Social Media for Nonprofits

Last night I did a social media training for the marketing committee of the Cancer Challenge, a local nonprofit just beginning to consider using social media as a strategy. Social media campaigns for nonprofits have some different parameters from those for businesses. Let me share with you the high points:

  • Set a simple goal. Nonprofits are likely to have a large, loose membership rather than a small, focused team. Members will have varying levels of comfort and experience with social media, and you can expect some random behavior. There will also be lots of people who will be willing to give a few minutes to help out. A clear, simple, narrowly focused goal is what you need. For the Cancer Challenge, their first step is simply to get as many of their volunteers and supporters as possible to place a link to their website on the social media networks they already use. One of the committee got the brainwave of heading an email “How you can really help in 30 seconds.” Chances are, many of their list will go ahead and take that 30 seconds.
  • Make it easy for members and volunteers. Unlike staff, who can be assigned tasks, volunteers need a task to be easy. An email saying, “Please link to our website on your Facebook or Twitter page!” will work better than, “Please go set up a Xing page about Cancer Challenge and then make us a Squidoo lens.” Include easy instructions on how to place a link, and your chances of success are high.
  • Have a next step for the enthusiastic. There will be plenty of people who’ll take that first, simple step and stop there. That’s fine. But there will also be some who get into it, and are willing to do more. Have something for them to do. For the Cancer Challenge, the people who place a link on Facebook and want to take the next step can be asked to add links at any other pages they already have access to (got an old MySpace page, maybe?). Then they can be asked to consider creating profiles at other social media networks where they don’t already have a presence, and adding a link.
  • Make it fun for contacts. Once the word starts to spread, any added amusement value will help. I reminded the committee of the breast cancer awareness stunt at Facebook last year that had women posting just one word — the color of the bra the poster was wearing. Committee members came up with some great ideas of how they could get fun content that might go viral going. We sorted the ideas into those that would require technical skill and those that wouldn’t — and they chose one from the “doesn’t require technical skill” group. That type will spread faster.
  • Get your web site in order. Most social media campaigns aim at increasing traffic to the organization’s website. Before you invite in a whole bunch of guests, just make sure that you have this year’s information up, and your site looking as good as possible. We had some discussion last night about a few issues with the website, and the group is going to make all the improvements they can. They’re also going to install analytics, so they can see which efforts bring traffic.

Social media can be excellent for nonprofits. If nothing else, you have the great advantage of  having people who actually want to spread the word about your cause, rather than just people who are paid to do so. The effect of sincerity which you need for effective social media is always heightened by actual sincerity.

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