According to Mashable, yesterday was Social Media Day (#SMDay) - a day to honor the digital revolution happening around the globe. Didn’t get the memo? We forgive you.
But since we treat everyday like Social Media Day around here, we figured why not use the date to help launch our #SMDay mini-series of blogs this week dedicated to all things social. Get ready to talk about your favorite social media sites, tricks, tools services and even a few pet peeves. But first, let’s cover a few best practices for nonprofits on social media.
Plan it Out
First, it’s important to create a plan. In fact, think about it more as a blueprint. “Begin with a strategy, not with the tools. Too many nonprofits begin with the tools when the tools should flow from the strategy, not the other way around.” says SocialBrite founder, J.D. Lasica.
In other words, once you know where you’re going, you can figure out what you’ll need in order to make it there. Do you want to be seen as a reliable source for sharing powerful stories or giving breaking news updates? Your answer will help determine the best social media network for your organization. But don’t just stop at the big picture - drill down into the day-to-day. Who is posting? How often? At what times? Use an editorial calendar to set expectations and coordinate your team.
Having a plan in mind will also make measuring your progress a lot easier. The world of data analytics and social media measurement may sound like a scary place, but the best rule of thumb is just to start small and start as soon as possible.
Use a social media dashboard, like HootSuite, which saves you time by letting you schedule tweets or Facebook status updates. Or check out a tool like Attentive.ly to help your track your efforts.
But if any tool ever adds more stress to your day than it helps relieve, then drop it and move on. Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to do everything or play with every shiny new toy that comes along.
Choose Your Platform Wisely
When talking about choosing the right social media platform, our motto has become: You can’t possibly be on every network, so don’t even try. It’s better for your organization to put more time and effort into a smaller number of sites that people will actually use, rather than have empty profiles. So we’ve done our best to narrow down a few helpful tips for you when choosing to join (or not) any social media site.
But the key to unlocking the potential of any new medium has always been - and will continue to be - knowing your audience. Research your target audience and find out as much as you can about them. This will help you to know which platforms they use the most, what times they’re most active, what content is most relevant to them, and more.
Pay close attention to creating a consistent “voice” for your organization that will resonate with real people who fall into your key demographics. Give your organization a human element and personality. People connect with other people, not with computers. Don’t hesitate to show appreciation and excitement. Try this exercise - create a persona for your social media audience by answering these questions outlined by communications firm, Big Duck.
Once you’ve figured out your goals, audience and voice, now’s the time to pick the one or two sites that make the most sense and dive in!
Learn From Others
More than 4 billion people are using social media today, but instead of feeling like you’re the last one to the pool, learn from the mistakes of other organizations who’ve gone before you.
When creating your social media profiles, be conscious of what you are choosing for your name, profile picture, “about” section, and other introductory information or meta data. These are the first pieces of content that people will see when discovering your social media page. Make sure they are all a good representation of your organization and what you stand for. The images you choose should be big, clear, and relevant. Though now a bit dated, Nonprofit Tech for Good’s 10 Common Mistakes by Nonprofits on Social Media still has some good nuggets. (FYI, distorted avatar images is listed as mistake #1 - hint, hint!)
And we couldn’t let this moment pass without mentioning one of our biggest pet peeves that didn’t make the list. If you are managing profiles across multiple networks, do not rely on automating all your posts. All platforms are not created equal! They require different tones, timing and styles.
However, creating new content for each platform doesn’t need to be a time suck either - learn more about how to maximize your content creation.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk more about the types and styles of specific social media platforms.
Make it “Spread-Worthy”
Social media is about getting your messages to spread widely and quickly. But getting people to share your content means engaging them where they’re at...not where you need them to be. That means your content has to be not only relevant to your supporters, but something they will want to share with their friends and families. Author and Move On co-founder, John Hlinko, refers to this as making your content “spread-worthy”. Check out his webinar here:
Potential supporters and donors are out there, but getting them to choose your organization over the countless others available requires you to provide a compelling story behind your mission. You want to keep readers excited and entertained. Try to keep content fresh and diversify what you’re saying; the same old content gets boring.
To get your posts shared, try to hit on at least one of these popular types of social media posts:
- Interactive (i.e. polling)
Engage and Stay Engaged
Once you’ve built up your social media following, make sure you’re keeping the conversation going. No one wants to lose a friend! Why work so hard to cultivate a relationship if you’re not prepared to keep it going? Read our new report to help you figure out how to move your social media followers up the ladder of engagement.
Just remember - social media is a two-way street, so keep supporters engaged: facilitate a conversation, run a contest, indulge in some social listening, respond to posts, ask questions, etc. But be wary of over-posting; unnecessary spamming is a great way to ruin your online credibility.
Like everything else, it requires some trying and testing. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes - try something one week, see how people react, adjust and try again.
Now go and be social!
And be sure to report back to tell us how it went. You can find us actively communicating on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+.