THE BLOG
05/18/2010 11:43 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Dance Floor and the Balcony: How NGOs can 'Excel' at Social Media

Yesterday I had the pleasure of listening to Beth Kanter speak at our NGO Connect event held in conjunction with TechSoup on the Microsoft campus in Mountain View, CA. Beth is an expert on social media and how nonprofits and organizations can effectively use tools such as Twitter, Facebook and Flicker to engage people online.

She spoke about how nonprofits need to have their feet both on the dance floor and also on the balcony, in other words they need to be focused on listening and responding. She notes that it takes time, possibly over a year, to get to a point where you can be an active social media proponent. Furthermore nonprofits hoping to successfully engage with social media need to think about resources. It requires someone who is dedicated, who develops expertise in using the tools and more importantly engaging with audiences and connecting with people.

One of the most interesting lessons she shared was spreadsheet aerobics, which is all about using listening as a strategy. Successful, sustainable social media engagement requires data mining, which is a key component of active listening and in turn effective responding. She urged nonprofits to utilize Excel spreadsheets as a way to collect and monitor data - she loves Excel because it allows her to be very focused and not get distracted by chasing the next cool idea which she called "look there is a squirrel".

Beth's message was clear. You need to invest time and resources in social media and combine it with discipline and focus. Create a social media calendar and pick the right results to measure. For NGOs, utilizing the social media tools will be critical if they want to become visible in the new media age.

At Microsoft we are focused on supporting nonprofits effectively utilizing technology and we believe that we must be engaged but that we also must be an effective watcher and learner. I for one, am looking forward using spreadsheet aerobics as a way to be a more disciplined, fit and an active listener as I use social media in support of nonprofits and technology.