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The Download: Helping organizations manage their social media footprint

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By Steven Overly
Monday, August 30, 2010

When Michael Mayernick and Adam Bonnifield launched Giv.to in June 2009, the for-profit venture offered political and advocacy groups technology to shorten URLs that also tracked which Twitter and Facebook links led to donations.

Now just past the one-year mark, the Washington-based entrepreneurs are building Giv.to into an application through which an organization can manage its entire social media footprint. They say it signals a maturation of social media from a fledgling idea to one with real impact.

"All we hear from campaigns, businesses and nonprofits ... is them all pointing in this direction," Bonnifield said. "People sort of recognized the value of new media ... [but] didn't really have a sense of how to integrate it."

Mayernick explains most organizations tend to hire one person to coordinate their social media efforts, and then saddle him or her with a Twitter account, Facebook profile, YouTube channel and other outlets. As a result, an organization's message may be incomplete or inconsistent.

Giv.to provides a single platform through which various people within an organization can contribute to social media. It also scans the Web for relevant third-party content that can then be shared and helps identify outside supporters who may want to donate money or help spread awareness.

One of the biggest challenges may be getting people to embrace the new technology.

Adam Ruff, vice president of the interactive division at MSHC Partners, a Washington-based political communications firm, said many of the candidates his firm encounters don't see the immediate relevance of social media, particularly in small or rural districts. An opponent using Twitter can often be his best selling point.

"If a campaign is a war, you need every front to be covered," Ruff said. "Even if [social media] is a fad, you can at least convince them of that."

Hatef Yamini, chief executive of Simpli Consulting, said many of his clients have a small social media network but haven't built a strategy to yield any return on investment. That is beginning to change as acceptance grows.

"There's definitely sort of a sea change right now," said Yamini, who also organizes NetSquared DC, a group of civic-minded technologists. Social media "has not completely matured, but we are seeing it achieve a certain level of stability."


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