We can’t afford to substitute genuine outreach with social media metrics

If you plan to give up one thing in 2017, make it the social media trap that so many NPOs/NGOs/individuals have fallen into.  We need more organizations and individuals talking about what they are doing in the real world and less that just talk.  We going to need that now more than ever.

The progression is logical.  An organization hears about this “social media” craze, and after a bit of googling, they realize that the interwebs are being used by young people to communicate.  Then the following conversation happens, “The future of our planet is with the young people and young people live off social media, so… we should use social media.”  That logic is correct.

It goes haywire when the organization, consciously or unconsciously, decides to supplant outreach events with just posts on social media.  It’s more effective, right?  A picture of a shark can be shared by like 300 people, that’s more people than you’ve ever had at an outreach event and you can post like 10 pictures of sharks a day for basically free, so that’s 3,000 people/day you’re reaching for no money.  Right??

My friend, you are wrong.

Repeat after me:

Social media is a stage where you talk about the things you are actually doing.  Social media should not be the thing you are doing. 

You/Your organization should achieve more than contrived metrics of followers, retweets, shares, and likes.  If you start chasing that white rabbit, you will eventually find yourself doing things that are good for just that metric which rarely achieve anything besides getting likes and followers.

Additionally, these gains are all inevitably short-lived in a world where the platform changes with the newest phone.  If you’re an organization doing actual work offline, then the shifting platforms do not matter because your events, missions, and messages can be translated into any medium and displayed on any stage.  If you are measuring your engagement and impact purely with platform-specific metrics, then your relevance and engagement gains will – eventually – be myspaced.

Know your platforms.  Know how to communicate on them.  Know which platform is best for what audience/event.  But you still have to be doing something worth getting on that stage and talking about.

And right now, in this brave new world, we’re going to need a lot more people out on actual stages.