by John Trybus, Managing Director

To say Beth Kanter is the Oprah of cause-based communication in the social media space is a pretty accurate comparison as far as I’m concerned. She’s kinda a big deal.

Through her speaking engagementsbooks, trainings, and her super popular Beth’s Blog: How Networked Nonprofits Are Using Social Media to Power Change, Beth is a pioneer when it comes to helping nonprofits communicate effectively online. Although she admits to not knowing a “modem from a microwave” when she first started, more than 10,000 likes on her Facebook page later, Beth has created an omnimedia presence in a signature style all her own.

“My biggest passion is training, teaching and learning,” she told me.

I caught up with Beth via phone from her home in Silicon Valley to speak about her amazing and unconventional career (case in point: she is a classical flute musician and honed her social media skills after adopting two children from Cambodia and writing a blog about the experience) and all things social media.

She rightly earns the title social strategist.

So let’s get to my interview with Beth. Here’s a preview of her words-of-wisdom for nonprofits looking to become more social media savvy:

  • Assess: Is your organization flying, running, walking or crawling? Based on a famous saying from Martin Luther King, Jr., it is imperative to access what stage your organization is currently at overall and in terms of its social media operations. Regardless of level, as the saying goes: “whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
  • Stop with the ROI! “Don’t use the language of accountants in the board room or it’ll get you into trouble,” Beth cautions regarding measurement of online communications. “Don’t feel like you have to measure everything or use all the tools. Take it one step at a time,” she recommends.
  • Focus on transformational results not transactional ones. Beth believes there is far too much focus on whether social media immediately contributes to the bottom line. And that’s a mistake. Instead she stresses the importance of transformational results or community engagement. You don’t get to transactional results unless you have the engagement part first, she explains.

I also asked Beth to predict what cause-communicators using social media should prepare for in the next five years. Here are her responses:

1. Increase your information literacy skills. Practitioners who understand that information is not all created equal will be rewarded going forward. “The amount of information that is being shared and is available is just increasing,” Beth explains. Get to know what information matters and how to synthesize it.

2. Understand mobile. “Mobile is going to be the anywhere, anytime nonprofit,” she says. Beth sees the increase in mobile devices as a tremendous opportunity for causes to reach audiences in the palm of their hand and she recommends making nonprofit websites mobile friendly.

3. Integrate Social CRM. Creating databases that track not only a supporter’s phone number but also their Twitter handle and preferred methods of online engagement will provide competitive advantage to nonprofits that put in the time to collect that data.

Listen to my interview with social strategist Beth Kanter to hear more of her tips for nonprofits and what to keep in mind about the future of cause-based communication online.