try to move your members, friends and followers to take some easily understood action. That action should ideally be easy and quick, such as a one-click donation, request to sign a petition, etc. As you become known to an expanding group of people seeking good information, ask them to multiply your influence by friending, tweeting, linking, liking and in general redistributing the informational media you have been creating, aggregating and curating.  Let the network work for you. And don't use social media just to push forward news of your organization and its events – that's more like advertising than conversing!
A few other essentials: photos, infographics and especially video are far more effective in communicating and persuading online than, say, just words. Remember that people seem to have a shorter attention span than ever, so be punchy with your tweets and use links to drive interested parties deeper into the issues. Also, no size fits all on the Web. Facebook might be right for one project but YouTube better for the next, and Twitter for the one after. Social media (like all media) are simply tools, which can be sharp or dull depending on who is using and maintaining them.
CM: What advice do you have for nonprofits who haven’t yet adapted to the digital revolution?
ROC: Drop everything and get started ASAP!
Interested in reading Friends, Followers and the Future? Pre-order your copy. Has your nonprofit fully adapted to the digital revolution? Please leave your comments and questions below.