Dianova Training Session – Understanding the Role of Social Media in Today’s Communication

Rui Martins, Communication Director at Dianova Portugal gave a presentation encompassing various issues about social media, including: a brief history of social media, how NGOs should be using social media to advance their missions, the important role of storytelling, how to build communities of supporters and how to make out of each staff member a potential goodwill "Digital Ambassador" for the causes we advocate. 

The event was held during Dianova International annual meetings, held from June 12 through 15.

Representatives of the Dianova Network member organizations were gathered last week for a training session held within the framework of the International Annual Meetings of the Dianova Network, followed by the 10th "Management & Development" Seminar and by the General Assembly of the Delegates, i.e. the highest decision-making body in the organization, responsible for approving the financial statements and overall strategy of Dianova International.

This session was dedicated to understanding better the role of social media in Dianova's communication today and was facilitated by Mr. Rui Martin, Communication Director, Dianova Portugal

What is Social Media?

 Dianova training session

The word medium (singular of media) describes a communication channel through which information can be disseminated, including news, entertainment, or promotional messages. Those traditional communication instruments comprise television, radio, newspapers, and to a certain extent, the Internet.

Social media can therefore be described as social instruments of communication: as opposed to traditional media which deliver contents but do not allow readers or viewers to participate in the development of these contents, social media can be defined as "a group of internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of the Web 2.0 to allow the creation and exchange of user-generated contents" (Kaplan and Haenlein).  

To use a metaphor, think of traditional media as a one-way street where you can listen to a TV report or read a newspaper. You may receive valuable information; however, apart from sending a letter to the editor by regular mail, your ability to give your opinion on the matter is quite limited. On the other hand, social media is a two-way street that gives you the ability to communicate, provide insights, exchange additional information, share with other users, etc., in other terms, social media allow readers, viewers and listeners to participate in the creation or further development of contents. 

Social media is a broad term covering a large range of websites which one common link is to enable users to interact with these websites and with other visitors. These sites can be described as content communities, such as  YouTube or Flickr, social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, collaborative projects (Wikipedia), virtual worlds (Second Life), game worlds (World of Warcraft), etc. However the boundaries between the different types of social media are becoming increasingly blurred…

Social media are online applications that make it possible to easily create and share contents based on words, videos, audio and images. Social networks are the activities, practices and behaviors among like-minded communities gathered online to share information, knowledge, opinions, etc. 

A Game-Changer and a Global Phenomenon

Social media has shot to the forefront of people's attention and interest because it's fun and rewarding. Thanks to social media, it's as easy to share photos of your little dog's last birthday as it is to exchange ideas about the war in Syria. You can share videos, photos, ideas, dislikes and likes with the world at large and find out what other users think of them.

You can be part of a community or a set of various communities, you can find friends, reunite with old schoolmates, find the love of your life, and much, much more. Social media are giving people something that traditional media never could: a way to become engaged and to engage other people. 

Increased Interest to Businesses and NGOs

Social media are popular because they're fun, it's simple as this. And because of that, social media is now of particular interest to businesses or NGOs which are currently experimenting with social media marketing techniques in order to get their products and their message out there. However they should exercise caution when using standard marketing techniques which may not apply to social media. For example, disseminating blatant advertising campaigns is probably the best way to achieve the opposite results from those sought, while alienating their intended audience…

During his presentation, Rui Martins described how social media marketing techniques can apply to NGOs in general and to the Dianova network in particular, in order to create impact, reach out to more people and deliver essential messages. As a conclusion, the presentation was not only intended to provide  knowledge and safe social media practices and habits, but also to make participation in social media a part of each staff member's day-to-day activities so as to turn each one of them into a goodwill, "digital ambassador".