engagement, social media strategy

The New Social Media Minimum Is Participation

9 Comments 21 April 2011

Flickr image courtesy of smallritual


The old minimums aren’t working in social media. Old minimums? Yes, your minimum viable (social media) participation.  I call this the MVP. In companies, we often talk about a minimum viable product, which involves the smallest amount of energy necessary to get a product out the door. For too long we’ve been offering minimum viable participation as our social media strategy, just to get something out the door. The problem is that this isn’t going to work much longer. The old MVP will no longer offer return on investment.

Social media participants are savvier than ever before, and smarter than ever before about what is expected from organizations.

The new MVP requires real participation.

Listening to what people are saying about your organization, company, or cause is no longer satisfactory. Listening is expected. Just as your friends expect that you will listen to your phone messages.

Responding isn’t enough, either. Everyone expects a response. Failure to respond in a timely manner can cause all sorts of social media chaos when there is an upset stakeholder tweeting like crazy. However, responding is a minimum. Just like not returning your phone messages is…rude. Responding is expected, and it is part of the old MVP.

Responding with platitudes to an irate client or customer isn’t enough either. As Andrea Greer writes, ” What I find particularly insulting are the responses that don’t reveal any humanity whatsoever. The “thanks for your concern” platitudes. Those responses never fool anyone into thinking the company actually appreciates the input. I’d say you’ve fallen flat on your face—splat!—when you are responding that way.” She calls these “splatitudes.”

The new social media minimum, the new MVP, is Participation. Posting content, that’s the old minimum. Participation means actively engaging in your social media spaces, soliciting feedback, become a community resource and asking others to post their events and news, and encouraging conversation about things people in your community care about. Use the medium to encourage conversation, as the Catskill Animal Sanctuary does with their critter cam and videos on their Facebook Page. The new MVP is the vibrant page that cultivates conversation and participation, whether that be on Flickr, YouTube, your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

Oceana offers a great mix of information, conversation, and listening on its Facebook Page:

And something else: participation is what creates social media ROI. Participation is what moves people to vote for your nonprofit in a contest. Participation is why people will sign your petition and donate to your fundraiser.

Social media as we know it today includes everything from location-based applications to blogs to social networks to photo and video sharing. And everything in-between. In the beginning, if you wanted to be part of the conversation, you just had to know what was going on. You had to know about emerging platforms, you had to listen to the conversation and respond when necessary. That’s no longer good enough.

The new minimum is participation.

It’s time to think about your participation strategy, not your social media strategy.

  • Miriama

    Great column. So true. And said with great clarity. Getting people to participate is everything. You’ve got “friends” when they participate.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Great way to put it, Mirama! And “friends” spread your news, defend your reputation, and give you advice when you need it. Just what every organization needs, right?


  • “Listening is expected”!!!!!!!! This is so true and still amazes me how may groups don’t get this yet. Presence alone is not a connection and interaction without connection is just busy work.

    Solid, clear and right on as usual.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Ash – thanks so much.


  • Fran Ran

    This says it in a nutshell. I can pass the ‘participation’ concept on to other members of my NGO with confidence that they will finally get the point about social media and why we can’t be left behind.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Fran – fantastic!


  • Debra:

    I am really diggin’ this post. I like your thoughts that participation is the new MVP! The challenge is that participating takes time, a valuable resource.

    What tips do you suggest to help with scaling?


  • Melinda Lewis

    I echo the other comments here–I like this very, very much. It’s a real challenge to me, sometimes, to participate meaningfully in different platforms and with different constituencies, and I freely acknowledge that I don’t always do it well, but I think (or, at least, hope!) that recognizing when I’m not as fully engaged as I should be is a step towards raising my own MVP. Thanks for the reminder that just showing up isn’t enough, online or anywhere!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Melinda – it’s so very hard to take the time to do the MVP. One thing I suggest to organizations is to concentrate first on one to two platforms – that’s it – and find out who wants to talk to you, and who you want to talk with, on each of these platforms. That really helps with creating conversation and participation. Meaningful participation is now the minimum, so thinking about where one has time for meaningful participation is part of the ongoing re-tuning and refining of one’s social media practice. I think about where I have time for MVP it all the time!



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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