There’s no denying social media’s impact on our everyday lives. It’s difficult to go through a day without hearing about social media at our jobs, in our homes, on the news. However, despite the pervasiveness of this phenomenon, it wasn’t until recently that many charitable organizations began to realize the importance of having a social media presence and have taken the steps to become part of that world.
Unlike direct mail campaigns or galas, the use of social media can be done at very little cost to organizations. Most social media sites do not charge a fee to join and there’s no need to hire someone to design your sites. However, according to the 2012 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report, many non-profits attribute their social media success to three main efforts: making social media a priority in their organizations, creating a clear social media strategy, and dedicating a staff member to social media. While using social media effectively and consistently will likely require some resources, organizations that do so are seeing positive results: when an individual posts information about your organization on a social media site, 68% of people who are friends with the poster will take the time to learn more about the organization, 39% of people would donate to the organization, and 34% of people would repost a donation request. The use of the social media site Twitter resulted in ten times more money raised for organizations in 2012, on average.
Aside from the obvious direct fundraising benefits, social media is also a great way to raise awareness about your organization and to engage your existing “fan base”. But with hundreds of social networking sites available it can be daunting to figure out where to start. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular social media sites and how they can be used by non-profit organizations.
Arguably the most popular social media site to date, millions of people around the world have joined Facebook and many more are at least familiar with the site. Because of its universality, Facebook is a solid first choice for getting your organization connected to social media. Facebook users, which include individuals and other organizations/companies, can “like” your organization’s Facebook page and, in doing so, automatically get updates from your organization on their homepage “newsfeed”. Your organization can share status updates, links to other web pages (such as your organization’s website), photos, and videos with your followers. You can also create events and send out the invitation to your followers so they can RSVP. Your Facebook followers can also donate directly to your organization through a function called Facebook Gifts.
Suggested uses: important organization-related announcements, relevant news articles that relate to your organization and/or field(s) of service, informal invitations to public events (galas, silent auctions, conferences, trainings/workshops), photos and videos of events or programs, sharing stories/photos posted by supporters and volunteers.
Twitter is probably the 2nd most popular social media platform and is good for getting a short message (called a “tweet”) out there or connecting your followers to a website. Organizations can post up to 140 characters per tweet.
Suggested uses: short messages with or without links to your website, Facebook page or other social media site, your organization’s blog, or a news article.
YouTube is simple: post videos for the world to view. When you sign up for an account, you will be creating a unique “channel” and, like most social media sites, people can follow or “subscribe” to your content.
Suggested uses: promotional videos, videos of your organization’s fundraising events, conferences, trainings, programs, etc.*
Used primarily for networking and job hunting, joining Linkedin is a great way to get your organization connected to like-minded professionals and job seekers. You can also post status updates similar to Facebook and Twitter.
Suggested uses: posting job openings, announcements, network with donors, potential board members, etc.
OTHER POPULAR SITES
Location-based social platform that allows users to “check in” to your organization or event. Users are able to not only broadcast their location to their followers, but provide tips, share photos and give “shout outs” (mention your organization or other people). They also have the ability to link their Foursquare account to other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Suggested uses: same as Facebook, but ties to location
Google+ (“Google Plus”) is very similar to Facebook. Users can “follow” your organization’s Google+ page and get your organization’s posted updates on their homepage. When anyone searches for your organization using Google.com, your organization’s Google+ page will automatically show up in the search results along with any “recent activity” from your organization’s page, including status updates, photos, and videos that your organization has posted.
Suggested uses: same as Facebook
Flickr is the photo equivalent of YouTube. Organizations can create accounts and post photos for other users to see. You can group your photos by creating photo albums and “tagging” photos with searchable terms, such as “non-profit” or “community building”. Individuals with a Flickr account can add your organization as a friend and see your posted photos in their friend photo stream on their homepage.
Suggested uses: promotional photos, photos of your organization’s fundraising events, conferences, trainings, programs, etc.
A FEW TIPS
- Create clear procedures for what will be posted and who will do it. Designate 1 or 2 people to “run” your social media sites and keep them updated. Too many cooks in the kitchen can lead to an inconsistent message.
- Many of your organization’s staff members are likely using social media themselves and may want to connect with the organization’s account. It’s a good idea to establish guidelines for staff members on how they can interact with the organization through social media.
*When posting photos or videos that include service recipients, be sure to get their written consent beforehand.
About the Author: Brandi Ledesma-Burney is a licensed social worker in NYC with 10+ years of experience in non-profit service, including administration, management, programming, and consulting. She currently assists human and social service organizations in accreditation, compliance, capacity building, and best practice implementation.