Social Media 4 NonProfits (SM4NP) has been traveling for the past three years, organizing 40 conferences in 13 cities to bring world class social media know-how to Seattle next week:
This young start-up is trying to disrupt the nonprofit world out of its old communication strategies and take it into the digital world. We caught up with Ritu Sharma, SM4NP Executive Director, to discuss non-profits, entrepreneurship and a few words of advice for taking your nonprofit digital.
How did you get the idea to start this?
I was organizing social media monitoring and measuring conferences in the for profit sector very similar to the current SM4NP series and I met with Darian, my cofounder and partner. He shared with me the feedback that he was receiving about his book and the need for more social media-related content. He had approached me about doing a couple book release events and we decided to launch a social media for nonprofits concert series followed by book launch receptions to promote the book. Social Media for Nonprofits (SM4NP) was started three years ago to address the gap in the nonprofit sector of quality and accessible training dedicated to leveraging social media for social good. There were several organizations providing social media training at the time as a single session or track but not an entire conference dedicated to an immersive experience for nonprofit organizations to learn about different social media platforms, or to connect and network with other professionals in the same space.
What is your background?
I’ve done extensive volunteering at several nonprofit and for profit conferences and galas. I used to be a private banker prior to moving to San Francisco and was very extensively involved in community relations – I got to attend a lot of events. Many of my volunteer engagements turned into consulting and paid projects, including Social Media Monitoring conferences I was doing prior to SM4NP. I have extensive consulting and training experience in social media marketing for several nonprofits around the country. Prior to that, I managed a website development firm, creating interactive and application given websites for nonprofits. I’ve been overseeing and managing Social Media for Nonprofits social presence in various platforms since its inception and have built this community from the ground up. I learned a lot of what I know from experimenting and reading extensively and of course from attending our 40 conferences over the last three years.
Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?
Absolutely! I’ve launched my own companies including the website design, event planning and now SM4NP, which was a consulting project for me. I consider myself a social entrepreneur, driven by mission and impact just as much as by profitability and sustainability. I find the work I do very rewarding and I much appreciate the opportunity entrepreneurship provides to reinvent myself.
Which business does social media the best in your opinion?
I personally like the work of National Geographic Magazine, Nike in the for profit sector and I like Do Something Good’s engagement on the nonprofit side. What I love about social media is that it gives nonprofits an equal footing with big brands. If a nonprofit is willing to put in the time and creativity, social media can be an equalizer to the million dollar ad budgets of big corporations. Traditional media has a cost barrier that nonprofits can’t overcome but in social media they can get as much attention if they use their creativity and time well.
What holds Non-profits back in social media?
Nonprofits try to control the message very narrowly on social media. They need to empower all staff to be involved in social media that is more like a phone call – everyone has a phone and can make a quick phone call. When nonprofits allow more staff to be real and casual and professional on social media, the better their social will get overall. There will be mistakes at first but it is better than being fearful of the new media. So there is a learning curve and I hope to see more nonprofits experiment and make mistakes as they grow their organization’s voice on social media.
How can people get involved with SM4NP?
We are looking for volunteers to be on marketing and communications, development and strategic growth committees. Best way is to reach out to me via email firstname.lastname@example.org. She would also like to extend an invitation to receive 50% off attendance to SM4NP to all Flip the Media readers.
(Note: Can’t attend? Follow the hashtag #SM4NP on Monday where our Flip contributor @peacefulldawn will be live-tweeting the event. Watch for our event wrap-up next week.)