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Does your Nonprofit Need Social Media Surgery?

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Is your organization in need of a social media makeover?

Nonprofit Advisor and Social Media “Surgeon” Rob Fish discussed social media strategy with “patient” Jahnine Spaulding, Outreach Coordinator of Vermont Operation: Military Kids (VT OMK) at a recent Social Media Surgery in Burlington.

A resilient organization has mastered a full range of communication tools. As an ever-increasing number of people move away from communicating by phone, snail mail, and even email, it is important for all types of nonprofits to master the use of social media platforms, such as Facebook, for communicating with their members and the outside world.

Earlier this month, the Vermont Digital Economy Project participated in a unique type of social media workshop called a “Social Media Surgery,” organized by NetSquared Vermont, in conjunction with Burlington Social Media Day. At the event “patients” from close to twenty nonprofits broke into small groups or met individually with “social media surgeons:” experienced professionals working in the field who understand Facebook, Twitter, Google + and other platforms. The patients picked the brains of the surgeons, including mine, and together worked to implement practical advice on improving the organization’s social media presence. At the conclusion of the surgeries, every organization left feeling invigorated with their social media presence improved.

According to Amanda Levinson, coordinator of the Burlington event and organizer with Burlington NetSquared, "Social Media Surgeries provide a terrific opportunity for nonprofits to get free, targeted advice on their social media strategy from professionals working in the field. It's a win-win: communications and tech professionals get to give back to the community, and nonprofits walk away feeling more confident about how to use social media in their work."

What's a Social Media Surgery? Recap of Montpelier Social Media Surgery

Are you flummoxed by Facebook, can't work out what everyone's Tweeting about, or have fallen off a blog? If so, plan to attend one of the Vermont Digital Economy Project's “Social Media Surgeries.” At these hands on and action oriented workshops, there will be volunteer “surgeons” (a concept borrowed from our friends in the UK) who can explain things, show you how to get started, unstick you if you‘re stuck, or just help you think through why you might use any of these social media tools in the first place.

During the Social Media Surgery, I “operated” on Vermont Operation Military Kids. Vermont OMK serves the kids of military families and veterans throughout the state, partnering with community members and organizations to offer support and activities, including hero packs, school vacation camps and science and technology workshops. The organization was looking for advice on which social media tools could help them reach more military families (here is the group’s Facebook Page).

“We came to the Social Media Surgery looking for new ideas on how to reach out to and serve more military kids. We left with tools that helped us decide to how more effectively reach them and what our message should be,” said Jahnine Spaulding, an AmeriCorps VISTA member with the University of Vermont Extension's OMK program, who attended the Social Media Surgery, “In addition, we also came away from the workshop with the idea that we should reach out to universities in the area for assistance in building our digital capacity. Perhaps, we can even recruit an intern who can help guide our social media effort.”

We here at the Vermont Digital Economy Project were thrilled with the results of the Social Media Surgery. As a nonprofit adviser, I have seen countless Social Media Workshops and noticed a worrying trend: some people were lost and others were bored. I wanted to mix it up a bit in order to better serve nonprofits with varying levels of experience and individuals with different learning styles. Everyone who attends a Social Media Surgery, regardless of their level of experience with social media will leave with a new or improved Facebook Page (in the meantime click here for the official Facebook Guide for Nonprofits) or social media strategy and, even more importantly, more confidence in their ability to use social media to further the mission of their organization.

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