Creating Community and Telling Stories Through Social Media

by Eric Melin on November 3, 2012

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Two of the primary goals for all nonprofits are advocacy and fundraising. You want to create a sense of community around your mission and activate people to help you succeed.

One of the primary ways to drive behavior in that direction and create meaningful relationships is through the use of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Today at the 4th annual Midwest Regional Engineers Without Borders-USA Conference, I talked about the fundamentals of Facebook and Twitter for nonprofits who are just getting their feet wet. What surprised me were the number of people who were already using Facebook or Twitter (or both) but had yet to successfully meld their personal life and professional life.

I talked to a number of students after the talk who were in various stages of doing just that and even inadvertently embarrassed one conference-goer who I called out who was using the #EWBUSA2012 hashtag (awesome!), but had content on his Twitter profile that wasn’t necessarily (ahem) “suitable for public consumption.” Remember: It’s GREAT to be yourself, but there are way to do that without sacrificing your personality and alienating people.

Also what was interesting is seeing the continuing divide between science and communication. Yes, I think like a marketer. But if you want to tell a story and engage people online, you can’t stay inside your box. In order to reach beyond the science community, you have to be an effective communicator. I referenced “Talk Nerdy to Me,” a recent 4-minute TED Talk by Melissa Marshall, which all engineers and scientists who rely on funding to continue doing great work (that’s all of you, right?) should watch.

Thanks to EWB-USA for having me speak and for my chapter, the EWB-USA Sunflower State Professionals, who are doing great work in Guatemala and inspiring me to tell their story better. Here’s my full presentation below:


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