7 Social Media Fears Your Organization Shouldn’t be Afraid Of

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.

Five Ways Your Organization’s Committee and Board Members Can Get Involved On Social Media

Word of mouth is crucial to spreading the reach and effectiveness of your association or non-profit. People are a lot more likely to become a member or give to a cause, and realize the potential benefits, when someone they trust tells them about the positive experience they’ve had with organization X, Y or Z.

If your organization has a board of directors and/or committees made up of members, they are probably your biggest supporters and the best source for word of mouth marketing. These are some of the most involved people in your organization who want to see its goals and mission achieved. Many are also well-respected and well-known in their industries; people that others will listen to and trust when they say that investing in an association or a non-profit is worthwhile.

Social media can help your committee and board members spread the word. Social media is word of mouth made easy. Your members, sponsors, volunteers and donors can tell hundreds of their colleagues and friends something great about your organization with one minute and one click. Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Instagram; you name any platform and your members are on it.

Here are five platforms your board and committee members can be included in when planning your social media strategy and letting others know about the good your organization is doing.

Twitter

Twitter is a great platform for committee or board members to get involved with when trying to engage others. By sharing the news, achievements, goals, benefits and the personal side of your organization with their networks, your content could reach thousands more people that may have an interest in joining the association or non-profit.

One way to get the best out of this scenario is to engage the committee or board members directly. Ask them questions, retweet their content and get them involved in twitter chats, which are open and ongoing conversations on twitter about certain topics, usually grouped by a hashtag (ex. #assnchat = association chat).

Twitter chats are a great way for your committee or board members to invite others into the conversation, introduce them to the world of your organization and provide them with information about the organization. Twitter chats open the door to conversations that, before, would only happen at industry events, small gatherings or meetings. Chats get those who might not be aware of your organization involved.

Instagram

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; photos are one of the most powerful forms of communication. They convey messages that words sometimes cannot. That is why Instagram is a great tool in a board or committee member’s kit.

Instagram comes in handy at conferences, seminars, initiatives and other events. You can’t be everywhere at once and it is likely that you will miss an inspiring moment or an instant that captures the character of your organization. So it is great when your organization’s members are there to help out. Taking pictures of their experiences gives a unique perspective and tells a story, whether it be funny, moving or informative, that shows their network that the event, and the organization, is worth investing part in.

LinkedIn

Odds are your organization’s committee and board members have at least some experience in the industry. This means that they know others in the industry. LinkedIn is the perfect place for professions in the same industry to connect and share ideas, advice and thoughts. Creating LinkedIn groups, posting discussions and having your committee or board members invite others and moderate the discussion alongside yourself is a great way of showing others how beneficial it would be to join your organization in some capacity.

YouTube

The most direct way for your organization’s committee or board members to spread the word about your non-profit or association is to tell others what they like best about the organization and why they are a part of it. YouTube is a great way for them to tell this to not just one person, but to hundreds or thousands.

A simple video that has committee or board members saying, in their own words, why the organization is great and why they are involved does a few crucial things. It puts a human face to an organization, it puts a more personal spin on the goals and benefits of the organization (rather than an oft-repeated and formal mission statement) and it comes from a well-respected member with intimate knowledge of the organization. People will appreciate this information and feel connected with your non-profit or association right away.

Blogs

Blogs allow your organization to go more in-depth on issues and tell colourful and interesting stories. Just like YouTube, it can be a great platform for your committee or board members to tell their stories and explain their reasons for getting involved in the organization. Some amazing tales can come out this opportunity, tales that could inspire others to get involved as well.

Blogs can also generate discussion and feedback, something the board or committee members can engage with and take back to meetings to help the organization grow.

Your board and committee members are integral parts of your organization. They devote time, money and ideas to your non-profit and association and they do it because they believe in what it is working for or towards. Let this belief shine through to others with social media and the results could be astoundingly positive.

8 Tips for Handling Criticism on Social Media

Negative comments are as much a part of social media life as typing updates, retweeting posts and liking statuses.

There are many ways to respond to negative comments about your organization and the internet is full of as many horror stories as tales of triumphs.

Responding to criticism on social media has the power to lift your organization to new heights or toss its reputation over a cliff. It’s a tough tightrope to cross, so we’ve put together eight tips that will hopefully help organizations cross safely to the other side and make them stronger on the way.

1. Respond Quickly

One of the worst things an organization can do is ignore a criticism or take days or weeks to respond. This delay shows your community and the public that you don’t value them enough to get on the problem right away.

Responding quickly, even with a message that simply acknowledges the comment and lets that person know you are working on a response, shows you care and will work to rectify any problems and meet any needs. This show of loyalty and care will keep people coming back even after a less-than-perfect experience.

2. Have a Plan

Responding quickly is great, but could be dangerous if you don’t have a plan in place. Being unprepared leads to knee-jerk reactions, misinformation and more damage to your organization’s reputation.

Talking with others in the organization about how best to address complaints and where to get the right information and answers is crucial. Look at several possible scenarios and how go about dealing with them. It’s not possible to predict every situation, but having a roadmap definitely when the unexpected comes up.

3. Be Transparent

When an organization receives criticism, the natural tendency is to deal with it in a more private setting. But not deleting negative comments on your Twitter feed, Facebook page, blog comment section or elsewhere can work to your advantage.

By addressing the issue in a public forum, in a sensitive, calm and constructive manner, it shows everyone that your organization is honest and genuinely cares about helping its members and the community. It builds trust, loyalty and engagement as well as neutralizing any accusations of censoring.

There are exceptions to this rule. If comments are hateful, discriminatory or meant to fuel these types of discussion, responding to them and keeping them visible will not help you, your organization or anyone in the community with accessing services or information. Delete them and move on to responding to those who actually care about resolving an issue.

4. Don’t Play Tug-of-War

It’s okay to not fight back once in a while on social media. Sometimes those making negative comments will argue with you. Don’t argue with them.

This doesn’t mean you have to back down completely, but always be polite, respectful and try your best to find and solve the issues behind the criticism. If this is not enough, do not engage in an argument. It makes your organization look combative, harsh and unwelcoming.

5. Listen

Listening to negative feedback is important to finding a solution and building your organization, but sometimes the answer doesn’t come after the first response. Longer conversations, through social media, email or over the phone, may be necessary to address an issue that was brought up online. Again, this doesn’t mean a back and forth argument, but a conversation where you listen to the problems, explain your side of the story and listen and respond once again.

6. Find a Solution and Follow up

Once someone has brought forward a complaint, work hard to find the answer to the problem. Keep that person and the rest of your network informed of the progress and make sure to follow up with the one that originally made the complaint.

Staying with the problem all the way to the end lets your community know that your organization is dedicated and treats every one of their members with the same care and devotion as the next. It will also encourage loyalty and trust, which generates great word-of-mouth for the organization.

7. Don’t Be a Robot 

Remember that your organization is there to help real people with real issues. Those who write negative comments are just as human as you are.

Be human in your response to complaints. Whatever you do, do not use a canned corporate response or a generic, one-line answer. This makes others feel like you’re brushing them off; it is disheartening and even condescending. Addressing people by name, mentioning the specific problem and using humor (when called for) are all simple ways to let others know you value them as individuals.

8. Build on It

Okay, so you’ve received a complaint and are in the process of finding a solution. Now is a great time to use these negative comments to generate positive growth for your organization. Engage your online community in helping find an answer to an issue. Ask followers and fans for ways to make your organization better. Your weaknesses will remain just that until you recognize them and fix them. This sometimes requires new perspectives. Some organizations open social media forums that act as virtual suggestion boxes. Not every idea can be put into action, but your members or community will appreciate your organization reaching out and you might be amazed at some of the great ideas brought forward.

No two complaints are the same and your responses should be equally unique. When responding to criticism, you should be respectful, quick and strive to find solutions. Providing great answers to issues on social media can mean the difference between your organization falling behind and soaring high.

One Size Does Not Fit All for Non-Profits on Social Media

The inspiration for this post comes from a burrito.

Or rather, the Burrito Principle.

The Burrito Principle, a term coined by social media specialist extraordinaire Beth Kanter, answers the age-old questions (or at least age-old for social media users): When is the best time to post on social media?

It’s an important question, especially for non-profits and associations that are always looking to engage as many Twitter followers, Facebook friends and Pinterest boards as they can. Posting on different social media platforms at the right time can mean the difference between your message reaching tens of thousands of people and merely hundreds. And if no one sees your organization’s posts, they have no impact.

The Burrito Principle says the best times to post on social media are generally 8:30 am, 12:30 pm, 5:30 pm and 10 pm. In other words, when people are on the way to work, while they are eating their burrito for lunch, on the ride home from work and during the down time after the kids have gone to sleep. These capture the times when people have a break and can not only check their Twitter feeds or watch YouTube videos, but also have time to engage with them.

It’s a great principle; one based on studies, stats and clear reason. However, there’s one flaw: it generalizes too much.

If you are a non-profit or professional association looking to capture a general audience, these guidelines are extremely useful and spot-on. However, if you are an organization with a specific audience, there is a danger in reading too far into the Burrito Principle.

For example, if your association represents golf course superintendents, freelance writers, security workers or any kind of professional that doesn’t work the usual 9-5 hours, the Burrito Principle can be a little misguided when trying to reach out to them. If members start work at 6 am and you tweet at 8:30 am, chances are those members are busy and won’t see your content.

The most important rule is, know your audience. Once you know the patterns of those you are trying to reach, you can start posting on social media to match those patterns.

Figuring out these patterns and the right moments to post on social media may take a bit of trial and error, but there are great tools to help you put the pieces together.

Free and simple tools exist online that allow you to analyze when your posts are getting the most views and the most engagement. Google Analytics is the biggest one, but there is also Twitter Analytics (through Twitter Ads), HootSuite and Twitter Reach. Using these tools is an easy and efficient way to determine the best time to post to social media and tailor the Burrito Principle to your specific goals.

Knowing your audience and when they are online is crucial to having an impact on social media. A little research and a little experimentation go a long way to establishing the right time to post for your organization.

Sync or Swim: Why You Should Never Sync Your Social Media Accounts Together

Syncing your social media accounts; it’s quick, it’s easy and it’s awful.

Before we get into why syncing various social media platforms is particularly bad for your organization, let us explain what exactly we mean by the term.

Syncing social media accounts is the process of connecting various platforms together in order to send one message through all accounts, simultaneously. If you synced Twitter with Facebook, for example, anything you write as a status on Facebook is automatically posted as a tweet on Twitter. The exact same message, word for word, with a link to Facebook, would appear on your Twitter account for all your followers.

Sounds efficient, doesn’t it?

Well, you’re right, syncing does save time. One message suffices for multiple channels. In theory, you can manage two, three or four accounts with one click. The only problem is this is rarely, if ever, effective. Actually, it may even be harmful to your organization and its communications goals.

Syncing social media accounts hampers marketing, engagement and communication because each platform is unique and requires different approaches. When you misuse a social media platform, you drive people away. When you drive people away, your voice is drowned out.

Let us give an example from tradition media. If a company put the same commercial they made for TV on the radio, it would not be nearly as effective. Not only that, it would also make very little sense without the pictures to tell a story.

Syncing Facebook and Twitter is an almost identical mistake. You can post the most inspiring videos or extremely moving photos on Facebook with a great call to action, but when relayed to Twitter, that same message would be shortened and show none of the photos or videos. All this adds up to a confusing and near-useless tweet.

Besides being hard to decipher and losing its wow factor, a Facebook-to-Twitter message is just plain unoriginal, something audiences will not take kindly to.

When Twitter users, especially those who also follow your organization on Facebook, realize you were unable to create a unique message for Twitter, it inevitably leads them to question a number of things about your non-profit or association.

Questions may arise about the creativity or dedication of staff and about the ability of the organization to interact with or answer questions from those interested in joining in the conversation and the cause. In the end, individuals will look to organizations that don’t stir these doubts in their heads. That means less involvement, less giving and less awareness for your cause.

Syncing social media accounts may be a bad idea, but that doesn’t mean your organization’s tweets need to be vastly different than its Facebook posts. Sharing the same blog post, for example, can be done on both platforms, but in different ways. Putting a link to your organization’s Instagram photo on Twitter is a great idea, but make sure the message that goes with that tweet is original.

Just remember, originality is always best, each social media site requires a different approach and syncing your platforms may mean sinking your organization.