Over the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about setting up a system to make the work that I’ve done this year with Volunteer Maryland sustainable. It doesn’t really do anyone any good if a lot of energy gets poured into blogging and other kinds of digital outreach if no one uses it after a year. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to create buy-in for people who might not know anything about how to get a message out on the internet, or how to do it for someone who just might not care.
Thinking about how I got into social media wasn’t very helpful. I stumbled into it because of two friends who saw the value of Twitter two years ago, when a lot of people didn’t know a tweet from a hoot. I got hooked because I started winning things from local businesses. What can I say, I like free things.
It wasn’t until I decided that I was going to take some of the things that I was winning and put them into the volunteer program that I was developing that I really began to understand the value of digital outreach. I got hooked because people had things that they were willing to give away for free, but I really began to see how people could use social media to make their organizations better when I realized there was something that I could give away for free, too. It wasn’t a free dinner, or tickets to a concert, or gift cards to anywhere; it was things that I knew that other people might want to know.
I still didn’t know a lot about how all of the different tools you could use to communicate worked. I tried my hand at a few, and began to understand how information was shared differently on different platforms, but it wasn’t until I watched a video from Common Craft that I really began to understand how powerful 140 characters could be. Common Craft’s videos take complex subjects and explain them easy-to-understand ways. They don’t tell you why social media is awesome, they tell you about selling ice cream. Everyone loves ice cream, right? Maybe not the lactose intolerant…
Back to sustainability, though. One of my projects before the end of the year is going to be developing a tool that will explain why Volunteer Maryland does social media the way we do, and explain how to do it. The how part is fairly easy, it’s a guide explaining a step-by-step process. The why is the hard part. Not because explaining why we do it will be difficult, but because it has to be explained in a way that will make people excited to keep writing blog entries, updating their Facebook pages, tweeting, getting LinkedIn, and creating and expanding a community of people interested in and invested in building stronger and healthier communities.
I’m really impressed by how Common Craft explains things, so I’m going to be looking to their work a lot when I’m developing my own way of explaining things. What’s your favorite way to learn something new?