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When social media first became a household name, it was January of 2010. A plane had just crashed in the Hudson River and a man named Janis Krums beat the traditional media to telling the story when he snapped a picture and posted it on Twitter.
Before that, everyone who extolled the virtues of social media were seen as nerds or techy geeks while business leaders poo-pooed it as a fad that would soon wear out its welcome.
Fast forward to today and social has become, if not a major player in a nonprofit’s marketing toolbox, at least a secondary player.
The virtues are widely known: It is inexpensive, it truly makes the world flat, the barrier to entry is fairly low, and it helps an organization with limited resources spread the word.
But it also is impossible to control, takes a lot of time (the inexpensive part is using the tools), and requires constant upkeep.
The publishing shakeout in 2008 and 2009 was fueled, in part, by the rise of social media, which provided an opportunity to identify new areas where key messages could be shared and discussed in real time.
From a communications perspective, the feedback gained from donors, investors, employees, and boards is priceless, but the concept is the same as the more traditional tools. The power of social media must be harnessed to yield the most effective results.
Five Social Media Tips for Nonprofits
Following are some tips for nonprofits to keep in mind when using social media:
- Understand what you’re trying to achieve. Many organizations get on the social networks because they think they have to be there, but they don’t have any idea about what they want to achieve. Is it increased brand awareness? Is it to build your nonprofit’s credibility? Is it to create an easy way for donors to connect with you? Whatever it happens to be, spend some time in the beginning figuring out which social network(s) will help you achieve your goal.
- Involve your staff. It’s important to manage your online reputation, and it makes sense to have several eyes monitoring the social networks with their own accounts and even if you don’t have an account on all sites.. Training is necessary, as are proper boundaries on what employees can discuss, but a collective approach to your social media campaign can prove to be effective in the long run.
- Hire a pro. Whether you decide to take social media in house or not, keep in mind, it’s still a PR and marketing function that requires professional know-how. Depending on the presence you want to have on social media, hiring a professional to get you started on the right track is worth the investment.
- Use metrics to evaluate the campaign. Like any campaign, it’s important to understand the concepts of post quality, interactions, and comments on social media. Quality is more important than quantity in the long term, so focus on specific social media goals in order to achieve the most from your campaign.
- Monitor the conversations. Remember you can’t control the conversations, but you can easily monitor what people are saying. The best – and free – way is to set up Talkwalker Alerts so you receive an email anytime your search terms are mentioned online. If donors are talking to their friends about you, join the conversation. If people are talking about your competitors, find a reason to start a relationship with them to encourage them to check you out.