Monday, March 1, 2010

Nonprofits: How Not to Lose Your Mind Using Social Media

The nonprofit hot topic seems to be whether or not to use social media.  The very simple answer is "YES!"  Having a social media presence is the newest and most interactive way to have a presence on the web. But don't let anyone fool you into thinking that it's as simple as adding water and stirring. It takes some time, energy and creativy to have an effective social media presence.  And the vast majority of nonprofit organizations are not going to have the budget to outsource this project or hire staff members simply to be content managers.  Most of us have to add this to our current job descriptions and find the time to actively add content.

So, how can this be done easily and still create results?  Here's some initial thoughts:

1. Multi-task -- If you are creating content for your website, add a link to your Facebook page and Twitter page.  Better yet, set up your Facebook page to automatically update Twitter.  Adding a YouTube video? Link YouTube, Facebook and Twitter together.  You post it one time and it gets distributed to other channels.

2.  Keep The Sites Open -- Keep your social media sites open on your desk top.  It only takes a minute to send out a Twitter update or Facebook update.  Post content when you have a few extra minutes (like when you are on hold or when you only have 10 minutes before a meeting and don't have enough time to start a new project). 

3.  RT -- Not all of your content needs to be original.  In fact, it's better if it isn't.  Social media works best when it really is social, meaning you are part of a larger community.  Share good information from others. Read an article that is informative?  Retweet it or post a link giving credit to the original author. The favor will be returned in time.

4.  Interns -- College students are looking for opportunities to gain experience.  Give them an opportunity to work in your office and as part of their responsibilities, ask them to post content, shoot short videos using a simple webcam of things happening in your organization and posting to YouTube, and respond to content posted on your site.

5.  Respond -- If someone sends you something on Facebook or Twitter or any other place, respond. Remember that social media is not static.  It's interactive and your constituents want, expect and deserve a response. It's the best possible customer service. I read a blog article today on jobs that will be replaced by social media. The role of customer service agents will drastically change as a result of using social media. Not responding is the worst kind of service you can provide.

6.  Make Sure Things Work -- If you are going to take the time to post content, please make sure the links, downloads or video work.  Today I was very excited to download a white paper about social media trends from Sage Nonproft Solutions. I went to their site, completed a form with all of my contact information, and went to click on the "Download PDF" and nothing happened.  I tried it a second time and it still didn't work. So, I then called their 800 number and was on hold for a solid five minutes with no response. I find it hard to believe there is such a demand that they could have a human being answer the phone.  Everything was automated (and that, my friends, is a subject for another day on poor customer service).  The bottom line: I never got the white paper, I ended up hanging up in frustration, and believe me, when I get added to their mailing list or get a sales call, I will not respond. If you post content, make sure everything works.

7.  Job Share -- We share responsibilities at Dayton Children's between the marketing and development office.  Each of us has a different angle for content so it keeps a variety of topics available.  It works out between three people that when one person is busy, another person steps up to post information. We have found a balance over time that ensures we have a myriad of fresh content.

8.  Don't Go Crazy -- Remember the old ad that claimed, "A little dab will do ya?"  Same principle applies here. You only need to have a couple of new posts per day.  Groups that update their Facebook status page 15-20 times per day are going way overboard.  Post a few things on Twitter, respond to a few things and space it out throughout the day. It is easy to get consumed when you enter the social media world. Try not to lose sight of time and be judicious with what you post.

9. Pick Your Places -- Take time to know your audience. Find out where your constituents will be. If you have a small shop, or if you are the only person in the shop, you may only be able to pick a few places to be. I'd suggest Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  You don't need to be on Ning, Bebo, Myspace, and the zillion of other social networking outlets.  Find a few that work effectively for your organization and stick with it. If you have time to add more sites, grow gradually.  You may not need a Foursquare account yet.

I imagine there are dozens of great suggestions on how to effectively manage social media without losing your mind. Feel free to post your recommendations.  What works for you?