It is clear that the proper utilization of social media can be beneficial to a non profit organization, but now comes the question of how to use it and what technologies may be the most useful. To improve the functionality and effectiveness of a non profit’s communication efforts, there are a few things I would like to examine and offer helpful tips on how to make social media work for you.
It is important to note that with so many opportunities present for citizen engagement, it might be difficult to decipher through all of the uses of social media. Regardless of what method you to choose to use, it is important to have clear and attainable goals and objectives. It is not a good practice to just set up a Facebook or Twitter page with no knowledge or purpose behind it. Social media is most effective when implemented with specific goals and an outcome in mind. This is necessary because as an organization you will want to examine the effectiveness of the content that is being put online and gauge whether social media is right for your organization.
In an article on Mashable: The Social Media Guide titled 5 Essential Tips for Promoting Your Charity Using Social Media, Josh Catone offers his advice on the best way to implement these new technologies. He says that regardless of the social media tools that you choose to use, there always needs to be an opportunity to engage in conversation. By encouraging this communication with your constituents, you are allowing them to give you feedback as well as gain insight on how best to reach them. This is proven by the March of Dimes, who realized that they needed to allow their publics to openly communicate about their experiences when dealing with premature babies, and they did this through Share Your Story, an online social network that promotes discussion and allows for community involvement and support. This online network is a great example of how to strengthen the relationships of your constituents, and foster positive, trusting, and authentic relationships with them.
It is necessary to make sure that you as an organization are also listening to your audience, and maintaining current and updated content and information. Do not try to use all the different available social media tools, but just use what you know your organization can regularly maintain. It can be helpful to focus your efforts on one specific goal or segment of your organization’s mission. Even if your non profit is trying to accomplish multiple objectives, it may be easiest to gain support by not overwhelming your audience with a wealth of information, statistics, and pleas for donations in danger of saturating the market. Also, always be genuine in the conversations that are established because people want to communicate with real, yes I said it, real people. It is no longer okay to just settle for automated messages to the public, but remember to talk to people, not at them. The American Red Cross is another great example of a non profit staying connected with their constituents, maintaing transparency and authenticity, and using specific social media to spread their news and information.
These tips are all beneficial because upfront they might not prove to be quite lucrative, but with enough effort and purpose, social media is a great mechanism to gain support and donations for your cause. All of these efforts to communicate will help create active participants who help spread the word to potential donors, become engaged in helping to achieve the mission and goals of your organization, and become some of the main organizers and proponents for your cause. What could possibly be better than that?