How Social Media Has Changed Communications and Why Non Profits Should Jump on Board

Think of a recent major event. How did you find out about the tornado in Joplin, MO? I was driving home and saw a status update on Facebook from a friend. I grew up in the area, so for the next 48-hours I was glued to Facebook, following friends’ status updates to get the latest news on the devastation.

How about the Casey Anthony verdict? I was eating lunch with my son when I saw the headline pop up on my phone from Twitter. What were you doing that first night of May? I was folding laundry when I saw the news flash on the TV. I quickly grabbed my iPad to read the full story – Osama Bin Laden was dead.

Just last week I was at work when one tweet, followed by another, followed by a few thousands came through about an earthquake on the East Coast. And like most of the country, I spent the weekend following the news on TV about Hurricane Irene, but the most accurate accounts I received were directly from my East coast friends and family on Facebook.

Whether it is breaking national news or trying to find information like school closures or setting up playdates for your toddler, social media has changed how we communicate.

Since 2007, 168 newspapers have shut down and 34,845 reporters have lost their jobs. Digital platforms are playing a larger role in our news consumption. According to Pew Research, roughly one-third (34%) of the public say they went online for news yesterday – on par with radio, and slightly higher than newspapers. And when cell phones, email, social networks and podcasts are added in, 44% of Americans say they got news through one or more Internet or mobile digital source yesterday.

For many of these recent natural disasters, phone lines and electricity were down, therefore the Internet was the only communications outlet available to spread information. Gone are the days that we as non-profits can solely rely on traditional media outlets to spread the news about our organization or issues that we care about.

It is for that reason that a few years ago the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas (HCF) began its own Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and, more recently, a Linked In page. It also is the same reason that we now offer news reporting on health and policy issues on HCF’s website.

Recently, we offered both an introductory and advanced training for non profits to learn about social media. It is amazing to me the number of organizations in our community who are still not utilizing this important communications tool.

The sustainability of many non-profits is based on fundraising and reputation. If no one has heard of your organization, you will have a hard time reaching the population you are trying to serve or the population from which you are trying to solicit funding. If social media isn’t a part of your communications plan, it should be.

HCF will hold another Advanced Social Media training in September. For more information, contact Jennifer Sykes at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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