It’s a done deal. Today, there are more than 800 million active Facebook users, more than half of whom log on in any given day and the average user has 130 friends. Usage of Twitter, YouTube and a plethora of other platforms are likewise growing as individuals, business and organizations realize the tremendous potential to connect.

It can be daunting to wrap your head around these new media. But don’t despair. Here are some tips for those wanting to keep up:

  1. Start small. You and all your staff should at least have personal Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts. These are the big players and it makes most sense, especially if you’re small, to go deep on a few platforms rather than spread yourself too thin.
  2. Lurk and follow. Friend and link to organizations or people you think you might have something to learn from. Be sure to follow similar organizations to your own to see what they are doing. Watch and learn. Find your niche. Get comfortable with how it works.
  3. Develop a compendium of stories. They are all around you—success stories from the people you help, compelling stories about your donors or staff, obstacles overcome, events taking place, the history of your organization, blogs from the field, position papers of relevant issues, related posts from respected peers, significant anniversaries, etc., etc., etc.
  4. Set up a plan to divvy those compelling stories (and asks) out over the course of the year and through the various channels at hand. Go for quality over quantity. Provide value and insight. Post to Facebook at least once a week, but never more than twice a day. It’s perfectly OK to do the same with Twitter.
  5. Integrate it all to create a smooth, accessible, two-way path to the people most interested in your cause or product—through your website (homebase), through outbound, one-way communications (print and email), and through social media.
  6. Feel good about intentional redundancy. There should be many paths to the same fount of knowledge.
  7. Track what happens using all the metrics at hand. Establish a presence, observe, listen, build relationships, discuss and replicate the successes.

Social media doesn’t replace any of your more traditional ways of communicating with stakeholders—it integrates with and expands your potential. Dive in and enjoy.