Almost every week, I get an e-mail from a non-profit executive director or board member asking me, “Should our organization really care about social media? Do we really need to be on Facebook or Twitter?”
The short answer is: Yes. Your organization should care about social media.
Fifteen years ago, non-profits were asking the same thing about websites… “Do we really need one?” “Isn’t this just a flash in the pan?” “Our thing is direct mail. People never get tired of getting letters.”
Can you imagine an organization in 2012 asking whether or not they needed a website? Over the course of just 10-15 years, websites (and e-mail) have allowed non-profits to reach more prospects, volunteers, and donors than ever before, and to do it quickly and cost-effectively.
The reason that websites became so important is because, starting in the late 1990’s and accelerating at the turn of the millennium, people around the world started to spend so much time online. As the old saying goes, if you want to catch fish, you have to go where the fish are.
The same thing is true for social networks today. Over 1 billion people around the world are now using social networks. In the developed world, the vast majority of your target audience is likely to be active on social media sites. Social networks provide a quick, cheap, and easy way for people to stay in touch with each other, share what they like, and keep abreast of each other’s lives. Similarly, social networks provide a quick, cheap, and easy way for your non-profit to stay in touch with your donors, prospects, and friends.
Your organization can and should be active on social media.
The 4 Key Social Media Objectives for Your Non-Profit
Your ultimate objectives in using social networks for your non-profit are to raise money and gain new attention for your organization. Here are the four main goals you should keep in mind for your social media activity that will allow you to raise more money and find new prospects on social networking sites:
#1 – Drive People Back to Your Site
Remember this simple truth: your most important activity on social networking sites should be to drive people back to your website. While you want to connect with as many people as possible on each social media site, you want to be sure to direct them back to your own site as often as possible. Sending followers back to your website will allow you to collect e-mail addresses from your followers, which in turn will allow you to actively own your communications with them.
I have seen far too many non-profits that have pushed their Facebook profiles so hard that when their donors think about finding information about the non-profit online, they immediately go to Facebook. This is a big mistake on the part of the non-profit.
When people think about your online presence, they should think WEBSITE first. Your website should be such a wealth of information, photos, videos, whitepapers, etc. that they don’t think of going to social sites first.
Sure, you want to connect with people on social sites and get them to share the information you are providing, but it is ALL for the purpose of driving people back to your organization’s website.
#2 – Connect with New Prospects
The second main activity you want to conduct on social networking sites is connecting with new prospects. The best way to do this is to get your current supporters and followers on the site to hit the “share” button – that is, you want to post such interesting, entertaining or compelling items on your social media sites that people want to share it with their own followers and friends on the site. This will help you grow your presence on the site and will encourage new prospects to follow you.
The best way to get people to share what you are posting is to post extremely compelling content. Another great way is to simply ask your supporters to share some of your content with their own circles and networks online. Many times, people will happily do so. You don’t want to do this with every post, but from time to time, consider sending out a message to some of your supporters like this:
“I just tweeted out an important message about our event this weekend. Would you consider retweeting it to your friends? This is our most important event of the year! Thanks in advance for your help!”
I have found that one of the best ways to get people sharing what you are posting is to launch a “Social Media Leadership Team” or “Social Networking Committee” for your non-profit. The idea is to gather a group of your supporters who are very active on social networks, and get them to commit to share or repost a couple of your items per month. Treat this group like any other committee, with occasional meetings, lots of appreciation and recognition, etc.
#3 – Stay in Touch with Current Donors
The third main goal of your social networking activity is to stay in touch with current donors. Social sites are a great way to unobtrusively stay “front of mind” with your donors. By sharing content on these sites on a regular basis, your donors will have a constant reminder of your good work and their commitment to be part of your team.
Be sure to remind your donors about your social networking profiles on a regular basis and spend time building connections on each site with your team of donors and volunteers.
#4 – Maintain an Active Conversation On-Site
The fourth and final primary goal of your social networking activity is to maintain an active conversation on each social media site where you are engaged. This means allowing people to send you messages on the site, and responding in a timely manner. It also means asking interesting questions, seeking advice, and listening to what people have to say on those sites.
Why? Because it shows you are a real, caring organization, it will help you reach new people (people are drawn to conversations and questions, and people like to share content like this) and it will provide a valuable way to “keep your ear to the ground” and see what people are saying / thinking about your non-profit.