Halloween is coming and that means a night full of fears come-to-life.
For some, it’s ghouls, ghosts and monsters that send shivers up their spines. For others, what truly terrifies them is the prospect of their organization on social media.
Some in the non-profit and association business find venturing into Twitter, Pinterest, blogging and the like, a huge risk not worth taking. This feeling comes as online communities grow rapidly into bustling, online metropolises.
And we don’t blame these people. Social media is still a relatively new communication tool. Twitter is less than eight-years-old and Facebook, the elder statesman of social media, is less than a decade into life. With its rapid growth and varying options, social media can be disorienting and can seem like a risky alternative to traditional media for organizations.
But a little knowledge can go a long way to dispelling fears and harnessing the power social media can give your non-profit or association.
So, in honor of the spookiest night of the year, we’re tackling seven social media fears and showing you why online marketing is a friend, not a foe.
Fear #1- What if critics slam our organization on social media and tarnish its reputation?
Negative criticism is a fact of life. Your organization cannot and will not please everyone all the time. This seems like a gloomy couple sentences, but negative feedback is only part of the social media experience that includes inspiring engagement, constructive conversation and discovering interesting and beneficial news.
The key is to know how to handle these criticisms and turn a negative experience into a positive one. Criticism can help your organization grow, create positive change, foster relationships and increase loyalty.
Fear #2- The return on investment is hard to measure at best and likely non-existent.
The ROI on social media isn’t always obvious. You’re probably not going to get someone tweeting that they became a member because of your association’s account or receive an email from a donor saying they gave to your non-profit because of a blog post, although this may very well be the case.
But once you dig a little deeper, you will find the benefits of social media are well worth the investment.
Social media is a great opportunity to show others that your organization cares to develop relationships, promotes a worthy cause and shares useful content. Being on social media also generates great word of mouth and helps make your organization stand out. Those currently involved with the organization will keep coming back and newcomers will be attracted to what your organization offers.
There are several tools to track engagement and growth of social media accounts. Google Analytics, Hootsuite and Twitter Analytics are just a few of the great, simple tools for tracking the response of others to your organization’s social media account and its long-term ROI.
Fear #3- Our members/community aren’t on social media so what’s the point?
This is a myth. There are at least some of your members, donors, sponsors, volunteers, etc., on one or several platforms. You may need to search them out, but they are present and most likely active. This gives you a direct line to those who help support your organization and those who are impacted by your organization. This is especially true of young members or givers who grew up using social media and use technology to build long-lasting relationships with causes they care about.
If there are not a large number of your organization’s community members on social media, let them know the benefits of signing up and following your organization. Promote your accounts and conduct social media workshops for novices at events and conferences or post videos on the organization’s website. Get people involved and make it easy.
Fear #4- What would we even say on social media? No one wants to hear us talk about ourselves all the time.
It’s true, no one wants to hear about your organization all day, every day. This is where the ever-popular buzz-phrase “content marketing” comes in.
Content marketing is a form of indirect marketing that doesn’t seek to blatantly sell your organization or its benefits, but rather strives to create and share content and communicate it to members or potential members.
As an example, if you were an association focused on ice cream, sharing an interesting article on the craziest ice cream flavours can be considered content marketing. It interests your members, engages them, encourages conversation, shows followers you’re up-to-date with the latest news and trends and gives people a reason to maintain their relationship with the organization.
There are times, of course, that you need to tell others about the good your organization is doing. It may seem hard to find the balance between being too pushy and totally apathetic, but once you do, it will raise your organization to new heights.
Fear #5- We will lose control of our brand if we go on social media.
The reality is, being social media will do exactly the opposite, it will give you more control.
There are already people talking about your organization online. Being on social media allows you to connect with those people, share your stories, provide accurate information and get a better sense of how others see your organization.
The more others are exposed to the goals and mission of your organization, the more they will begin to realize what your non-profit or association stands for and how this can be beneficial.
Fear #6- Social media is an inefficient use of our time and resources.
It may seem that way, especially in a time when budgets are shrinking and job titles are expanding. However, having a well-planned, well-executed social media strategy will save both time and money for your organization in the long-term.
Traditional communication is taking more time and reaching less people than ever before. Finding your organization’s target demographic takes a couple clicks on social media and connecting with members or potential members takes all of a couple minutes.
There are also tools that schedule social media posts, alert you when there is engagement and collect real-time stats and information. Running a social media account takes planning, creativity and attention, but with these tools you can do what is needed in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
Fear #7- We don’t understand how any of the platforms work.
Diving into an unknown area can be a little frightening. This doesn’t only apply to social media, but it is a place where all levels of management need to be aware of how it works and how it is running. In short, knowledge is power with social media.
There are simple ways to get to know different social media sites and becoming a regular and effective user. There are many blogs and online tutorials that take you through the basics of different platforms. These guides act as a user’s manual, explaining how to set up an account, what the different terms mean and how to use basic and advanced functions.
And, as with anything, practice makes perfect. Go on to your social media accounts every day, for at least a couple minutes. Stay active on your accounts. Post updates, start conversations, review news and connect with people and other organizations. Being online regularly will take the edge off your learning curve.
Social media may look like a dark and foreboding jungle from afar, but once your get up close, it is actually a great place for your organization to engage others, help your members and community and achieve your goals.