Build community with social media

What does it mean to do social media “well?” How do we measure output vs. engagement? What are the unexpected benefits when using social media as a not-for-profit leader? 

Inspirational life coach, multimedia project director, and philanthropist Brennden D. Colbert, Founder of the Colbert Group, shared his social media secrets, as an  using the power of social media to enhance your message.

  • We learned how and why to build a social media strategy
  • What *not* to share, and
  • Why using social media effectively is especially important in the era of Covid.

Transcript

Rebecca Tuttle:

You’re on. What does it mean to do social media well? How do we measure output versus engagement? What are the unexpected benefits when using social media for nonprofit leadership? Brendan D. Colbert, founder of the Colbert Group, shares his best kept social media secrets with us as an inspirational life coach, multimedia project director, and a philanthropist using the power of social media to enhance your message. Welcome to Coffee Time with Masterminds. A 30 minute conversation with leaders of mission-based organizations. If you’re just joining us, pop your name in the chat, and let us know where you’re from. I’m Rebecca Tuttle. I’m the founder and principal Grant Write Now, and Grant Writing for Good. I’m joined today by my co-host Pieta Blakely of Blakely Consulting and Cynthia Rojas of To Your Growth.

Rebecca Tuttle:

Brennden D. Colbert is an East Hartford native. He’s a community leader who has spent the last 10 years inspiring people to become the very best versions of themselves. He’s the founder and CEO of the Colbert Group, specializing in life coaching, multimedia projects, and philanthropy. Brennden believes that once we all realize our gifts to the world, basic human compassion for everyone becomes much more attainable. He’s going to come on today to join us and talk about some social media secrets. Welcome Brennden.

Brennden Colbert:

Oh, thank you for having me.

Cynthia Rojas:

Brennden, how are you?

Brennden Colbert:

I’m doing well. How are you?

Cynthia Rojas:

Good. Good. Hi everyone. Welcome to Coffee Time. So, Brennden, we hear you have an interesting story as to how you began your journey into being a social media guru. Tell us a little bit about that story.

Brennden Colbert:

Well, one day I’ll be a guru, but the story behind it is, I jumped on the social media wagon at least five or six years too late. So that’s how I was able to understand and developed an appreciation and understanding for the tool. The key word is tool. That’s how you are able to be successful when it comes to social media. Knowing the difference between social media being a tool for your company’s or organization’s success versus the base for your company’s or organization’s success.

Cynthia Rojas:

All right. So you’re a nonprofit. You help other organizations with their social media?

Brennden Colbert:

So, I would say, yeah, that essentially came out of nowhere. That was never the goal. The Colbert Group is a rebrand that I did from my original organization, the Colbert Foundation, where we specialized in self-esteem, self-confidence, multimedia and philanthropy. Pretty similar to what we do now. The only difference is during the pandemic, I became a certified life coach and we moved all our ducks and put them in the role of life coaching and social media. The partnerships with other organizations came very organically. I have a friend, her name is [inaudible 00:03:21] California. She has started a very successful brand, a programme called Upcoming Millionaire. And just conversations. “Hey, have you thought of writing this [inaudible 00:03:32] third respectfully?” You don’t want to just proactively critique people. But when the question is asked, I will answer. “Have you tried this? Here’s this article. Look at this.” And then, based on her feedback and feedback of colleagues and coworkers from my day job, maybe you’re on to something. So, if you’re good at something, you might as well put your energy to it.

Cynthia Rojas:

Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. Cool.

Rebecca Tuttle:

That’s awesome. Sometimes the best laid plans are the ones we don’t even create.

Brennden Colbert:

Yeah, yeah.

Cynthia Rojas:

True.

Rebecca Tuttle:

In coffee Time with Masterminds, we’re a show here for leaders of mission-based organizations. Welcome to our 41st episode, if you could believe it. [crosstalk 00:04:17] pandemic, that’s like a lifetime overall. So, many nonprofits, they’re trying to get online, stay relevant, have a presence, navigate the intricacies of social media, all in support of their organization, but also their communities. If you could offer some insight today, what does it mean to do social media well?

Brennden Colbert:

I think the key of doing social media well, it’s understanding the beast. Get all of your preconceived notions about it out the window. What else? You can educate yourself and utilize the employees, interns, and community partners that you already have to grow your social media presence. And I can confidently say all these things, because all of the things I just suggested that people do, I’ve done for years. I used to do them. I am young, but I have a huge bias against a lot of things that the traditional millennials and the gen Z. I don’t know what letter we are at yet.

Cynthia Rojas:

You’re right, yeah.

Brennden Colbert:

My fiance calls me a grumpy old man, and I am okay with that. Yeah. So, when I started speaking over 10 years ago, back in 2010, there wasn’t a pitcher. There wasn’t a… What’s done temporary would have been a digital camera. There was nothing. I had the mentality that if you weren’t there, it didn’t happen for you. I had the mentality like, “Why does that make sense?” I believe that the tree still makes noise, whether or not you’re there in that, because you’re [crosstalk 00:06:11] does not give birth to something. I have spoken at the United Nations two times.

Rebecca Tuttle:

Wow.

Brennden Colbert:

People were having a good week. I would partner with the Rotary Club of Hartford. We would go there for World Rotary Day. And I was one of the guest speakers. I don’t know how that happened. I got to speak at a breakout session, and nobody knew. But I’m okay with that, because it allows you to be humble, and it allows you to control the environment. Because I value those interactions, I literally had with world leaders more than I would have valued likes, re-shares, unsolicited critiques of what I was saying. So, to answer your question directly, my advice to get started would be to sit down. You have to have at least 25% of that meeting be individuals who grew up with social media. I was born in 1988. So although the period is short without social media, I still lived in a world without one. So, I have a perception, but you also have those fresh out of college employees and interns of yours who have never known life without being connected to the whole world. And there’s an advantage to that.

Cynthia Rojas:

Yeah. They don’t know life without being recorded.

Brennden Colbert:

Right.

Cynthia Rojas:

There’s a picture of the video from… I just don’t think talking about why we decided. [crosstalk 00:07:51].

Brennden Colbert:

Correct.

Pieta Blakely:

What are the advantages to being on social media if you’re a not-for-profit organization? Or what should you be looking for? [crosstalk 00:08:07].

Brennden Colbert:

I think there are a lot of advantages. I think there’s more pros than cons. People are more likely to engage with you even digitally when your mission falls in line with their every day struggle or trying. If you never, ever, ever, ever want to associate yourself with complete negativity, you may not view it like that. But if the only problems that you are solving are tragic, people will soon disassociate themselves for you for a lot of reasons. It could be their mental health. It could be triggering for them. It can be a lot of things. So when I first started doing this, I found myself only putting videos up that were dark. Not intentionally, not to be negative, but inspiration and motivation typically comes from a place where you are not inspired or motivated.

Brennden Colbert:

So I think one of the pros or one of the biggest pros you can do as a nonprofit, is just educate your community via social media to your mission and vision in layman’s terms. Literally, in layman’s terms. You take the fall. You go to the intern who loves to be on social media. “Hey, what made you take this job over other jobs?” You’re not going to [inaudible 00:09:27] the jobs they didn’t take. You could add some humor in there. “Hey, you guys get free call.” You go to a cleaner executive who according to the world doesn’t exist, because who literally goes for the websites and looks at the organizational chart. I do it, but how many people do that nowadays? You even play up the fact that they may not know social media.

Brennden Colbert:

You identify that youth is not always directly correlated to innovation, and age it’s not always directly correlated to wisdom. Because when I had interns, how long? I’m 32. I had interns when I was about 27. ” 27 is young. I didn’t know how to do anything. “Hey, how do you do this [inaudible 00:10:22]?” 12 year old goddaughter who had to put me on game to the filters. And I did a video a couple of weeks ago, just about being stronger than your fears. I do Monday videos in the morning when I get to work, and I changed the filter to black and white. It was my most viewed video.

Cynthia Rojas:

Oh, wow.

Brennden Colbert:

Because all the science behind it, but I looked it up on Google, and it basically said, when you take away color or add color, it stimulates people. So, I say all that to say, there’s no profession, there’s no concentration for education that can not be used for social media. You can hire a scientist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, anybody. A counselor under any of those umbrellas, and they can positively contribute to how you are viewed. And the last thing I’ll say about one of the good things they could use is, unless non-profits start understanding that we’re not really just nonprofit. Nonprofits, and like you said, mission based organizations, because if you don’t file your business as a nonprofit, it doesn’t mean you’re not in this space. I think we need to get away from that.

Cynthia Rojas:

That’s true.

Brennden Colbert:

If you explain things to people in a layman’s terms. This is the problem we’re trying to solve. And we’re going to use all of these things for the solution, people will be less inclined to reject it.

Cynthia Rojas:

Yes. I love that. I love that.

Rebecca Tuttle:

That’s interesting, because I switched up my videos. They a cartoon filter, they have a lot of different filters. And I think sometimes when you change the filter and you give less narrative to accompany it, it creates more of a mystery and an intrigue. Myra has a question for you. If we could pull this up, it’s really big. So I’m just going to read it. Myra says she loves social media as a form of expressing thoughts, business ideas, resources, communication, et cetera. However, she has many students who use social media in negative ways. Do you have any tips, Brennden, on what to tell them on how to use social media in a more positive way? Especially during this virtual era, that’s really a great question because this distancing can create that downward emotion for people. This is a great question.

Cynthia Rojas:

Yeah.

Brennden Colbert:

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much Myra for that question because it’s true. That’s the elephant in the room. We can talk about social media, the pros all we want, but there are unfortunately, very serious and dangerous and unfortunately deadly relations to social media when it comes to kids and adults. My advice would be accountability. Letting them know that anything and everything that you say, number one, it sticks forever. And number two, it can really hurt people and hurt yourself. I don’t know who came up with that rumor, that words don’t hurt people, but words matter. Words matter. I don’t know. There wasn’t another console long over, you know what I mean?

Cynthia Rojas:

Right.

Brennden Colbert:

But the wild part out of that is, if we, the four of us and Myra, and whoever else that’s listening can have a conversation about how social media posts, captions, filters can literally change the perception of your entire company. How easy would it be for something you put on social media to destroy you? And I think young people and people of all ages, I think there is empathy that is missing. It’s, if I do this to somebody who was a town over, or even now on the street, because I’m hearing things on the news about the cyber bullying within the Zoom meetings. With this, I don’t know how they do that, but if you just readjust that energy that you have of being a mad scientist and push it to something positive, I think that will work.

Brennden Colbert:

But directly to answer your question, Myra, I really feel that as hard as it could be to deal with that, identify those students who are busy on social media and let them know, “Do you understand the skill it takes to what you just did? Why don’t you reapply this into something positive?” You want to goof around in class. Why don’t you do a project that makes fun of distance learning, and put a PowerPoint together or put a presence of [inaudible 00:15:07]. But put these things together and share it, and someone will like it. But accountability has to be at the center. I am a huge supporter of cause and effect, so.

Cynthia Rojas:

Yeah. I think that, yeah, allowing young people to understand the power that they have, I know someone who did a very deep emotional message about a topic and she got 30,000 views. She has more followers just based on that one video. And it was just a very honest video about something she’s going through. And so many people reached out to her, and told her that they understood and thanked her for making that. And so, that’s where the energy could be diverted.

Brennden Colbert:

Right, right.

Cynthia Rojas:

Because there’s a lot to talk about. There really is.

Brennden Colbert:

Yes, indeed.

Pieta Blakely:

I’m always very interested in the distinction between message and medium.

Brennden Colbert:

[crosstalk 00:16:11].

Pieta Blakely:

There’s tendency to conflate the two and think that it’s like certain conversations are embedded in social media. What’s embedded in social media is the opportunity to talk to a lot of people, and for a lot of people to engage in the conversation and the mathematical capacity for things to go viral. Right. That’s what [crosstalk 00:16:34]. That the content is content that could have happened anywhere. So, it’s just that you see all of the extremes because you can see all of the social media, right? So you see the angriest conversations, and the most hopeful conversations and the most constructive and the least constructive, right?

Rebecca Tuttle:

I don’t mean to cut you off, Brennden, but I think to all of your points, it’s like, there’s so much going on and we would probably hold our tongue in the office, but when people are isolated. We have so much frustration in here. I have to put it here. And you realize who is watching here. [crosstalk 00:17:15] why you hear people not hold their tongue.

Brennden Colbert:

That’s [inaudible 00:17:20]. I didn’t grow up in that sandbox. Like you’re accountable for everything [crosstalk 00:17:25]. I was talking to… my neighbors have kids, so I’m still adjusting to [inaudible 00:17:29], buying the house and all. But are there going to be spies of the future? Are they going to be-

Pieta Blakely:

You won’t need them. You just watch [crosstalk 00:17:39].

Brennden Colbert:

How do you survive at Quantico when you put everything in your life since you were 14 years old. Is there going to be agents in the [inaudible 00:17:50] CIA. Are there going to be FBI agents who are out in the field? That’s that accountability now. I’m not trying to recruit the kid next door to the [inaudible 00:18:01]. You wonder about that, and I like what you said about the media versus message. Because to circle back to the nonprofits, I would like to see less of videos and pictures of you feeding a homeless individual and more of social media content of you having the meetings. What do we call it now? Having the… Just like a breakout session with your team about starting this project. What’s the internship process? What’s the hiring process? A lot of companies have been doing that.

Brennden Colbert:

And surprisingly, I see more for-profit companies integrating their workflow and their hiring flow and all in the day in the life of an employee to non-profits. [inaudible 00:18:58] for the insurance company who jumped on it first. It was called the call center in insurance companies. You go online. Obviously, it was YouTube two years ago, but they’ll interview one employee. They’ll say is for interview. Those things, hell, I can tell you more about, well, we don’t want to say higher costs, because a lot of people keep that safe because it’s competitive, and so on and so forth. But I can tell you more instances where I was fully aware of a day in the work of a for-profit organization than a nonprofit. And [crosstalk 00:19:31].

Pieta Blakely:

Because I think we think of nonprofits as being very open, but it’s actually quite mysterious, even when you’re inside them. The mechanisms can be [crosstalk 00:19:46].

Rebecca Tuttle:

I think we struggle with what to say, because that’s something… When I’m writing proposals, question is, how are you going to market and let the world know that you’ve received this funding in your project? And most of them, it’s like, “I don’t know what to write.” But I think that’s when that storytelling waves came into play. But still, how do you capture what you want to say. And I am not a believer in putting vulnerable things [crosstalk 00:20:17] story. I don’t like that. And so, we don’t know what to say. Brennden, can you help us there in that regard?

Brennden Colbert:

Yeah. Another thing that I started doing, not intentionally, I became… I don’t want to use the word goals. Right? But I write a lot of captions, where a lot of companies will say that. I guess, if you had to ask me to do something for social media, it’s your caption. That’s my thing. That’s my forte. That’s where my skill is at. I can write long caption, short caption. I’m not a professional writer at any [inaudible 00:20:46], but I am a professional human artist. People think I know how to connect with them. I know how to do it. And the way I do it and do it so confidently is I never manipulate, ever.

Brennden Colbert:

So, when you don’t know what to write, just write, just say it. I can tell you right now. I don’t know how many people are watching, but at least 95% of nonprofit leaders or social media coordinators or whatever you choose to call them are worried about bragging. They’re worried about sounding, we’re celebrating things. They’re worried about the perception of people and how they feel. To your point, Rebecca, about the vulnerable moments, I’m completely against them. I don’t think there should be a pitcher, iPhone, a camcorder at any type of homelessness event or any type of soup kitchen event. You put the flyer up, people know you’re there. However, you can say that 2021s annual Mother’s Day brunch, we fed X amount of community members. We clothed X amount of individuals. This is not math class in eighth grade. You don’t need to show your work, unless you’re new [crosstalk 00:22:17]. That’s weird to me to feel like, “Well, let me get [inaudible 00:22:28] over there to show them.”

Pieta Blakely:

It feels like using vulnerable people.

Brennden Colbert:

Right.

Pieta Blakely:

And they didn’t sign up for that. And it should never be a requirement. If you were going to give somebody something they need it, they’re now not in a position to really consent to having their image used in that way. It’s unethical.

Cynthia Rojas:

Yeah. I love that.

Brennden Colbert:

[crosstalk 00:22:52] work the best for me. What would you like to see? If we did this, how would you feel? When I put out an ad for the documentary I recorded like four or five years ago, it started with a Facebook message. If I made a movie about self-esteem, self-confidence would you be in it? My [inaudible 00:23:13] fire, the comments, well, because they just wanted to answer the question. People always want to give their opinion, even if they pretend that they know. People already want to be asked questions. That is literally one of the centers of human nature to being needed, to be desired, to be wanted and to be hailed as counsel. And that’s what social media is. Unsolicited advice.

Rebecca Tuttle:

I think right now in the hinder they were saying that people are just putting themselves out there. Someone will catch me and just give me that hug I need, right? That love I need, that attention. I think you just hit the nail on the head there.

Pieta Blakely:

Especially right now.

Brennden Colbert:

Yeah. Especially right now. You want to… I did talk about COVID last year at the beginning, because I was going through it mentally and emotionally. So I talked about it a lot, but since I got back on social media, I’ve only been back on job like Thanksgiving. I took a six month break, deleted everything, wanted to start organically, because social media doesn’t own me. It’s just a tool. So, when it comes to COVID, I talk about quarantine. I talk about people’s self-esteem, but I try to flip it and turn it positive. I’ll say, “2020 was rough for everybody, but third world countries look like this every day.” 2020 was rough, but look at all the things you learned you could live without. 2020 was, yeah, it was rough, but me and my fiance we bought a house.

Brennden Colbert:

We have a better relationship. Our finances are better, but that’s because we’re blessed to have not lost our jobs. They always want to be careful with those type of things. But to those nonprofit leaders who are watching, or who are going to watch this, don’t worry about what to write. Have a team, you don’t have to do it by yourself. You’re not like a Pilgrim writing a letter to the wall, and you don’t want to say the wrong thing. Yeah, get a team, asks everybody their opinion, not on what to write, but how did you feel that our toy drive went? How did you feel that our Turkey drive went? And then when you get those answers, you just write. Let the intern do it. All they’re doing is this all day, anyway. You’re not looking. Let them write some content.

Cynthia Rojas:

We’re coming close to the end. Brennden, I’m dying to know, who in your opinion is doing it well, in terms of nonprofit [crosstalk 00:25:53] social media?

Brennden Colbert:

So the YMCAs of USA, the national Y. The best social media content creators I’ve ever seen in my life. That I’ve seen so far. They do very, very well. There’s a million apps out. They make a little videos. They make little cartoon videos. They ask questions. They do so well when it comes to social media engagement, because they know that the kids are not buying their own memberships at the Y. The parents are. The uncles are, the godparents. So they do very well in the content every single day. You should be posting on social media. Nonprofit leaders, listen to me. You should be posting every single day.

Cynthia Rojas:

And how do you get around these algorithms? I mean, it feels like… And I love the message, “Social media doesn’t rule me, but the algorithms do. They control my life.”

Brennden Colbert:

Absolutely. It’s the matrix. It’s the matrix reloaded. You have to get some engagement. So, if you’re starting out and you want to do your thing in the beginning, ask those open-ended questions. Don’t say, “This is [inaudible 00:27:14].” I mean, that can come later. Ask those open-ended questions, because when they like it, when they comment and when they share. I think those are the three kings when it comes to mastering the algorithm. I mean, if you really wanted to dump some money into that, there are apps that your organization may want to invest in. I don’t particularly know the apps, but I know that they exist, and just put that content out. So if I see your message, and then my fiancee’s on my page and she sees her messages. But she likes it more than I did, and she shares all her 2000 friends. So you have to get a seat at the table. That’s the way I would answer. You have to get a seat at the table.

Cynthia Rojas:

At the table. I love that. Thank you, Brennden.

Brennden Colbert:

Any time.

Cynthia Rojas:

Yeah. All right.

Rebecca Tuttle:

Do you have any questions, Pieta, before we wrap up?

Pieta Blakely:

So yeah. I mean, one of the things I think we see is that people are sporadic about their social media. They don’t get traction quickly because of the algorithms. But I think also because of their own lack of consistency, [crosstalk 00:28:22]. Right. So, if you are going to engage in a social media strategy, how do you get started? And how long do you have to commit to this experiment, do you think before you’re going to start to see a result?

Brennden Colbert:

So, actually the latter before the former. You’re talking six months to a year, depending on a lot of things. [inaudible 00:28:45] for you all, if you sign up for social media platforms that are related, you’ll do better. Facebook owns Instagram, so your company wants to have a Facebook account and an Instagram account. Twitter business wise, and Rebecca, we talked about this last night. Twitter is the most popular platform for businesses. More than Facebook, more than Instagram, Twitter will never die, ever. So you want to at least have a Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Depending on the type of business you have, you want to do, it’s called the TikTok now, because people like that. But you’re talking six months to a year, and you have to post every day. It’s like a hazing process. If you are not going to put in the work or one of your employees put in the work, you’re going to die. You’re going to wither away and just be a page has taken up bandwidth because what are you going to do?

Brennden Colbert:

How do you get over with a limited budget, low staff, and low staff retention because of COVID? You have a person do it. It’s at the point, you have to invest in your employees. You can not process work all day and put up social media platform, because you have to be available to respond. You have to be available to post and to share. I know we’re running on time. One of the downfalls that businesses do is not reply to DMs. You are real to them. They said they don’t have to go to [inaudible 00:30:13]. They’re not going to go through an administrative assistant, an executive assistant. They DM you, you have to respond. And that counts as your engagement as well. So just do the work and stay consistent.

Cynthia Rojas:

I love that.

Pieta Blakely:

And I think it’s important that you said a year, and that’s a year [crosstalk 00:30:26]. Just sort of fielding it out. It’s going to take a couple of years, but people quit with… Way earlier than that, so.

Brennden Colbert:

Your annual fundraising campaign is 12 months, and nobody has a problem with that. Put the work in, stop looking for instant gratification, and you’ll be around for a while.

Pieta Blakely:

Right. Yeah, and actually make it an important part of somebody’s job. It’s not [crosstalk 00:30:52].

Brennden Colbert:

Salary. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pieta Blakely:

Please do that on the side, yeah.

Cynthia Rojas:

I love that.

Rebecca Tuttle:

I mean, we’ve been here 41 weeks, right? That’s a long time. [crosstalk 00:31:01].

Pieta Blakely:

We learned recently is that most podcasts stop after, I think it was 10 or 11 episodes.

Brennden Colbert:

Yeah.

Cynthia Rojas:

Yeah.

Pieta Blakely:

[crosstalk 00:31:15] didn’t know that. [crosstalk 00:31:15].

Rebecca Tuttle:

Everyone can test their social engagement, commenting on our Coffee Time with Masterminds shows, right?

Pieta Blakely:

That’s right.

Rebecca Tuttle:

[crosstalk 00:31:22] Friday.

Pieta Blakely:

By commenting [crosstalk 00:31:28].

Rebecca Tuttle:

Thank you so much for coming today.

Brennden Colbert:

My pleasure [crosstalk 00:31:31].

Cynthia Rojas:

Thank you.

Rebecca Tuttle:

I think we’ll definitely need a part two.

Brennden Colbert:

Let’s do it [crosstalk 00:31:38].

Rebecca Tuttle:

And we’ll be looking for you out there and checking out your social media.

Cynthia Rojas:

Yeah. We’ll follow you.

Brennden Colbert:

All Right. Thank you so much.

Cynthia Rojas:

Bye, everyone.

Brennden Colbert:

Bye.

Rebecca Tuttle:

Bye, everyone.

Pieta Blakely

About Pieta Blakely

I help mission-based organizations measure their impact so that they can do what they do well. I started my nonprofit career as a teacher in workforce development and adult basic education. It was important work and I was worried that we didn’t really know if we were doing it well. In the process of trying to answer that question, I got a Masters in Education and a PhD in Social Policy, and became an evaluator.

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