social media; non-profits; coalitions

Nov 4

International organizations and social media: A way forward?

Nicole Anwer

Social media is on top of most organizations’ communications agenda, and United Nations organizations and NGOs are no exception. They recognize its importance in reaching key audiences, driving issues and campaigns and ultimately advancing the organization’s mandate.

Today, approximately 2 billion people are online, including over 500 million who use Facebook. Interesting for international organizations is the fact that 51 percent of Facebook users “like”’ and support causes and social campaigns, according to a DDB OpinionWay study released last month.

The key questions: Why should international organizations care about social media? How can organizations engage strategically and efficiently? And how can they become truly socialized with measurable impact on influential audiences?

In an effort to answer some of these questions, the Weber Shandwick team in Geneva last week organized a social media seminar, in collaboration with Weber Shandwick’s James Warren and Juliette Darbois as well as Craig Duncan from the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction who chaired the event. Among the organizations in attendance were the UNHCR, UNAIDS, UNEP, UNICEF, WHO, WTO, WWF, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR).

Some of the key questions discussed include:

1)    Why care about social media? NGOs and civil organizations rely on the engagement and mobilization of stakeholders and citizens, and social media are all about mobilization and engagement.

2)    What does strategic engagement look like?  Starting small and coordinated (get everyone on the same page and up to speed on what is meant by digital/social) is often the best way to go - a rush to embrace social media does not equate to social success.

3)    Who matters to us and what do they say? Organizations must deeply understand communities of interest in order to engage effectively. We have an untold number of conversations driven by more sources than ever and it is important to map out and monitor key influencers that drive conversations and advance the organization’s mission or support its campaigns.

4)    How is social media engagement best managed internally? Social media engagement requires a concerted effort and defined responsibilities within the team to share content, participate in conversations and support community interests.  The organization needs to think about a clear and over-arching strategy with editorial planning and content management across all social platforms.

The event was an excellent platform for organizations to share best practices and new approaches. The Q&A session sparked a lively discussion and touched on:

1)    How to best plan and execute social media strategies: Planning is essential however any approach should be flexible enough to react to unforeseen developments and discussions on social media      platforms.

2)    Several versus one umbrella social media platform: Organizations can opt for either strategy, depending on the audiences they would like to reach and the resources available internally to manage platforms.

3)    Social media and the issue of several official languages within international organizations: A social media strategy should reflect the range of official languages if possible. Engaging with specific communities is most efficient when done in their local language.


May 27

A Wiki State of Mind


Yesterday, the Stanford Social Innovation Review released a great new article summarizing how non-profits are “Working Wikily.”   The article defines the style as  “characterized by greater openness, transparency, decentralized decision making, and collective action.” 

These are all terms we hear non-profits large and small asking about frequently.  They want to know how technology, Twitter, Facebook, and others can help them achieve this new approach.  From Askhoka’s crowdsourcing to the Case Foundation’s Make it Your Own Awards the article provides real concrete examples of how organizations have leveraged technology to meet their own goals. 

These real-life tactical examples are invaluable as organizations continue to move into digital spaces.   What’s more valuable, however, is the article’s reminder that success isn’t about the latest technology trend.  It is about changing mind-sets within an organization. 

For many, that is going to be a bit more difficult then mastering the protocols of Twitter.   One way to jump start or accelerate the shift is to focus on collaboration. As the article suggests, share information you would not normally share, connect people that should know each other, continue to slowly expand your circle of trusted advisors.  Start looking for more collaboration everywhere.  The impressive digital tactics are likely to follow….


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