Building a Community Online AND Off

Guest post by Harrison Kratz, Tweet Drive

Members of the Tweet Drive 2011 community
Members of the Tweet Drive 2011 community

It’s no secret that social good is one of the biggest trends and buzzwords in the world of social media. People are flocking to get involved with trending causes, but while many are spreading at unprecedented levels, some of these causes are missing the mark.

This is due in large part to over emphasis on social media engagement rather than real world action. The fundamentals of a social good cause and community are important regardless of the medium they use.

Ultimately, social good is all about rallying others to create social change for the better and influence our surrounding social environments – online and off.

Causes are about the people more than anything else. So, how can online social good and offline causes alike get people involved and turn their volunteers into champions in this new age of activism and communication? By sticking to the fundamentals of course…

These are three things that are present in every successful cause and community of volunteers:

1. Inspiration

Every successful cause starts with the ability to inspire others. We may have new media to get our message across, but with inspiration comes real-world action.

When building your cause or volunteer community, you have to ask yourself if your message will inspire not only your friends, but also those you have never met. Volunteers donate their time and you have to understand that commitment does not happen lightly or easily. How will you get those involved to not ask why they are doing this, but how can your goals be met?

To take action, your volunteers need to believe in the cause and feel the impact that they are making, otherwise your message will become the tree in the forest that nobody heard fall.

2. Leadership

Any great cause or campaign needs a clear leader. Inspiration is extremely important in recruiting volunteers and getting people involved, but strong leadership is essential to growing and building upon momentum. Strong leaders are there to provide direction, answer the tough questions, and carry the message to those involved.

When strong leadership is absent, a cause’s impact or message is likely to get lost after initial support. Take for example the first Kony 2012 video that went completely viral several months ago. Their follow up video only garnered 2% of the interaction they saw on the first video. That may have had something to do with controversial statistics about the campaign and vulgar behavior by the founder that was captured on TMZ.

Those developments showed how important strong leadership and trust is from top to bottom. To get volunteers active and involved, influence must complement inspiration.

3. Communication

The final step to building a volunteer community is efficient communication. As previously mentioned when talking about leadership, being able to convey your message effectively is immensely important.

Ultimately, effective communication should empower your volunteers and champions to utilize social media and spread the cause’s mission with their networks. By establishing clear and concise communication, you can turn your volunteers into brand champions with the tools they need to spread your message.

Additionally, effective communication will allow your volunteers to lead and organize their own communities and evolve your cause and mission. In the end, your focus should be to enable your volunteers to be the change that they want to see.

Whether it’s through social media or door to door visits, these fundamentals will help you build an army that is passionate around your cause. As my friend and social media expert Jay Baer says, “It’s not enough to have social, you have to be social.”

Harrison Kratz is the community manager for MBA@UNC, one of the nation’s leading online MBA programs from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Harrison also sticks to his entrepreneurial roots as the founder of the global social good campaign, Tweet Drive.