The second half of the semester had us shifting gears away from theory and towards application. This led to the Networked Nonprofit Project. To aid in the execution of the project, we were told to read two books: Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach, and The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine. They were good companion books, each strong and weak in their own aspects. While I felt that Networked Nonprofit was a dry read, it was straightforward and serious, technical and was a good text. Content Strategy for the Web was less intense to read because the authors made it funny and a much lighter read. It was easier for me to follow because I didn’t feel quite as out of place reading it. It was conversational, so I didn’t feel so inadequate and out of my element when reading it.
Both books had a lot of areas where they would overlap, but the biggest area that they both agreed on was the use of social media being the only way to go for nonprofit organizations. It costs little to nothing for an organization to start up a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or WordPress account. It can also be easy to keep all of them connected to each other. Kanter and Fine make an excellent point in NNP by stating that organizations should try to be as “transparent” as possible. That would be like getting a Facebook account set up and letting the world know what’s happening through status updates, events, and links to outside sources like videos. This transparency is a common theme throughout their book that really ties all of the social media usage together. Halvorson and Rach on the other had, constantly point out that “Content is King.” They use that to tie into social media by saying that the content doesn’t have to be pages long, just engaging and relevant to catch the reader’s eye and keep them coming back for more. They insist that short blurbs of information can have just as much, and sometimes more, relevant and noteworthy content as a 2000 word blog post.
Another area of overlap is their continued mentioning of listening. Listening to the audences, to find out what is relevant and important to them. Listening to the content being used and deciding if it is what the audiences want to know. NNP says that “The key ingredient to building a relationship is good listening.” This ties into both themes of transparency and content as well. The more an organization listens, the better it will know what the audience wants and the better they can give them the necessary information. This leads to the increased movement of information and, as a result, the more information given, the more transparent the organization becomes. It ties back to Content is King because listening to the audiences allows for the organization to determine what information, or content, is relevant to each audience and help eliminate the unnecessary information.
As similar as the two books were, they also had many differences. The tone is the first one that jumps out as obviously different. Content Strategy for the Web was obviously very weighted toward a strategy. The entire purpose of it was to give organizations a clear cut track toward a strategy. It included tips and a literal road map for how to tackle the topic of strategy. The entire book was kind of like a “Content Strategy for Dummies” type of manual. The entire idea was to create a social media basis, create a following so to speak, listen to the audience, make an ebb and flow of information and then weed out what is and isn’t relevant to the audience. Then, form a plan on how to keep the audiences updated and execute the plan. The authors call this Core Strategy, and was the whole point of their book.
Networked Nonprofit on the other hand, was more about how to keep all of the social media together and becoming networked. The authors here really created a book that would help organizations to stay connected with all of the communities they build throughout all of their social media outlets. They begin by explaining the importance of using social media in this time. They go on to say that making relationships on social media sites is just like any conventional friendship. You have to give something of value to receive something of value back. It’s a type of social currency. This ties back to their building relationships theme that I mentioned earlier. The second big thing they explain is how a nonprofit becomes networked. They encourage organizations to become transparent by using many different social media outlets. The entire book is a guide for how to best help nonprofit organizations to stay on top of the times and continue moving forward in our constantly changing social world.
Thought these two books are vastly different in some senses, they go hand in hand. Any nonprofit that is looking for a way to optimize their social media use should definitely flip through these and take some notes. Ali and I found more use from Content Strategy for the Web with our organization simply because they don’t do enough (or anything really) with social media for NNP to be helpful to us. Most of the work that we did with NDAB was getting their website more audience oriented by reorganizing their content into a simpler form. So, for our project, Content is King overruled all else, and Content Strategy for the Web was the ticket. But, if and when NDAB starts using social media, NNP would definitely be recommended as well.