This latest version of People You Should Know highlights Amy Sample Ward, global community development manager for NetSquared. Amy is someone I’ve kept close tabs on for her excellent insight around community building and social media marketing in the nonprofit arena. Thanks Amy!

Since your transition from Portland to London, you’ve started focusing your work more around global as opposed to local nonprofit communications. What have you enjoyed about this shift?

Amy Sample Ward

Hmmm…I guess I wouldn’t say that my focus has changed. I’m certainly able to connect offline with organizations working in a different geography and being in Europe means there are far more groups working “internationally” than in the US, so in those ways there’s been opportunity to shift. But my work with NetSquared has stayed the same and we have always been a global-facing organization and community (with now 70+ groups in 21+ countries).

I’ve enjoyed the local work here quite a bit as it seems that the distance between organizations using new technologies and those not doing so is much larger than it was in Portland. Part of this comes from the very structure (both cultural and organizational structure) of the organizations in the UK and the US, and the way work of government, nonprofits, and citizens crisscross. It’s been a challenge at times but it’s also been really exciting to help share lessons from one country to another, and back again.

I think nonprofits often get seeded with a reputation for being behind the curve on social media but in my mind, nonprofits have the advantage of being nimble and able to take a bit more risk in the space. What are a few nonprofits that stand out in your mind as leading the way in the social space that are able to demonstrate the benefits of being engaged online?

I think nonprofits and businesses are alike in that some are early adopters of everything, whether it’s technology, advertising, engagement, or marketing; and some, well, they just like to keep on doing things the way they always have. It’s even the same with agencies, governments, and communities. Why? Because it’s not about the type of organization or group, but about the culture and environment that group operates in.

Organizations that are able to move quickly, operate nimbly, and adapt to/adopt the tools their communities are using are most often community-driven organizations. 350.org is a perfect example.  But, that doesn’t mean large, traditional institutions aren’t able to drive the space forward as well. Great examples – the National Wildlife Federation, American Red Cross, and even museums like the Women’s Museum in Texas and the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

In your experience, what are the top 3 reasons nonprofits fail to dive in head first or hedge way when results aren’t immediate from utilizing social media?

First, I think many organizations may adopt a tool or try out a platform without knowing why they are doing it, and thus what kind of metrics to look for. It’s really difficult to say something is or isn’t working if we don’t know what we’re looking at. So, not having a strategy and measurement plan in place is definitely the biggest reason organizations fail to more forward with social media.

Secondly, and this ties in to the first part, is the failure to do the homework: not knowing who the community is or which tools they are using already. Imagine how hard it would be to show up to the playground that none of your friends are at, instead of calling around and seeing what part of town everyone was already in. Doing research before adopting any tools will put you in a much better position to succeed.

Last, I would point to support. I know many instances in which maintaining the social media presence for an organizations fall to one person and is only one small part of the work on their plate. Social media is really all about communication and engagement, you get back what you put in. So, if there isn’t support for the work, it can’t be expected to go very far.

The Big Bang – #1 trend you’re seeing on the nonprofit social media front that you think will carry well into 2011 and beyond?

Blending online and offline. Whether it’s through hyperlocal tools like foursquare or Meetup Everywhere, or it’s campaigning around the world with 350.org, we see the opportunities to use online media to actually blur the lines between engaging on and offline growing.  I’m really excited about this because I really believe that an online-only campaign, program, and even message will never take you or your organization as far as something that puts clicks and status messages together with feet on the street.

You’re a staple in the nonprofit community and I’m sure many folks would love an opportunity to chat with you. Should people stay tuned to your calendar for a good opportunity to connect offline at any upcoming conferences?

Wow – thank you! I try to keep my presentations page as updated as possible, so that is a great place to check in to see if we’ll be in the same place at the same time. I am also happy to connect with people on my blog and Twitter.

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About Scott Meis

SVP, Digital Content Strategy @ Weber Shandwick Seattle. Outdoors. Adventure. Travel. I dig the Foto.

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Nonprofits, People You Should Know, Social Media

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