Monday, May 20, 2013

Social media: Diving in, the right way

Earlier, I talked about the value of adding social media to a nonprofit’s communications toolkit. Social media is free. Millions use it every day. So why not dive in?

Why not? Because a poorly run social media campaign may hurt your organization by making it look unprofessional, unhip or unpopular. As the marketing firm CAWOOD says, don’t use social media if you don’t have the time and resources to put into the campaign or if you don’t understand the specific social media platform you sign up for.

The key is to treat Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and any other social media platform as an individual community with distinct expectations about what you’ll say to them and how you’ll say it. Whatever you do, don’t fall into the habit of treating your social media accounts as online versions of your quarterly newsletter.  

It happens. I have caught myself falling back on print-media strategies - including using social media to push out news instead of engaging in conversations - instead of making the best use of my Twitter feed and Facebook page.

It is an easy trap to fall into for an organization without the resources to bring a social media wizard onto the team or post a stunning photograph or a 140-character bon mot every hour or so. But don’t fret, because you don’t need to overwhelm your audience with posts to have an impact on social media.

In fact, posting too much can be just as bad not posting enough or posting the wrong content. And any organization can create buzz online if it understands some basic rules common to all social media channels, learns the value of each platform it signs on to and creates a communications strategy that makes the best use of each tool.

You can even measure the effect of your Twitter and other social media campaigns on your audience. And you should.

The bottom line is conversation.

The best posts and tweets grab an audience’s attention and engage it in an open-ended conversation. The strategy is similar to that of a good interviewer, who finds ways to probe deeply into an issue or into a subject’s psyche instead of asking simple yes or no questions.

Engaging in real conversations with your fans and followers helps you shape your message in real-time to meet their needs. Do it effectively, and you will bond your online audience to your nonprofit and increase its investment in your mission.

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