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Nonprofits and Social Networking: 3 Tips

June 11, 2010

The following is a guest post from Christopher Brinckerhoff, program manager for Nonprofit Magic at Allegra Marketing.

This year has been another challenging one for nonprofit organizations to raise funds and stay connected with members and donors. At the same time, 2010 marked a significant shift in online traffic as Facebook surpassed Google as the most-frequented website, and some people are using social networking more than emails.

Nonprofits are discovering connections between their challenges and the trend toward broader utilization of social networking tools. Here are three practical tips nonprofit communicators can follow to get better results with social networking tools.

Define a realistic goal

I learned a lot about social networking tools from Beth Kanter when I covered the Making Media Connections conference in 2009. But one of the most important things I remember Kanter saying was about how nonprofit organizations, and all organizations for that matter, should define attainable goals based on realistic expectations while considering how each of the various tools is likely to perform. In other words, give yourself a goal and work your way around that goal until you achieve it.

Are you looking to create a sense of community among your donors or members? Are you hoping to increase awareness? Is the main objective to improve event attendance? Is your goal realistic considering the options available to you in terms of the tools themselves and the time you have available to work with them?

Pick the best tools

Kanter also emphasized nonprofit communicators’ ability and willingness to adapt their goals as circumstances change is necessary to realize success.

Many nonprofits I’m connected with utilize social media tools to some extent, but having a constructive conversation about which ones to use and why is a worthwhile step overlooked all to often. By thoughtfully choosing which tools make the most sense, you’ll be in a position to focus on them and build relationships over time.

Here’s an infographic with social networking tools organized into a colored spectrum. Ooo… pretty.

Participate and be consistent

Like emails, interactions on social networking tools have their own style and etiquette. I’ve noticed that communicators at nonprofits and other organizations sometimes misuse the tools by only posting and participating when there is a clear benefit to their organizations.

For example, one nonprofit I am connected with uses Facebook, and they only post when they are having a fundraiser, requesting donations or asking for help to gain more fans. They would be more successful if they occasionally participated in other ways within the community. They could comment on or “like” other people’s posts that don’t necessarily benefit their cause. They could post links to news stories that pertain to their cause or core values. And they could promote success stories without asking for anything. This way they would become a more engaging member in the Facebook community, and they wouldn’t appear so self-serving.

Here’s a guide I found that talks about some other etiquette issues that come up when participating in social networking communities.

Whichever social networking tools you choose to achieve your organization’s goals, your participation in these communities needs to be consistent in order to yield the best results.

If you decide blogging is a good way to promote your messages, it’s critical that you create new posts on a regular, predictable basis so your readers will know how often to check back for new information. Yes, you can set up a widget so people can subscribe to your blog, but most people are not going to do that. What you should do is make sure new content is posted in regular intervals, and your readers know when you publish.

Here are a few other tips for writing effective blog posts.

Christopher Brinckerhoff is a freelance writer in the Chicago metropolitan region, and program manager for Nonprofit Magic at Allegra Marketing, Print & Mail in Palatine. He has written about education, community development, the arts, business and technology. His blog, Hot Potato, the little stories that filled you up, was established in 2008.

Copyright 2010

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Thom permalink
    June 11, 2010 2:35 pm

    Nicely done Chris


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