Hot or Not: Answers to Social Media FAQs for Non-profits

There are a few frequently asked questions we receive when we talk to non-profit or association executives about social media platforms. But instead of just explaining the ins and outs of each question, we’ve gathered five of them and enlisted the help of the fashion magazine staple; hot or not. Here they are:

Responding to Retweets and Favourites: Room Temperature

We’re going to walk the line between hot and not for this first one because there really is no right answer. Many people give a small shout out to those who retweet or favourite a post from your organization. It’s definitely a nice touch, but it’s not 100 per cent necessary.

While it’s not improper etiquette to just let these interactions be, it doesn’t take a whole lot of extra effort to write, “Thank you for retweeting us! Glad you like the article/tweet/question. Let us know if you have any other feedback,” or something like that. Who knows, it could even start a nice conversation that might lead to a very happy member, donor, sponsor or volunteer!

Posting Every Two to Three Days on Facebook: Hot

Social media is a fickle beast. Some platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, want you to pay attention to them every single day. Others, like Facebook, are okay with having your attention every other day.

While it’s definitely important to check Facebook several times a day to monitor discussions and track statistics, it isn’t at all necessary to post a status every day. Actually, it can grow quite tiresome for some people to see content from an organization clogging their newsfeed, even if it’s from a non-profit or association they care about.

Save your best content for Facebook so people aren’t skipping by your posts that are only there because you thought you should post every day. Make it fun, engaging and worthwhile. Of course, if something is happening, say a big event or a breaking news story that affects your community, it’s okay to post something two days in a row. It’s all about measuring the content’s relevancy and timeliness to your audience. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing!

Having a LinkedIn Company Page Instead of a LinkedIn Group: Not

This is actually a bit of a trick question, or rather a trick answer. You shouldn’t be deciding if it’s one or the other, you should be creating both. A company (or ‘Organization’) page is great and has many benefits. Your organization can share news, company information and helpful pieces of content, like blog posts, through company pages.

Groups, on the other hand, can be thought of as a place for individuals to have conversations. While your organization can’t run groups, you can as a representative of your non-profit or association. Groups are a great way to get discussion going and be more inclusive. They often have a broader focus, such as issues affecting a certain industry or issue, and encourage those who may not be connected to your organization yet to participate. From there, the participants are only a few steps away from engaging with your organization.

Using ROI Stats to Justify Your Social Media Efforts: Not

Using social media these days is the equivalent of being in the phone book back in the 1980s; if you’re not investing in a spot, than you’re not going to get noticed. It’s no longer a matter of if you should be on social media, but how.

Many people, mostly skeptics, will point to hard-to-come-by statistics on the financial return on investment for social media, but the benefits of social media don’t always come with a dollar amount attached to them. Rather, social media should be looked at a means to engage and communicate with your community, providing them with service and value in order to encourage them to invest time, money or interest in your non-profit.

You’ll likely never get a phone call from someone saying they joined your association or donated to your cause because of a tweet they saw or pin they liked, but exposure to consistently great content, over time, will cast your organization as an expert that prides itself on communication, transparency and hard work to achieve a goal for members. This should be the real gauge of how well your social media efforts are doing.

Encouraging Offline Events Through Online Platforms: Hot

Online and offline efforts are not in competition with each other. It is not social media’s intent to destroy face-to-face interaction and it’s not the tradition meeting’s aim to shout down Twitter, Facebook and the like. They actually complement each other quite well.

For example, if you develop a strong Twitter following, try organizing a tweetup at your next conference or fundraising drive. A tweetup takes the best of the old school and the new school and combines them into a great networking and learning opportunity.

We’ve mentioned before in this blog that the social networking platform Meetup is a great way to promote face-to-face small group continuing education online. It lets people connect who may not have ever connected before and plan a localized event that they find immense value in. Tying you organization to one of these events will only endear you further to your members or community.

Facebook vs. Twitter: Which Social Media Platform Does Hashtags Better

It’s the age of the hashtag.

The little symbol has stood in the spotlight of late-night TV, started revolutions and become synonymous with being connected and in-the-loop.

The use of the hashtag in social media started on Twitter, but has since spread to Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. But which platform does it best? Which one should non-profits and associations use if they’re hashtag savvy?

We pitted two of the internet’s biggest social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook, against each other to see which one has more clout when it comes to hashtags.

Twitter, Facebook Hashtag infographic 2

The Debate: Should Non-profit Executives be on Social Media?

Opening Arguments

Argument For: Of course non-profit executives should be on social media. They are the face of the organization and know the ins and outs of its cause/industry. Being involved in social media is one more way to serve their community/members and be a leader for the organization.

Argument Against: There really is no need for non-profit executives to be on social media. It is not helpful and could even be hurtful to the organization. Their time and effort should be directed to other areas and the risk of making a mistake and being criticized are not worth the potential rewards.

Resolution #1- The risk of executives participating in social media is more than worth the rewards.

For: Yes, there are risks to participating in social media for anyone who types out a tweet or snaps a picture and puts it on Instagram. The key is understanding those risks, avoiding them and having a strategy just in case something goes awry. The truth is, if executives never took a risk, their organization would never move on to bigger and better things.

Against: What if an organization’s executive tweets out something that’s a not too politically correct? What if their blog posts are riddled with grammatical errors or spelling mistakes? What about if they get into a Facebook battle with disgruntled ex-members or volunteers? Risking the reputation and goodwill of your organization is not worth the 140 characters.

Rebuttal: Not so fast there buddy! Your executives are the face of your organization; you trust them to talk to people on the non-profit’s behalf every day, so trust them to do great things online. Besides, you’re forgetting the biggest risk; becoming disconnected with what your members/community really wants or needs. Social media definitely cuts this risk down to a minimum!

Resolution #2- Executives should take the time and resources that are needed to participate in social media on a daily basis.

For: Let’s face it, social media takes a little more than one or two minutes when it’s done well. Crafting the perfect pin or taking time to contribute to a LinkedIn discussion is an investment of time and energy, but’s it’s an investment that is worth it for non-profit executives. Serving members and contributing to the community are the main jobs of executives. The best place to inform, educate and advise those who are key to your organization is online because that’s the go-to resource for many people today. Taking this time will help executives stay connected, in-touch with the community they are serving and up-to-date with issues affecting those they are looking to help grow.

Against: Non-profit executives are already too busy. The demands on them, both time-wise and financially, are strenuous. Wouldn’t it be best to prioritize the responsibilities and tend to matters that actually need attention, rather than trying to construct a perfect response to a tweet from a member or a donor? Executives owe it to their community to be focused on the task at hand and be fully engaged in making the organization run properly, not fiddling with social media.

Rebuttal: How wrong you are, Mr. Against. Well actually you’re right, non-profit executives do owe it to their community to be focused on making their organization run properly, but part of what makes a non-profit great, day-to-day, is connecting with the members/community on a regular basis. Social media gives the executive the tools to communicate even more with these groups, which provides ways to make their experience with the non-profit even better. Surely the time and resources it takes to accomplish this growth is worth it!

Resolution #3- Marketing is no longer the sole territory of the marketing team and thus, executives need to get involved.

For: This one is definitely true. Social media broke down the walls between the communications team and the rest of the work place that traditional media had built. Social media made marketing your organization accessible to all and a collective responsibility for all employees. That includes executives. It especially includes executives. They are the face of your non-profit and hearing their stories, expertise or input is probably one of the best ways to connect with your community in a way that makes them realize the value in your organization and want to invest in it with time, money and other resources.

Against: False, false, false. Executives should stick to what they know. They shouldn’t water down both their own efforts and the efforts of the communications team by wading into the social media waters. They aren’t trained, they aren’t prepared and they aren’t hired to do that sort of job. Overseeing the message is a good thing, but don’t take it into your own hands.

Rebuttal: Your thinking is backwards my friend. The efforts of an executive would not water down the end results, they would bolster it! A complete effort from all members of the organization only legitimizes and strengthens social media’s benefits by spreading the message far and wide and giving your non-profit’s community more avenues to engage with the organization. Plus, social media is done best when it’s done with a personal touch. That’s why only training can be done on the job for an executive. Only by tweeting, posting, pinning, etc., can they develop their own voice and take full advantage of all social media has to offer.

Result

I think we have a winner and it’s the “For” argument! The truth is, executives should be on social media and helping their organizations connect and engage with members or others in the community. There may be some fears at first, but learning this new skill is important to helping your organization thrive and rise to new heights.

5 Ways Social Media Can Help Your Association’s Lobbying Efforts

Non-profits do a lot of things very well; networking, education and events come to mind.

A vast majority of member-based organizations do all these things with one goal; to promote their members and help them grow in their professions. That’s where lobbying comes in. There are few better chances to make big change in the lives of your association’s members than bringing an issue to those in government.

Lobbying can be used in many ways by associations, whether it’s to encourage tax fairness, promote regulation, combat negative legislation or some other issue.

But lobbying can often be a time-consuming and expensive endeavor, especially for non-profits that don’t have the big budgets of their corporate counterparts. Social media can come as a reinforcement on this front, helping associations and their members petition for a better tomorrow for all in a particular industry. Here are a few ways to turn social media into social change:

1.  The Rallying Cry

You can’t have grassroots advocacy without the roots; i.e. the hundreds or thousands of people that are stakeholders in your cause. For associations, these people are the members. Getting members together to support a common cause can be a challenging goal to achieve. It’s not that they are apathetic or unwilling, but sometimes it’s difficult to reach such a large and diverse audience made of people focused on their own careers.

Social media helps get the message out to members fast and efficiently. For example, an infographic blog post can help explain the issue, its effect on members and what the association is doing to help the industry with lobbying efforts. A YouTube video is a great way to let members know how to go about contributing, whether it’s writing a letter, signing a petition or some other activity that benefits the lobbying effort. And lastly, tools like Twitter and Facebook are great ways to spread these messages far and wide.

2. The New Tin Can and String

The old tin can and string were the cell phones of childhood, the devices that supposedly kept friends connected over the vast distance that was the playground. The technology age has arrived and with it, an update on the homemade device. Now you can have a two-way conversation with anyone by using social media and this comes in handy when you’re an association lobbying for change.

Social media platforms give your association the vehicle to pass on information to members about the lobby efforts and issues at hand while at the same time giving members an opportunity to ask questions, share ideas and offer feedback on the lobbying activity. Twitter, for example, is a great way to pass on information and talk to members in a way that engages them and encourages them to take up the cause. This turns your effort into a truly grassroots approach and helps you triumph much faster and easier.

3. The Radar Game

It’s important to stay on top of the latest news around the issue your association is lobbying for and social media is the place to do this monitoring. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, blog comments and reddit are only a few of the social media channels that can be used as your organization’s radar. Tracking the goings-on around the issue you are lobbying for gives you a sense of how to best go about garnering support amongst members how to effectively push for change.

Social media is also a great place to connect with those who have been through similar situations. LinkedIn, for example, is a great platform to connect with association professionals who have had success in lobbying for similar legislation and getting their insight on the matter. Even connecting online with someone who hasn’t been as successful in mobilizing support, rallying members or petitioning the government can be helpful and lead to a breakthrough.

4. The Bottom Line Builder

Let’s face it, lobbying can be expensive. There’s travel, consultants, studies and more that push you up against a wall financially. But social media can help mitigate the monetary worries of lobbying and can bring lobbying from a bottom line buster to a bottom line builder.

Connecting with member online saves the time and money spent on mailing members. Planning gatherings or town halls with a Twitter chat or through LinkedIn can save your organization from planning a massive, in-person event. Every step is easier on your wallet with social media and has the added benefit of reaching more people.

5. The Megaphone

Recognition is important to retaining members and drawing new ones. That’s part of the reason an association would lobby; an organization recognizes what its members need and it works hard to achieve it. Sometimes this takes political action.

Recognition begets recognition. In other words, when you recognize your members with lobbying efforts, they will recognize your association’s hard work. Social media amplifies this outcome. When members see how vocal your association is online, they will appreciate the effort be more likely to support not only the lobbying, but other initiatives in the future.

———-

Lobbying is part of the mandate for many associations. Social media helps reduce the difficulty and cost of lobbying while increasing member engagement. All this adds up to a campaign that has more of a chance to succeed. So next time your association is pushing for change with your local or national government, embrace social media and all the great things it has to offer!

 

Looking Back At the Year That Was: Trends and Topics for Non-profits and Social Media

We past a pretty cool milestone last week; our blog celebrated its 50th-post birthday!

If our blog was a person, it might entering into a mid-life crisis. Fortunately, we don’t think our much-loved platform will suddenly start buying sports cars or quit its job and move off the grid.

But we did think it would be a perfect opportunity to take some time and reflect on the last 50 weeks. We put together five lessons we’ve learned from 350 days of writing on non-profits, associations and a little thing we like to all social media.

1. Social Media is the Next Step in Education

Education is a vital part of any professional association’s mandate. A large part of the allure for members is getting access to cutting edge lessons from experts in the field so they can grow in their careers and collectively thrive as an industry.

Social media is a new frontier in education that can help your organization’s members to learn every single day and connect them to the information that matters to them. Setting up a live blog at your next conference will allow your attendees to get the most out of the event. Twitter chats give your members a chance to learn from each other in a very engaging way, while other social media tools make these lessons accessible to all members, regardless of tech abilities.

Social media and educational events go together like peanut butter and jelly and can even encourage face-to-face networking at conferences. But social platforms open up whole new opportunities for your members to learn their way; when they want and how they want.

2. Urban Legends Don’t Hold Any Weight

There’s no doubt about it; social media can look scary from the outside. There are plenty of reasons to convince yourself that social media isn’t right for your non-profit, but many of them just aren’t valid in a world that is constantly becoming more and more connected online.

Criticism can be handled in a way that actually turns a frown into a smile. Social media ROI is a slippery animal to snare, but it’s not impossible, nor is it all about the numbers. You also shouldn’t count out a social media platform just because it’s changed, just as no one should bet against your organization‘s ability to do good (and use social media to achieve it). And forget what people are saying about non-profit’s these days; your unique and your social media accounts should be too!

3. A Little Recognition Goes A Long Way

Everyone likes a little time in the spotlight once in a while, especially those members of your non-profit community who work tirelessly to strengthen the organization. Social media has proven again and again that it is the tool for the job.

Sponsors are key to any non-profit’s operation so a Big Ask is important. But a Big Thanks, facilitated by social media, is also a critical step to continued support.

Recognizing each and every member of your community is important as well and that’s why giving them access to the latest news and trends that fit each person’s interest is important. And then there are those who many disregard as posers in the non-profit world, but with a little patience, a bit of care and a pinch of social media love, they can be some of the most active members of your organization.

Giving a face to the Twitter name can help connect members of your community and rewarding great ideas through social media can be the start of a long and happy relationship between members and your non-profit.

4. Consistency is Key

You know consistency is key in everything your organization does; from event planning to processing member dues to the services you provide. Well, same goes for social media.

Social media is a conversation that requires frequent follow-up. Creating a buzz is great, but you need to sustain it. A great conversation generates a great brand, which comes from connecting with the right people on a regular basis. Maintaining consistency doesn’t always follow a stable schedule and things may happen that are out of your control. This is when social media can really help with a solid plan B. And always remember, you may be using technology, but you’re engaging with humans, so a consistent, human voice helps a lot.

If you want some examples of how putting in daily effort can take your organization to a whole new level, take a lesson from the Sochi Olympics or the social media giant Facebook.

5. Images Are Powerful

A picture is worth 1000 words; the saying that has spawned a million spin-offs, puns and quotable lines. But in the midst of all the cliches and corniness there lies a load of truth. Images can be an amazing way to connect with an audience and encourage them to invest in your non-profit or association. Social media makes this easier than ever.

The photo is a critical ingredient to any part of success on social media. We even made it a New Year’s Resolution for non-profits looking to grow and succeed in the online world.

Facebook, for instance, gives you a platform to share photos and harness the power of images. Pinterest is not only the fastest growing social media site, but is full of potential for non-profits to show off their services and success. And last, but not least, YouTube allows your organization to show its human side, to capture the passion of staff and connect the world to your amazing members

 

———-

It’s been a great year of innovation, insight and ideas. Thank you to everyone who joined us on that journey and we are looking forward to continuing it, starting next week with another great post!

Let us know what you though the social media highlights were of the past year in the comments. And remember, stay social!

The Dos and Don’ts of Running a Contest on Social Media for Non-Profits

If your non-profit is ever looking for a win/win scenario on social media, a contest is the way to go.

Social media contests are nothing new, but a well thought out and creative one can help your association or other non-profit achieve its goals. The second part of that win/win comes when your members or community have a chance to voice their opinion, win a prize and a have a little fun, all at the same time.

But just like anything you do on social media, contests shouldn’t be created haphazardly. A poorly formulated contest can do more harm than good for your organization. So we’ve set out to compile a list of dos and don’ts when planning a contest for your non-profit that will go a long way to helping you increase engagement and promote awareness on social media.

The Dos

Do create contests that will help you reach your overall goals. It’s important to ask yourself what the overall goal of your social media presence are and how can you structure a contest to help you reach this goal. For example, if your association wants to promote a new service, you might want to consider setting up a contest that encourages members to post about the benefits of said service or contribute feedback about it. Conversely, if you already have a large following on Twitter or Facebook, starting a contest that aims to increase followers is probably not a great way to allocate your resources.

Do take the time to plan the contest thoroughly. Take some time to ensure all the angles of your contest are covered, including budget, design, timing, wording, possible problems, etc. It’s also a good idea to make sure all relevant departments and personnel are informed of the contest, its goals, its rules and how it’s all going to work. This way, all staff members can answer questions and promote the contest to your community.

Do monitor the contest and follow up with contestants. Whatever your goals are for creating a contest, increased engagement is probably at the root. Monitoring the contest submissions gives your non-profit a chance to communicate with its members and show them that their voice is being heard and will likely encourage them to keep participating in other facets of the organization. Doing so in a timely manner is important to showing your community how much you care about them and how much value you can offer them.

Do have a plan to highlight the winner. Showcasing the eventual winner of your contest is a great way to not only cap off a successful initiative, but also tell a story about a member of your community. The winner of your contest may be a member of your association, a long-time volunteer for your non-profit or a new person in your community. Use this opportunity to tell their story and connect your organization with the great tale.

The Don’ts

Don’t skip the fine print. Writing up a list of contest rules, the methods for choosing a winner and any legal add-ons can save you a lot of headaches and possible court dates in the future. When your process is clear and transparent, it will make for a smoother ride for both you and contestants and encourage your community to participate in future contests.

Don’t ignore the regional and social media platform rules for running a contest. There are certain laws that your province or state may have about running contests. Similarly, many social media platforms also have guidelines to follow when running a promotion. Read up on these rules before starting up your contest because a misstep at this stage could cause you to be kicked off a site or be called out by lawmakers.

Don’t let up with the promotion. Let your followers know about the contest. And then let them know again and again. Don’ get us wrong, nothing is worse than being bombarded with the same message constantly on social media, but a consistent reminder to your community about the contest can help it flourish. Brainstorm some creative ways to promote the contest throughout the duration of it, such as using current submissions as a way to get potential contestants interested. Always be clear about what the contest involves and its parameters.

Don’t think it’s going to be all sunshine and rainbows. There’s a potential for disgruntled members or trolling social media users to use your contest as a platform to provoke a nasty response or air their grievances. Think about the possible scenarios beforehand and create a response strategy. It’s not a certainty that this will happen, but it’s always a great idea to be prepared to stop the negativity before it ruins the campaign and perhaps even turn it into a positive.

———-

Contests are great ways to get your non-profit’s community engaged. Your organization can also reap some other benefits, such as increased use of a service, more awareness of a cause, an increased following or crucial feedback. Preparation, creativity and attention to detail are all key factors in putting on a successful contest. If you keep that in mind, it could be a jackpot for both you and your members.

Six Ways to Sound More Like a Human and Less Like a Robot

Use more technology, but be more human.

That last sentence seems kind of like an oxymoron doesn’t it? But it’s an important lesson to remember when you are managing social media platforms for an organization. As technology advances and online marketing becomes the norm, people are increasingly looking for a human touch amongst the cyber-babble.

This is even more important if you are managing the social media of an association or other non-profit. People are drawn to these organizations exactly because they offer something distinctly human. They offer networking, mentors, a helping hand and a chance to give. All these benefits come with personal stories and the opportunity to make a life or several lives better.

But the question remains, how does one keep from sounding like a robot on social media, a mode of communication that, at times, offers little in the way of personal contact? Here are six tips that can help you inject some spirit into your Tweets, Facebook posts, pins and blog.

1. Don’t Copy and Paste Headlines

Explain the content in your own words; it’s as simple as that. Nothing seems more robotic (and just downright lazy) than simply copy and pasting the exact headline or description of an article, video or blog post. Be creative with your description of the content you are sharing. Make it fit with your brand and use words that resonate with your audience

2. Tailor Responses to Individuals

Responding to people in the first place is a good sign, but you need to go a step further to avoid a comparison to R2-D2. If someone shares your post or retweets one of your tweets, say thank you, but don’t do it the same way you just did for another follower. If you receive some criticism or feedback, address the person directly. Whatever you do, don’t throw a canned response at them. This strategy may take a little more time, attention to detail and research, but it will be well worth the extra resources.

3. Tell Stories About Other Humans

In the realm of social media, you are what you post. When you post content about real people, whether that’s your members, staff, volunteers, donors, sponsors or the people you give you give to, it goes a long way to softening the rough edges of a big, organizational account. It highlights your non-profit’s ability to relate to people, connect with their needs and interact with them on a human level.

4. Ask Questions and Respond to Answers

No human being just talks at people all day, every day. That’s why it’s important to ask questions of your following. Not only can this result in great engagement and key feedback for your organization, it can also help members see the non-profit as more human than robot. Asking questions is a normal part of any conversation. Listening and responding answers means you care about what other people are saying. Sharing this experience highlights the humanity in your organization and allows your community to see there really is a person behind those tweets/posts/blogs/pins.

5. Keep Up Human Appearances

There are just some things humans cannot do and people will shine a negative light on your organization if it seems like you are circumventing these obstacles. For example, one person cannot keep up a shred of a meaningful relationship with 2000 people. So don’t follow 2000 people on Twitter. Only connect with those who share relevant content and provide you with chances to engage.

This doesn’t mean you have to keep your “Following” section to 50 people, but try being somewhat selective. People will appreciate that your organization is not in the social media game purely because of the numbers, but rather the quality of the connections it maintains. This loyalty will be reciprocated.

6. Have Fun

We know, we know, this is a vague and cliché tip, but there’s a reason everyone says it; because it works. Don’t take yourself too seriously when formulating content. It’s okay to make jokes, use slang, craft a play on words or try something new one in a while. Being formal all the time is overrated and can put people off your organization. Most people look to social media to connect with friends and pursue a passion, so make it easy for your community to see you as a friend and a fun way to accomplish goals and dreams.

——

When you manage social media platforms for an association or non-profit, leave the robot on the dance floor and show your human side. Your community will appreciate it and want to keep coming back. Once that happen, the possibilities are somewhere near limitless.