Danielle Brigida became a social media guru almost by accident. The Washington, D.C., resident was working for the National Wildlife Federation and started dabbling in social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. As her network and reach increased, the higher ups at the NWF started taking note and directing more resources her way. Today she works full-time as the NWF's digital marketing manager and oversees the organization's social media platforms as well as serving as an in-house consultant for other NWF staff wanting to dip their toes into social media (she's helped more than 60 NWFers get started on Twitter alone).
Danielle is a much sought-after speaker and expert and has spoken at South by Southwest, been featured in USA Today, the Washington Post, Mashable, and Fast Company, and is regularly listed as one of the most influential green/nonprofit social media mavens.
I met Danielle a few years ago while she was just getting started running social media for NWF and have been blown away by how far she has taken it. She's one of the nicest people you'll meet, online or off, and I was happy to hear that she had time to answer a few questions. (And don't forget to check out the NWF on Twitter and Facebook.)
Here are seven questions answered by Danielle Brigida.
Take us through a typical work week for you. How much of your time is spent helping others within the NWF get better at social media vs. being active online yourself?
Danielle Brigida: I would hardly call any week I have “typical.” I spend about half my time in meetings, strategizing and helping my colleagues figure out how to best communicate with our online communities. The other half of my time is spent doing routine maintenance, outreach and upkeep of those communities. I truly believe that anyone who is curious about social media and passionate about the work they are doing can benefit the space, so I’m excited to train anyone who comes asking questions. Over the past four years, I’ve helped many of our more than 90 staff on Twitter get started. The work they do after the training is really why we’re successful. I just try to offer any guidance they need if they get stuck or if they see an opportunity we need to investigate.
How has the attitude towards social media changed within the NWF changed since you started your work?
I have been very lucky to work with some amazing colleagues, all excited to learn and embrace something that can be a bit daunting at times. Early on, I was met with a lot of skepticism around what I was doing, mostly because it wasn’t predictable, stable, or easy to quantify what I was testing out. Now, I think the evidence that attitudes have changed toward social media is in the sheer number of people we have using these tools. We have a big pocket of supporters and people really embracing what they’re able to do with social media. And we have a pocket of people saying, “Well, this thing is here to stay, I guess we’ll have to figure out how to use it.” For all of my colleagues, I still work daily to translate social media into terms people can connect with, whether it be grassroots organizing and networking or membership retention and magazine subscriptions. Now that we have so many people wanting to integrate social media into what they do, it’s even more of a challenge to really channel that interest and passion and figure out how to put financial resources and staff time toward this work and be as efficient and effective as possible in reaching out to National Wildlife Federation’s amazing communities. We still have a long way to go, but I have hope that more departments can find the space worth the investment and can see that there is real wisdom-sharing on these platforms then they realize.
What's been the biggest surprise in your work?
My biggest surprise: That I’ve made some of my best friends through social media. I’ve always loved wildlife, but I haven’t always been such an online junkie. I wanted to work for National Wildlife Federation for most of my life, but this isn’t exactly the role I saw myself in. It’s surprised me how much I’ve fallen for using technology to share valuable information that can educate and inspire people to protect this earth. I think it is incredibly important that people who are working to make this world a better place congregate online. And I just feel lucky that I get to help!
How can smaller nonprofits get the most out of social media?
I think online is a great place for a resource-constrained nonprofit. The smaller you are, the more nimble you are when it comes to your goal setting and planning. That works very well online. If you’re just starting out, check out some valuable resources like www.nten.org, www.bethkanter.org, www.mashable.com or Google “nonprofit tech blogs” and you’ll find a plethora of high-quality options for learning about social media and implementation from both a large NGO and a small NGO perspective. Feel free to reach out to me and others when it comes to getting started, and don’t be afraid to set limits based on your capacity and where your audience currently is.
What's the difference between green and greener?
Not sure I know. I think what’s important is continually growing in your understanding of how to live sustainably. The green movement can make us often feel very guilty, and guilt only sometimes inspires change. As a person who’s trying to improve this earth for generations to come, I don’t want to spend time judging — I just try to work toward making sustainable living a decision people want to make, because it’s important for future generations. So whether you’re green or going greener, keep learning and improving.
Does the world need saving?
Sure the world needs saving, but really, the world needs you. The world needs all of us. It needs us to pay attention, it needs us to work together, and it needs us to remember how complex everything is. We can’t afford to not be learning, working together and constantly thinking of new ways to solve problems. I feel the world needs us to be active where the people are, and that is what led me to social media.
Who is one person doing good in the world (besides yourself) who we should know about and why?
I am spoiled in that I get to witness so many people doing incredibly inspiring things that this question is very difficult. I don’t think I can pick just one. I think it’s actually very easy to point to a person who’s making a stand in an inspiring way, but I also see a hero in someone who has volunteered for 10 years filing papers for a nonprofit that couldn’t afford an assistant. I’m inspired by the entire Nonprofit Technology Community and by how passionate the people I talk to on a regular day or in NWF’s own presences.
(Shea's note: I asked Danielle to come up with and answer her own question here) When you’re not online, where are you?
I’m outside! I love to camp, hike, enjoy the great outdoors and remember why it’s so important to protect this place we inhabit. It took me a while to work the outdoors back into my schedule (there are so many social media sites and so little time) but I now make an effort to get a “Green Hour” every day. I know online is a fascinating place, and sometimes I’ll take technology outside with me, but it’s also just nice to listen for wildlife and notice what nature goes unnoticed.
Are you on Twitter? Follow me (@sheagunther) there, I give good tweets.
And if you really like my writing, you can join my Facebook page.
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