light-bulbsTED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a global set of conferences owned by the private nonprofit Sapling Foundation, sharing "ideas worth spreading.” The talks presented at these conferences usually inspire, provoke, and inform our thinking and contextual references.

But there are some TED talks that can really do a lot to help nonprofit marketers, in particular. And with their focus on technology and the way we all interact with one another, there are particularly rich lessons for nonprofit marketers focusing more on social media.

These selected TED talks are, in my opinion, must-listens for anyone working at nonprofits looking to focus more on social media marketing and engagement. Have a listen.

Seth Godin: The Tribes We Lead

Seth Godin’s TED talk on “tribes” is as relevant today as in 2009 when he gave it. Godin’s compelling and entertaining talk, starting with a balloon convention and the courage of one man to create a “no-kill” ASPCA in San Francisco, ends with a compelling case for connecting with people who care and want to be part of a similar cause. These people are your tribes.

Godin asks: How does one actually go about making change? What are the keys to creating real change? The answer is Tribes. Godin suggests a strategy for creating community change through the power of tribes. 

Julie Dixon: A Note on Generosity

Julie Dixon, Deputy Director of Social Impact and Change at Georgetown University, studies the social impact of sharing ideas. There is a "new kind of valuable currency that you can't find in your wallet. The most important resource you can give to a cause today is influence.”

Using data and stories, Dixon explains that using influence to ask for something is a critical step to getting people to join your movement. “There are a lot of global causes today that are playing to empty rooms. Use your influence to get people to join you in supporting those causes, and fill those empty rooms with people.”

Beth Kanter: Individual Social Responsibility

Beth Kanter’s talk also focuses on influence and generosity. She urges individuals to adopt ISR (Individual Social Responsibility) to inspire others. "ISR is about taking small actions of generosity online and inspiring your network to do the same," says Kanter. 

Through personal history and examples, she speaks concretely about how to use the relationships you've built online to make the world a better place through online actions and donations. 

Rachel Botsman: The Currency of the New Economy Is Trust

Reputation is your organization’s most valuable asset. If your nonprofit engages in any type of community that revolves around collaborative work -- or creates collaborative communities -- this is the TED talk to watch.

Botsman asserts that “the new currency is trust, influence, and reputation capital.” Furthermore, she argues, the real power is using the power of technology to build trust between strangers.

Nicholas Christakis: The Hidden Influence of Social Networks

What makes a human social network, how does it look, and how does it influence those within it?

In this mesmerizing talk, Christakis uses his own studies to illustrate how we are all embedded in a broad set of connections with each other, and that connections influence behavior. Everything spreads through a social network, including divorce, smoking, altruism, ideas, and causes. You won’t soon forget this TED talk about how networks can spread your cause’s message, online and offline. 

Marnie Webb: Recreate the Way We Look at Social Issues

If your nonprofit has ever thought about creating a technology solution, this is the video to watch. Marnie Webb, CEO of Caravan Solutions (a division of TechSoup Global), developed and launched the SafeNight mobile app. She shares her story of developing this mobile app, which allows domestic violence organizations to crowdsource funding for hotel rooms when shelter is urgently needed.

Nonprofits often take the safe route, bringing in experts and listening only to “expert advice.” When her team did that, the first iteration of the mobile app was a failure. Webb offers these three pieces of advice when recreating how we look at social issues: 

  1. Bring in many co-inventors. Everyone who touches what you're building should be a co-inventor. She encourages organizations to "invite one more person to a meeting than you think you should."
  2. Build it so you can learn from it. Don’t be afraid to launch a less-than-perfect version.
  3. Push. "Make a bigger claim than you think you would," advises Webb. It’s only by pushing yourself, and your ambition, that the solution will really bloom.

Ken Allocca: Why Videos Go Viral

We blogged about Ken Allocca’s TED Talk in our post on phenomenal marketing TED talks, and it’s worth mentioning again. Video storytelling is a growing format for nonprofit messaging, so we want to understand what enables a video to go viral.

“We don't just enjoy video, we participate in it,” says Allocca. “We all now feel some ownership in our own pop culture -- and communities of participation will define the entertainment of the future.”

Allocca offers three reasons why videos go viral:

  1. Popular tastemakRe-Inviers discover and introduce the video to a larger audience
  2. Communities of participation -- those people who share an inside joke -- are key. They share it, inspiring other remixes.
  3. Unexpectedness

Think about how your nonprofit connects with a community of participation, or how it can do so.

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Originally published Mar 6, 2014 5:00:00 PM, updated February 01 2017


Social Media Strategy