Although much has been written on this subject, I am throwing my thoughts into this already overcrowded arena.
Take heart nonprofit organizations you are not alone. Every company from manufacturing to media is trying to figure out how to monetize social media. The ease of use and the incredible reach potential of social media is very appealing to any company or nonprofit organization with a message. Set up a Facebook page and the donations will start rolling in-well, maybe and maybe not. I would assert that despite the stories of fundraising success in social media the medium is just not appropriate for every nonprofit.
If you do move forward with a social media plan, first decide what purpose you want your social media to serve. Are you disseminating information, raising awareness, raising money, or taking the temperature of your market? Setting a strategy will help you to be successful and stay on track when using this fast paced medium. Remember that social media is a tool to be used as a distribution point for your message or story. Like any other tool it has to be used the right way to be effective. If you set up social media sites and let them sit on the shelf, they will languish and be forgotten about. In other words, if you sign on, use it. Here are a few things to consider:
Don’t let ease of set up fool you. Social media is an evolving conversation, and like any effective conversation needs constant input, ideas, and stimulation. The set up is the easy part. If your organization is not prepared to post, Tweet or update on a frequent basis your entry into the social media foray will not be successful. Users of social media love exciting news, but without constant input they will forget about your organization in a heartbeat. Keep your information interesting, appealing and short. Interactive games are a great way to increase interest in your organization. (Check out game developer
Don’t assign an intern to run your social media campaigns. This is a very common mistake. ‘A 20-something college intern must know a lot about social media so we will put her in charge of the updates’. Please do not do this. Your social media, like your website or any written materials are your first line of communication with the public, potential users of your services, and prospective donors. Your social media communication must come from a strategic media and messaging plan that has been developed and vetted by program officers, senior staff and the Board. A senior program or marketing officer should be tasked with updating social media. Remember, it is not what you say; it is what the person reading takes away. Proper communication to convey a specific tone is a skill that must be employed for social media to be effective.
Don’t assume that you will raise money with social media. Raising money using social media outlets is best directed to a specific cause with a specific goal (example: help us raise $5,000 by sponsoring our team) and not a long-term device like an annual campaign. People who consume social media want and are accustomed to immediate input and gratification. Give them something they can identify with and act on quickly. Raising awareness, disseminating information, and gathering friends for your organization may be a more appropriate use of your social media outlets.
There are plenty of organizations that use social media and many who don’t use social media. The only correct strategy is the one that is consistent and works for your organization. If you use social media be active and engaged. If you don’t, be prepared to utilize other communication outlets to their fullest potential to get your message heard. To determine if social media is right for your organization, you may want to send out a social media ‘test balloon’. Set up a Twitter feed, Tweet daily and gather followers then determine if social media is a viable avenue for your organization. See my next post ‘Taking Your Organization’s Temperature: What Social Media Can Tell Us’
that discusses measurement analytics for social media.