When I was a Business Consultant, I often taught business plan development classes. One of the highlights of the class was when I’d bring in a “serial entrepreneur” as a guest speaker. My favorite was Steve. He started his first business at 21, while still in college, and today is running his seventh business in as many different industries. When asked by students to what does he credit his success, he always said, “A great advisory board.” He advised entrepreneurs to throw away their inhibitions and invite the people they most admire to serve on their start-up advisory board, complete with “free pizza once every other month or some such thing.” As a rule, he said, ask those from outside your industry or field, and listen to their advice.
I was thinking about Steve yesterday and it occurred to me: what about a Social Media Advisory Board?
What Would An Advisory Board Do For You?
- Give your social media strategy focus. Most organizations, especially non-profit ones, just don’t have a Social Media Guru on staff. An Advisory Board can help you plan and implement your strategy effectively. Don’t forget that they can help determine the elusive benchmarks.
- You don’t have to do it alone. Sometimes the thought of starting all those conversations can be intimidating. Your Board can talk you through it and possibly volunteer to take on some of the work.
- Tell you what you’re doing right and wrong. As Steve said, you need to listen to their advice. They don’t just help you create your strategy, but they are there for you. Hold meetings regularly and don’t be afraid to hear their honest opinions about what your organization is doing. That’s what they are there for.
- They will re-direct and HELP YOU. Every strategy hits a bump. Every online group has an agitator or flamer. Every blog gets bogged down. Your Board can give you advice on how to deal with all the bumps in the road.
Who Should You Recruit?
Intel formed an Insiders’ Social Media Advisory Team made of of “a diverse group of social media activists.” (The whole article is wonderful and thought-provoking.) Entrepreneur Steve chose people from outside his industry. I always advise business owners to seek out missing expertise. Do you need a technophile on board to help you choose appropriate tools? Do you need the marketer’s perspective? Chris Brogan notes that you can ask intelligent people who you admire, or those with whom you’ve formed a relationship online and those who are professionally successful. These are great ideas. However, for the non-profit, I’d advocate this mix:
- a savvy technology expert (with the patience of a saint) who will certainly be called upon to advise in selecting the right mix of technology for implementing any social media strategy
- at least on PR professional. Consider both PR professionals who specialize in non-profit PR and traditional corporate PR companies. They have ties to media and a plethora of experience transmitting information to many channels and audiences.
- representatives from at least two user groups. In the non-profit world, these could be volunteers or clients or members or activists. Whomever you will target to be an end user of the social media should also be a player in creating the strategy.
- a fundraising professional. Let’s face it, in non-profit work, you want to find the money. A development professional will always give you that point of view and the development possibilities within your strategy.
- a maverick. You need someone who thinks outside the box and will come up with the totally wild (and and often great) ideas or critiques. Mavericks are the most interesting thinkers you will come across, and should not be written off.
- a social media user and professional in the field. This is the obvious one to find. Make sure your volunteer Advisor fits into the group and can work respectfully with others that may challenge his/her ideas.
How Would You Do This?
Ahhhh…there is the easy part: offer food! Don’t forget to set expectations: how often the Board will meet, what you expect them to do for the organization, how you want them to contribute, how often they will meet, and how long they are committed.
When you do this, I’d love to hear about it. What worked? Who did you invite?