The Times They Are a-Social: Part 1

In August 2003, the world changed forever. Six months later, the pace of change accelerated… at least for the students at Harvard. A year later, more change. Even more a year later. A year after that? You guessed it: more change.

I’m referring, of course, to the evolution of social media as we know it today with the launches of MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr in rapid succession. It’s hard to keep this from sounding hyperbolic, but it’s true: the way we interact with each other has undergone a massive, fundamental shift in just over a decade.

This shift in how we communicate isn’t in some small, isolated corner of the world. Its arms touch everyone from the U.S. to Djibouti (sorry, couldn’t resist typing “Djibouti”). YouTube reaches over one billion – that’s billion with a B – users who in turn watch hundreds of millions of hours of video PER DAY. That’s 2,190,000,000,000 minutes of video per year – a number so hard to read, I’m guessing you spent a few seconds staring at it before you gave up or finally deciphered two trillion, one hundred ninety billion. I couldn’t resist, so l did the math (okay, fine, Google’s calculator did the math for me) and this means each year, nearly 42,000 centuries worth of time are spent watching videos on YouTube. FORTY-TWO THOUSAND CENTURIES!

I’ll pause for a moment while you pick up your jaw.

The world of social media and user generated content isn’t going away. In fact, the options available to us are increasing at a rapid pace. Whatsapp, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, SnapChat, Vine – just a small fraction of the new ways to communicate. I could keep going, but I think you get it.

It’s daunting. It’s overwhelming. It’s frustrating. I know, I’ve been in your shoes before, trying to break through the clutter and to just get noticed by donors. But more importantly, this shift in how we connect also represents an incredible opportunity for nonprofits. Just as our culture has made a fundamental shift in how we connect with one another, nonprofits need to make a fundamental shift in how we communicate with our givers – and we now have an opportunity to do that in more meaningful ways on a scale that’s never been possible before. By the way, posting a few status updates per week on Facebook won’t cut it.

If you manage to harness just a fraction of the data available in social media, a world of opportunities will open up, enabling you to connect with givers on a real, personal level like never before.

In part two of this series, we’ll consider some of the practical implications of the social media revolution and how a modern CRM can help you navigate the post-revolutionary world.

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