How your non-profit can benefit from social media
How can your nonprofit generate buzz without spending any money? Leveraging social media channels is a great way to start.
I recently taught a breakout session on social media best practices for a group of about 30 designers. All of the designers were members of AIGA (a non-profit design organization), so they had access to other people who were interested in hearing about events, volunteering for programs.
One of the first things I did was take a quick survey of the group to see who was an active participant in publicly available social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc). About 2/3 of the people raised their hand. This is of course higher levels of participation then the general populace, but still low considering the easy wins available within social media for member-based non-profit organizations.
Most successful digital social networks are extensions of real-world groups or interests. Here's some examples:
- Facebook connections are friends. It's a fairly intimate social network, but businesses are allowed by way of Pages.
- LinkedIn represents your business network.
- Twitter (or Flickr or YouTube) are friends or strangers that are sharing things that they find interesting. If you are interested in what they are saying, you subscribe and listen in.
This dynamic of listening in is very important. With the insurgence of social media, people are becoming and selecting their the own media channels.
Apply this to Non-Profits
For the NPOs, who generally have access to a ready pool of volunteers (or employees with a little free time), I recommended creating a Communication Committee with a single volunteer managing each communication channel, be that Facebook, the website, email, etc. This creates a consistent experience for people listening, distributes the workload and allows individual volunteers to get to know the tools they are working with. Dissemination to the volunteers should be a consistent forum of finalized information. This can be email, Basecamp or whatever works for everyone. It's very important that the information is finalized (proofread, etc) before passing it out to the individual channels, as don't want people waiting to make sure it's the very latest information.
If you are just getting started and don't have any volunteers, pick your channels carefully. You should really understand the dynamics of a channel and have a workflow for keeping people engaged before moving on to the next one.
It's important to understand the currency of individual networks to know where and how your non-profit should try to engage people. It's also important to see social media as an organic extension of your general communication strategy including your website, email and any print collateral.