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Putting Social Media to Work For Good Effect — The European Way

After spending several days in Los Angeles last week with 300 others deeply engaged in and passionate about using communications to advance social change, it would have been easy to think that all those smart people in the room — both presenters and attendees alike — had the market cornered on all the “with it” ideas on strategic communications, especially how to tap into the power of social media.

That’s why it was both good and sobering after being away for several days to return this week and get an email alert about the latest issue of a magazine that devoted most of its coverage to a discussion and analysis about how foundations outside the U.S. are using social media for positive effect.  The Autumn issue of Effect Magazine, the flagship publication of the European Foundation Center (available in pdf form), as noted in an introduction by Gerry Salole, the group’s chief executive, “gives a snapshot of how some EFC members are using social media themselves or funding social media projects, and their reflections on these experiences.”

More significantly, Salole writes:

Reading about the experiences of our members in this area, I was struck by the power of these online social networking tools to inspire and underpin offline action and engagement. I appreciated the honesty of the authors about how social media had in some cases taken them by surprise by leading projects in unexpected directions. And these articles make it clear that confining your online presence within the comfortable world of your website is an approach that just won’t work anymore.  Another important thread emerging is the
lesson that using social media is not about self-promotion, it is about multidirectional engagement with a range of stakeholders that enriches and improves the work of everyone involved.

According to Salole, growing numbers of EFC members are using social media.  These include 21% (49 members) on Twitter; 29% on YouTube (67 members) and 38% (89 members) on Facebook.

As the article titles themselves indicate, there’s a wealth of handy information and insights in this issue of Effect, and well worth taking the time to read.

For instance:

  • In Social media – What’s in it for my foundation?, Allyson Reaves,
    Program Manager, Transatlantic Community Foundation Network, discusses
    how social media can transform the foundations communicate their work,
    strengthen their collaborative efforts, and engage a much larger audience in their missions.
  • Christopher Reardon, Communications Specialist, for Trust Africa, describes in Building an online constituency for democracy and development in Africa, how his organization first engaged in social media as a means of protecting its brand by signing up for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Picasa (before someone else registered in our name. Before long, Reardon says Trust Africa was “hooked.”
  • Co-authors Susanne Kutz, head of the communication department, and Dirk
    Wegner, web manager, for the Körber Foundation, offer their thoughts of what can happen when you decide to Leave the safe haven of your website and diversify your communications

These and other articles in the issue are worth reading to get a helpful perspective
about how our foundation colleagues on the other side of the world are making use of communications technologies that also brings us all closer to together, all over the world.

–Bruce Trachtenberg


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