For our latest blog, we’re revisiting social networking as it applies to nonprofits. The last time we touched on the subject, MySpace was the leading social networking tool, and Twitter was in its infancy. Now MySpace is a thing of the past, and virtually everyone is on Facebook and/or Twitter. Most nonprofits have these accounts. However, many are still wrestling with how to best use them to connect with volunteers and other supporters to maximize return on the time investment. Below are some ideas on how you can leverage these tools.
Currently, Facebook is by far the most popular social networking site. Heck, there’s even a movie about how it was founded. Nonprofits have been using it for quite some time, and it can be very effective. For example, the Red Cross used Facebook to raise millions for Haiti’s earthquake disaster relief. With just a few keystrokes, donations started rolling in. Amazing as this was, it’s important to keep in mind that Red Cross had completed a lot of legwork ahead of time in or der to have that accessibility to fans when they were needed most. (Quick tip: make sure that you work through a Facebook fan page rather than creating a profile for your supporters to “friend.”)
Assuming you already have a fan page, here are a few strategies you can use to increase your fan base and keep them engaged:
1) Be active. There’s no sense in setting up a fan page if you aren’t going to post anything. Make sure to put some interesting posts out there each day and then follow up on people’s reactions. This will keep the conversations flowing.
2) Make your page unique. Don’t just copy and paste information from your webpage and put it on your Facebook page. Although you may want to keep the same branding message, you’ll also want to differentiate your Facebook page from your main site.
3) Create an app, game, or quiz. This is a fun and interactive way to get the word out about your cause.
4) Add a store or donations box. Making it super-easy for folks to donate could add a few dollars to your organization’s coffers.
Twitter is a great way to quickly get the word out about what’s going on in your organization. What started out as a way for sharing personal thoughts and feelings is now a must for most nonprofits. We’ve listed a few do’s and don’ts for tweeting.
1) Start out by following others. This will help you learn the ropes. Eventually, many folks who follow the same tweets as you will start following you as well.
2) Keep it professional. Tweeting can be cathartic, but keep in mind that this is a professional message you are putting out there. You want to show your personality, but don’t tweet about your personal life. Also, stick with the positive side of things. And lastly, stay away from mundane topics, like how good your lunch was.
3) Retweet and retweet. Remember, it’s not all about you. Retweeting someone else’s post is a great way for you to help them out, and it keeps you from looking like you only tweet to promote your own interests. It’s fine to plug yourself every now and then, but balance that by sharing other’s tweets. It’s good tweeting karma.
4) Make your tweets valuable. Don’t tweet just to be tweeting. Wait until you have something useful or interesting to say. Otherwise people will consider you a spammer, and that’s the last thing you want.
Google+ is definitely the new kid on the block. Chances are you’ve gotten an invitation from a friend and wondered, “What the heck?”. To explain, this is Google’s effort to get into the social networking arena. It’s similar to the others, but it offers some new aspects. Perhaps the most popular is its “Circles” feature. For instance, you may have one circle for family and another for work friends. When it’s time to share the outcome of your kid’s soccer game, you may realize that your family would love to hear about it, but your co-workers aren’t really that interested. You can choose to share only with your family circle.
This tool is currently in the “people-only” stage, but a business version is being developed. Although the functionality is sure to grow, it is currently limited. However, here are a couple things you can do right now:
1) Use the Circle and Huddle features to share ideas with co-workers on the fly. Next time a great idea comes to you during off hours, go ahead and strike while the creative juices are flowing.
2) Use the Hangout feature to video conference with up to nine people at once. Video conferencing is nothing new, but Google has made it easy and free.
3) Add a Google +1 button to your page. This still relies, however, on your user to add a comment and send it on to his or her Google+ circles.
In a world where word of mouth has been turbo-charged by social networking, using all these tools effectively can boost your efforts with volunteers in an instant. Although none of the tools actually schedule or track volunteer hours, they can help you in terms of communicating opportunities and achievements. Keep in mind that social networking has become ingrained in the lives of hundreds of millions – especially Millennials and Gen-Xers. If your base of volunteers and other supporters leans heavily this way (or if you want to recruit and retain individuals of this age group), you should be communicating this way, too.
So, as the old saying goes, no time “like” the present. Start updating that status on a regular basis, and tweet when there’s something important to say. You’ll be glad you did.
Shawn Kendrick holds an MBA from Ohio Dominican University and writes for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based software for nonprofits that specializes in online volunteer management.