Social Media for Social Service Organizations – ideas for a series

Much of what is written by and for nonprofits around the use of technology and social media focuses on charitable (read: fundraising and donor relations) strategies and cause marketing.

What’s missing is how technology can be used as an incredible tool for client service. I find it’s a topic that doesn’t get talked or written about as much, or with the same level of depth. You all use technology in your client work, extensively, whether you acknowledge it or not.  We should all be talking about it more, how we use it, issues related to tech literacy, privacy/security issues, etc.

So, while I’m definitely not an expert (just a long-term user/practitioner), I’m hoping to pull together a series of articles to get some thoughts out there. I’m also hoping to talk to/interview some people I know that are using technology in innovative and forward-thinking ways with clients.

In this series I won’t be focusing on the tech mechanics of setting up accounts, (although I’ll provide plenty of links to those sorts of tutorials) or social media how-to’s. I might eventually do some of that for my favourite and most used tools. For now, I want to spend a bit of time  exploring the “business case” (for lack of a better word), how you can make strategic decisions and some practical approaches to using tech in your work.

Not all technology is for every organization nor is it for every client. In fact it’s not for some at all. I’ll definitely explore those ideas, including hopefully providing a framework for you to decide what’s best for you. Hopefully by the end of this series I’ll leave you with ideas about how you can make that strategic decision and revisit that decision over time, as technology, your service provision, and your clients evolve.

Here are a few ideas of what I’m going to cover, I’d love to hear ideas from you too (please add your thoughts in the comments below):

  • Are your clients online? Know your audience.
  • Your clients are online, where are you?
  • Serving your clients online isn’t about the technology.
  • Technology can bring you closer to your clients. How do you choose the right channels?
  • Technology isn’t a panacea for better service. What does online service provision look like and how can you ensure your online work is connected to your offline work?
  • The hybrid client – providing consistent service while offering a range of service access points and options for your clients
  • Can you solve your social media problem by hiring a new generation of employees?
  • Why aren’t you using video to serve your clients yet?

What do you think? What’s missing? What are you doing that I can tell others about? What would you like to learn about?

I’m personally interested in and follow work being done in the library sector, online counselling and how companies and “brands” may be better serving their customers via online channels, etc. I think there is much we can do as social service providers using technology, including incorporating ideas and practices from others in our work. I also know that some of you use this technology without really thinking about it too much. It’s just become part of how you provide service. I’d love to hear more about that.

I’m looking forward to input and ideas, critiques and comments on this topic.  Let’s talk about it.

(image from Flickr, creative commons copyright via Dave Duarte)

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