Today’s post is from my friend Michael Sieler, who commented recently on a post I shared about nonprofits and social media nearly four years ago. In the post, I noted that nonprofits had been slow to adopt social media and were largely falling behind in putting valuable, often free, tools to work for their organizations.
Unfortunately, while nonprofits have made some strides since I wrote that post, there are still those that have been slow to get in the game. With this in mind, I asked Michael to share a post with some tips and resources.
Social media: ignore it at your peril, even for the nonprofit sector. Traditional media is becoming less prominent as a resource for information and tools for communication, as social media gains even more of a foothold. Unfortunately, nonprofits remain largely out of the loop where social media is concerned, and continually make common mistakes. They end up wondering why they fail to make the gains they expected.
Before covering the top two mistakes organizations make in utilizing social media, let’s get some things straight:
Social media is not just a fad.
The number of users on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn is increasing daily. According to the Pew Research Institute, 73%, or over 225 million Americans, are now using social media. Worldwide that number is reaching close to a billion.
This is fantastic news because it means your nonprofit has the opportunity to engage current and future supporters in a fresh and effective way. Also, many social media platforms have built-in ways to measure exactly how your audience is engaging with your message. You can’t get that information from a radio or newspaper ad.
Social media is not just another marketing tool.
Traditional marketing and advertising methods are direct, one-way forms of communication, or a “push” approach.
Social media is almost the opposite. It promotes relationship-building, conversation, and transparency in a more intimate, two-way format. This is both “push and pull.” It is interactive, very similar to a conversation with a good friend.
Social media isn’t the magic bullet that will solve all problems.
Sorry, but if an organization has problems, social media won’t solve them. It may magnify them. If a product fails to perform adequately, dissatisfied customers can spread complaints quickly using social media itself!
Now that you understand these basic concepts concerning social media, here are the two most common mistakes organizations make in social media:
Social media users often check their accounts several times a day. Twice a day multiplied by seven days equals 14 chances to engage one user. Only posting twice a week? Your posts may not be seen, or get lost in the sheer volume of content available, and people may forget about your cause or that you even exist.
Regularly post helpful, interesting, and relevant content. Balance content by 5 to 1: post five items not directly related to your organization or cause to each post about it. Post at least once a day on Facebook and multiple times a day on Twitter. Tools like TweetDeck or HootSuite will schedule posts automatically so you don’t have to do it every day.
If you want a return on investment with social media, be consistent. Formalize a strategy about your daily social media presence, and then give your experiments 3 to 6 months before analyzing whether this is a good use of your time.
Not Building Relationships
Simply having a social media account is not enough. People use social media to connect and build relationships. They want to know that the organization they support is filled with people with beating hearts.
Whatever you do in the real world, do it on social media. If you gave a speech at a fundraising event for your organization and someone said, “That was so inspiring! I had no idea about the amazing impact on the lives of those Guatemalan families. How can I get involved?” You wouldn’t ignore that person and not answer them for a week. You would immediately start a conversation. The same goes for social media.
If someone comments, likes, or shares your content, follow up and thank them. Reach out to partner organizations and share their content to your supporters. This is a great way to promote “cross-pollination of community.” The more you give, the more you get. Simply put, to get a “friend” you have to be a “friend”.
Now that you understand that social media requires consistency and is about building relationships, the next part step is to take action. Start simply. Choose one platform first, then branch out to others. Create a strategy about the content you want to share. Follow-up with people.
Remember that building relationships in the real world or on social media takes time and effort. Give this new plan three to six months for relationships to blossom and bear fruit.
If you want to learn more about social media marketing, I highly recommend these two websites:
- Copyblogger is one of the best resources for learning about internet and social media marketing.
- Seth Godin is a master of marketing. His blog posts are short, to the point, and always pack a practical punch.
Michael J. Sieler is a business student in Portland, Oregon. He works for social media agency WePost Media. He can be found on LinkedIn or Twitter.