The Smithsonian and Social Media Strategy

December 3, 2009 by

What do this, this and this all have in common? Someone thought they were a great idea, and they thought wrong. And sure, we can laud their creators for being willing to take a risk, but before we go there, let’s consider some other possibilities.

  • They saw their competitors doing similar things, and hoped to one-up them.
  • They assumed they could build a successful product out of independently-successful elements.
  • They thought of something neat to do and plowed ahead, ignorant of conventional wisdom and best practices.

Churches face all of the same temptations when it comes to social media. They feel they need to “strike while the iron is hot,” “keep up with the Joneses” or worse, “extend and develop their identity through brand equity and presence in a digital world.” And they forget to ask “Why?” and “How does it fit with our overall strategy?”

Search Engine Watch poses similar questions to businesses in a recent article. They make the particularly good point that employing marketing tactics without effective strategy is worthless.

And in a nonprofit, the returns are harder to measure and the stakes are much higher.

  • Are the people we want to reach likely to use this technology? If not, then it’s inexcusable to devote your time and resources here. If you answer this question accurately, you can be an early adopter. For this reason, it’s important to have some honest and tech-savvy staff or volunteers.
  • Is the attention required going to detract from what we’re currently doing? And if so, what isn’t working that we can cancel in order to give this technology proper attention? If you don’t have the capacity, and you can’t do it well, then don’t try it at all. File it away for when you have more capacity or the technology provides enough benefit to replace something else.
  • What are the consequences of not engaging in this way? In some cases, you’ll miss out on a huge opportunity. In other cases, you’ll need to shift a little more attention to an already-existing effort. This one’s easy to exaggerate if you’re naturally inclined to be an early adopter or particularly resilient to change. This definitely isn’t a one-person decision.

If you have a healthy understanding of your organization and strategy, you’ll be able to to ask specific questions and define healthy goals for the usage of new media. But don’t just take my word for it, browse the Smithsonian’s web and new media strategy. As they consider new media, they can easily see which goals it will meet and which it will not, and they can evaluate accordingly.

Could your church do the same? Before you jump on the bandwagon of the next big thing, remember that it’s much better to be an effective adopter than an early adopter.

Post By:

Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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3 Responses to “The Smithsonian and Social Media Strategy”

  • Duncan Robinson
    December 3, 2009

    Great thoughts Joshua, we launched both a Twitter and a FB page, and discovered our church is huge about FB, which made our FB page a big success, however that same success has not quite translated onto Twitter. People have been much slower to adopt that in our congregation.

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  • Jeff Goins
    December 4, 2009

    That’s probably typical, Duncan. The question is: Who is on twitter that isn’t going to your church that you could engage?

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  • Zachary Beggs
    December 7, 2009

    Like Duncan, my church family has been far less enthusiastic about Twitter than FB, though I suspect that simply has much to do with much greater overall activity on the latter. Indeed, I’d venture to say only a handful of people there truly grasp how Twitter might be used.
    But, to be fair, I develop marketing strategy for a living, and I don’t see many secular clients who understand how Twitter can fit into a larger marketing program.
    As a side note, however, I do see some in our congregation treating Twitter as a “business-only” tool and not discussing spiritual matters there. That’s an interesting development.

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