The Scoop on Social Media for Non-profits

Before you start searching for customized URLs  or start scrambling to build pages and applications (apps, as we fondly call them) for your organization or Facebook, and Twitter, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “WHY???

What does your non-profit organization want to achieve? Exactly what do you think or hope the use of social media will do for your organization? It is important that you be really specific when it comes to shaping your Social Media campaign.

Keep in mind that there are almost as many ways to use Social Media as there are Social Media options available. If you want to successfully navigate the big, wide, world of Social Media, you absolutely must have a clear understanding of what you want to do. Your answer will get you started on the right track by helping you match the objective or goal with the right Social Media(SM) channel.

Do you want to recruit board members or hire staff? Maybe the professionally-oriented LinkedIn is best for you.

Are you hoping to connect with like-minded professionals in the sector? Facebook or Twitter or popular sector blogs may serve you well.

If you want to share successes with funders and the community, then  Facebook, Flickr, or YouTube may be the perfect places to post photos, videos and stories.

The answer to the question “What do I want to achieve?” will help shape your Social Media campaign and help to guide the time and commitment you put into the process of developing and growing your network.

Knowing exactly what you want to achieve will also help set the bar to measure your return on investment (ROI). At the end of the day, your ROI (or simply put: the return on the resources, i.e. time, personnel you have invested in social media) will demonstrate why this is or this isn’t the right choice for your organization!

The other great thing about having a clear picture of what you want to achieve through your SM channels — it helps you to stay on track! It is easy to get caught up in all the latest SM trends that pop up, they are all very ‘shiny’ and impressive but I  find that when I take a moment to revisit my ultimate goals and objectives, it is easy to tell which SM trends are a fit for my organization and which ones are not.

Here are a few more basic tips to keep in mind when trying to determine how to use Social Media and how it might benefit your organization:

  • Social media is all about gaining trust by being transparent, casual and personal. People want to know what your organization does, what you are up to and how they can get involved, but they want to interact with a real person with a real personality!
  • Create conversations and engage in informal discussions to genuinely get to know (and influence) your followers. They are your potential funders, volunteers, staff and community cheerleaders. Use clear, simple and positive language.
  • Be consistent, friendly and available. Remember that building lasting relationships takes some time, but responding quickly to a compliment or question will go a long way.
  • Never use social media solely for advertising your products and services. It’s boring, it can damage your reputation as a professional organization and you will be ignored by a lot of people you could be reaching.
  • Understand that some important measurements of success when it comes to social media is about more than numbers it is no longer a case of how many hits or followers but how many great two-way relationships have I made. Strong relationships with 10 followers can do far more than having 1000 followers who aren’t engaged.
  • Say please and thank you. Reward your “fans” with new opportunities to act, public recognition and expressions of gratitude. Share links, ideas and conversations freely.
  • Generously refer to outside content that might also be interesting and valuable to your audience. Just stay professional and true to your organizational values.
  • Never start a social media campaign and then abandon it. You can set your own pace, but be consistent. Nothing says “failure” like an inactive social media account. Anything that goes online stays there forever. Make it good!

Social Media is not a phase or a fad. It’s quickly becoming a fundamental marketing requirement for all sectors to engage in social media. Be thoughtful and strategic when you are thinking about introducing Social Media into your organization. Remember, if Social Media is to be a successful tool for your organization, you must be prepared to make a long term commitment to it.  Your Social Media campaign’s success will depend on the time, attention and resources you commit to it.

~Karen Franco~

Karen Franco is the Director of Communications at Volunteer Calgary. With a long history in advertising and marketing, she sees the value in engaging in social media networking and makes it a habit to engage in conversations with Volunteer Calgary’s online communities everyday.

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About Propellus

Propellus is a non-profit organization that has been empowering organizations since 1955. Through a dynamic range of consulting, training and member services, it helps organizations envision and realize new paths, practices and possibilities. Propellus guides, mentors and educates clients, arming them with tools and resources to help boost organizational effectiveness. Propellus strengthens organizations; in doing so, it leads the way toward building thriving communities.
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