Social Media Explained — 140 Characters at a Time | npENGAGE

Social Media Explained — 140 Characters at a Time

By on Sep 21, 2009


Social Media is another powerful communication channel just like person-to-person, telephone, direct mail, email, web, and text messaging.

Social Media is different from traditional broadcast media, like newspapers, television, and film, because it allows user-generated dialog.

Social Media is closely associated with Web 2.0 and emphasizes multi-way communication and interaction instead of earlier one-way Web tools.

Social Media uses highly accessible and scalable forms of web-based technologies that allow people to create, publish, reach, and interact.

Social Media takes many forms like social content where weblogs allow individuals and groups to publish content that is open for comment.

Social Media can use video networks like YouTube, photo sharing like Flickr, and distribute content using Really Simple Syndication (RSS).

Social Media facilitates collaborative content publishing like Wikipedia, social news sites like Digg, and virtual worlds like Second Life.

Social Media has its largest presence on popular social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn where people connect online.

Social Media is also services such as Twitter where your messages are only 140 characters long — just like the sentences in this blog post.

Social Media allows nonprofits to use a mix of these tools to help create and build relationships with new and existing constituents online.

Social Media requires that nonprofits engage in active listening, creative experimentation, and metrics measurement to find what's working.

Social Media makes some nonprofits nervous because it requires them to give up some control over how their messages are spread and shared.

Social Media requires that you let go of the illusion of control over your message to leverage new tools and reach constituents in new ways.

Social Media has a lot of so-called experts and gurus, but the best way to really understand and grasp it is to start using it yourself.

Social Media is no substitute for having a good Internet strategy, integrated website, effective email marketing program, and solid metrics.


Steve MacLaughlin is the Vice President of Data & Analytics at Blackbaud and bestselling author of Data Driven Nonprofits.

MacLaughlin has been featured as a fundraising and nonprofit expert in many mainstream publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today, The NonProfit Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bloomberg, and has appeared on NPR.

He is a frequent speaker at events including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), American Marketing Association (AMA), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), Giving Institute Summer Symposium, National Association of Independent School (NAIS), Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), Institute of Fundraising National Convention (United Kingdom), Civil Society Conference (Netherlands), International Fundraising Congress (Netherlands), Ask Direct Fundraising Summer School (Ireland), and a keynote speaker at several conferences across the social good sector.

Steve previously served on the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Board of Directors and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University.

He is a frequent blogger, published author of a chapter in the book People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities, and is a co-editor of the book Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools & Trade Secrets. His latest book, Data Driven Nonprofits, became a bestseller in 2016.

Steve earned both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University.

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