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Social Media for Nonprofits: Raising Awareness vs Raising Money?

A topic that I am very passionate about is the idea of giving back.   Whether it be by service, money or time – I believe that there is a lot of value in helping others.

As helping nonprofits is a passion, one question that I have been asked is how do nonprofits truly harness the power of social media to get results.  This is a huge question but one that deserves my attention.

So I would like to address the top 10 ways that nonprofits can use social media to get results!

1.  Get Strategic!

I am always banging on about the importance of a strategy, but let’s face it: with low budgets and, in many cases, volunteers doing a bulk of the work – a strategy helps create consistency, save time and maximize production.  First, you already need to have a marketing plan in place.  If you don’t….write one!  Marketing plans can be irritating to write, but will save you time and money!  I promise!  Once you have your plan together, add a Facebook Page, LinkedIn Profile and Twitter account to your list.  These are the main and most highly populated channels for you to do your outreach with.  Study each of them to make sure that you are using them in the most effective way….don’t just dive in!

2.  Messaging!

When you are doing outflow, updates, messages, comments and the rest on social sites, you really need to have a solid idea of what your brand message is.  Make sure that your posts SOUND like the brand, and not like a toddler who just arrived at the party.  You want to build credibility and visibility….so don’t use posts like this (which I have changed slightly to not shame the original poster): “great daiy 2day. Lots of qualetty donatuns REceive”.  The best part – it was a huge national charity!  Come on, would you give $100 of your hard earned cash to THAT?

3.  Stop It Already With the Pushiness!

One thing that social sites enable us to do is to engage with our audiences.  Time and time again I have said that everything you do in social media, no matter in what capacity, should bring value to your network.  You want to engage, entertain and educate.  This means not asking for money in every single post.  Mix it up.  Share some news articles that support your position that your cause is important, ask questions that are relevant, give thanks to your large supporters (and small).  You can always work in a donations request, but if you keep being so pushy….you will push people right out of your network.

4.  Video and Pictures?  Really?

Yes, really.  As a nonprofit you know about the power of a press opportunity and how public relations can greatly benefit the profile of your organization and in turn your bottom line.  Now listen up: every nonprofit should have at least ONE person who is in charge of shooting video and taking pictures at any opportunity.  When you share things like this in your social profiles, it not only illustrates the good that you do and your credibility as an organization, but it also helps donors to see what their hard earned dollars are going towards.  And I have seen nonprofits miss this opportunity again and again.  If something interesting is happening…don’t leave the camera and video camera at home.  Plus….you don’t need to be shooting like a professional.  Make the picture clear and the video solid and you are in good shape.

5.  YouTube Ahoy!

Going on from point 4, video is another component that can truly shake up your online marketing presence.  If you didn’t know already, YouTube is the SECOND largest search engine after Google.  Yes…really.  Setting up a channel is easy, its getting the content that can be tough.  That’s why you should always have your camera on you to shoot something interesting.  You can even do video blogs, or vlogs, where you can share your weekly, or even daily, news with your target market.

6.  Where’s Your Link?

Something that nearly everyone misses, nonprofit or not, is promoting their social hubs outside of the given medium.  Meaning, are you only promoting your Facebook Page on Facebook?  What about the 10,000 people that are in your email database?  Have you invited them?  Is it in your email signature?  Is there a link or “badge” on your website?  Do you tell people about it?  Is it on your business cards or brochures?  You catch my drift.  There is a whole world that wants to connect with you….they just might be elsewhere.

7.  Stop Thinking “Build it They Will Come”

Unless you are an absolutely MEGA charity with loads of national and international recognition, you will not explode on social media over night.  You have to roll up your sleeves and do outreach.  I’ve spoken at many nonprofit marketing conferences and one question I get over and over is “Why isn’t my (insert site here) working?”  The reason it isn’t working is that, on a regular basis, you are not supplying good quality content, you are not reaching out to other pages/charities/individuals, you are not sharing pictures/videos, your logo is pixellated….etc.  Social marketing takes consistent and daily interaction, not a “look-in” every once in a blue moon.

8.  Get Measuring!

Another popular question is “How do I measure the success of my campaign?”  The answer once again is, sadly, roll up your sleeves and get to work.  There is not one true blue measuring tool, you have to use various ones to track success.  On Facebook, they provide “Insights” which you can find on your nonprofit’s Facebook home page.  These are similar to Google Analytics and can be learned quickly.  For Twitter there is Twitter Grader and Klout that can help you manage your growth and response rates.  LinkedIn also provides lots of helpful diagnostics when you view your profile.  There are also programs like HootSuite (which I love) that will create reports for you across social platforms.  They may have a price tag, but time is money….and measurement can be tough!

9.  Quantity Does Not Equal Quality

In the wonderful world of social media, there are lots of “gurus” who say that you need hundreds of thousands of connections to succeed in social media.  What they are omitting is the fact that quality connections are more valuable.  For example, if your nonprofit dealt with the homeless in Salt Lake City, Utah and you had 100,000 Twitter Followers who were based outside the USA….you missed your target a bit.  Sometimes you may be very surprised!  Quality people who are interested in your message are the only way social success can be reached.

10.  You Are Playing a Long Game.

The last thing that I like to point out is that social marketing is about relationship building, not direct response advertising.  What I mean by that is, unless you are a highly visible nonprofit, you won’t find instant “returns” on your campaign.  You need to start new relationships and build them, which takes months of consistent effort.  Remember – social media is an integral part of your marketing plan….it is not your ENTIRE marketing plan.  While it is effective at branding, visibility, customer service and credibility, it works best alongside a thriving marketing plan.  My advice: look at it as another marketing channel, not the golden egg of free marketing.  While membership is free, your time and effort are not.  It is a definite investment.

To round out this topic, I want to stress to all of you out there that nonprofit social marketing is extremely important, just don’t be misled into thinking that it is the only marketing that you have to do.  Events, email blasts, exhibitions, speeches, advertising, public relations, etc are all still relevant and do work.  Integrate a social element to your marketing strategy and don’t expect an immediate windfall.  Stay consistent and realistic and before you know it, the benefits will begin to roll in!

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