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Taming the Social Media Beast

Posted by BoardSource on Oct 21, 2013 2:15:21 PM

photo2By Rebecca Gordon, The Rebecca Gordon Group

The seventh in our series of blog posts written by BLF 2013 speakers.

Do you remember what life was like at work before social media existed? When I started my nonprofit career, my biggest fear was the copy machine breaking down (and it always broke down) while trying to get a grant or our newsletter out the door. It took all day to copy, fold, and sort our newsletters. I don’t even remember when I — and everyone else —got my first e-mail address and we started communicating that way. Why is that? It was a watershed moment!

Social media has been the great communications game-changer, and even though we may be a bit nostalgic for the old ways, the beast has been let loose.

  • If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world.
  • The equivalent of 100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. (source: Relevancy Group)
  • Seventy-four percent of consumers rely on social networks to guide their purchase decisions. (SproutSocial)
  • Twitter has 100+ active users; there are 250 million tweets per day. (source: Nielsen Online)

The good news is that social media communications offers nonprofits an opportunity to more easily do what we are good at —connect and cultivate communities, partners, donors, and friends, who are the lifeblood of meeting our missions and changing the world.

Here are my top tips for getting nonprofit social media right:

  • Social media is free, but it’s not cheap — Often we engage the least integrated office intern or staff member to handle our social media efforts. This leads to spotty social media communications and actually undermines a nonprofit organization’s success in the social environment.
  • Set goals — What do you want to get out of your social media efforts? You need to be specific. Tip: It should not be money. To be successful, you have to have a solid strategy.
  • Understand your audience — Whom do you want to reach? In what way? Having a strong grasp of generational communications is important. Not all social media is used by the same people in the same way. For example, if I want to engage high school and/or college volunteers for my organization, Facebook would not be a solution. I would need to focus on Instagram. (In case you were not aware, that’s where the kids are these days).
  • Content is “King,” so don’t treat it like the court jester — 57% of Facebook fans “like” a charity or association because they want to publicly display their support of YOU to their friends. Make sure you content is usable, shareable, and engaging.
  • Embrace the Editorial Calendar — Building an editorial calendar is THE biggest indicator of a nonprofit’s success with social media. We know how this world works, we come in on Monday with a plan and then everything else happens. Your social media strategies will be the first thing to go if you don’t have a calendar. And the only thing worse than not utilizing social media is to start strong and stop three months later.

Want to learn how to tame the beast? Check out “Creating Something Out of Nothing: Social Media in the Nonprofit Sector” at the 2013 BoardSource Leadership Forum, where we will walk through the jungle together and tame the social media beast.

Do you have any other tips to share?

Topics: Board Best Practices, New Trends & Resources

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