Insights: Using Social Media to Promote Your Cause
Posted on January 1, 2011
Anthony Snorgrass ’09, PhD in Public Policy and Administration
Creating a strong presence on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is one of the best ways for nonprofit organizations to solidify relationships with their supporters—and attract new ones. But with some 250,000 social media networks clogging the market, wading through your options can be tricky. Which sites should you use? How can you maximize their potential? Here, J. Anthony Snorgrass, a professor of strategic media and CEO of a consulting firm specializing in business solutions for nonprofits, offers his tips for making the most of today’s online landscape.
STAY AHEAD OF THE GAME.
There’s a generation of digital natives out there—young people who have grown up embedded in this online culture—who are waiting to donate their time and money to nonprofits if only we would reach out to them in the form they know best: social media. The challenge is to keep up with technology as it’s advancing. Much of what we consider new media is now old. Blogging and email are old. Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr are new, and the emerging form is mobile apps. Invest time, resources, and training—whatever it takes—to be sure you’re getting the most out of new and emerging media.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK.
Before you dive in, you need to be clear about your goals. Are you looking to market? Recruit volunteers? Fundraise? Or all of the above? Once your goals are clear, visit the social media sites you hope to join. Before you set up your profile, note the differences in the sites’ styles. Some, like Facebook, tend to be casual, while others, like LinkedIn, have a more professional tone.
BE SELECTIVELY BOLD.
Choose to invest in just a few sites and establish a strong presence on them. Post items that lend themselves to viral sharing, like videos, photos, and Flash animations. You want people to see your profiles and say, “Wow!” and then pass them along to all their friends.
Creating a straightforward profile on Facebook is probably your worst enemy, because the information sharing is one-way. Instead, create a Facebook fan page, which allows you to have back-and-forth communication with your supporters. Both your supporters and detractors will post comments on your page—and that’s okay. Digital natives want transparency and honesty, and the best way to enable that is to let the conversation flow.
KEEP IT FRESH.
Remix the content on your social media pages regularly. This is something many nonprofits fail to do, but it’s vital—why would anyone want to come back to a static site? Post photos, event listings, and even questions with comment boxes to help generate conversations on your page. Make your page a resource, not just a profile. After we build pages, we often forget that we still have to promote them.