Traditional Media vs. Social Media: Which One Delivers More Upside to Non-profits

“We’ve always done it this way.”

That sentence is one of the fiercest enemies of progress and success, especially for non-profits. Unfortunately, when it comes to marketing and communications, many organizations miss out on some big opportunities to grow and thrive because they are hesitant to invest in social media at the expense of traditional media, such as direct mail, magazines, TV and newspaper.

Part of this reluctance to embrace social media is due to a lack of information. So what exactly is the difference between traditional and social media and what does it have to do with your non-profit? Take a look:


The number of people who use social media has skyrocketed in the last few years and it keeps rising. The number of people who go to social media for their news has gone from 39% in 2012 to 50% in 2013. On the other hand, there’s a downward trend in the number of people who go to traditional media for their news. Newspaper has gone from 29% to 28% and radio has decreased from 33% to 23% between 2012 and 2013.

Times are changing and your organization should probably take note. You can reach more people with social media than ever before and its quickly rising past traditional media as the go-to source for news and interacting with the world.

Data Collection

You can painstakingly plan, create and execute a traditional media strategy, like a direct mailing campaign, but it’s extremely difficult and expensive to know how many people tell their friends about your organization because of it, how many people renew their membership because of it or even how many people really even take five seconds to look at it. The opposite is true with social media

Non-profits can extract reams of data from their social media efforts. From how many people are looking at your tweets to the number of people (and their age, gender, etc.) who are engaging with your Facebook post, social media has it all. You can use this data to make your organization better, provide more value to your community and grow your non-profit. The best part of social media data is that it’s cheap. There are, of course, expensive tools that chart the most minuscule patterns, but useful data can be gathered for free from various sources, especially since Twitter Analytics became accessible for everyone in August.


Traditional media is a one-way conversation. You can put out an ad, an article or a testimonial in traditional media, but unless you gather your intended audience in a room or call them up on the phone, you’ll never know how they have reacted to it, if they have any questions or give them a chance to share it with their colleagues or friends.

Social media is different because it’s a two-way conversation. It allows your members or community to comment, reflect, share and further engage in any content you post. You can answer questions in a YouTube video comment section or encourage conversation on a Twitter post. Engaging your community increases value for your community and creates an environment of inclusiveness that makes people want to come back again and again.

Frequency and Timing

Time is often of the essence and social media understands that. You can post multiple times a day to various platforms to get your content out to your members or community. If something happens that suddenly that affects your members, you can take to social media to let them know. You can promote an initiative or event several times a week if you that’s your plan. The same cannot be said for traditional media.

There is a limited number of times you can publish material in traditional media and it takes time (not to mention money) to get in contact this way. There are are countless opportunities you can your members can miss because the timing of material in traditional media is even slightly off.


Many people are worried that social media is actually just a different word for chaos and risk. This fear is uncalled for. The truth is, social media gives you more control over a message than traditional media. You can explain yourself on social media, delete or edit a post, offer apologies, control who you follow and who follows you and moderate comments on almost every platform there is.

Traditional media doesn’t offer you the same luxuries. Once you send it out, you can’t take it back, you can’t moderate it and you can’t chip in with your thoughts or follow-up. Taking control of your message and your future is easier with social media than with traditional media.

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.

Want To Be A Blogging Wizard Or A Non-profit Wordsmith? Here’s Your Chance

We’re looking for guest bloggers to write about social media, associations, non-profits, charities, small business and other similar issues and organizations for our website!

If you’re unsure about contributing, this handy dandy infographic may be able to clear it up for you.

Guest Blogger 3


If the arrows point to “Blog for us!” give us a shout. Email us at and together we can make some blogging magic!

The Anatomy of a Great Twitter Post

Crafting an informative and engaging piece of writing isn’t always easy. It gets even harder when you only have 140 characters to do it.

Twitter is often a medium where only the strongest survive. Understanding the make-up of a powerful tweet is important to standing out from the crowd, catching your members’ attention and providing the best content you can.

We took a look at some well-received tweets and broke down what made them successful.

Tweet #1

Great Tweet Example 1

Tweet #2

Great Tweet Example 2

Tweet #3

Great Tweet Example 3


Great tweets are built on strong content, a desire to help improve the lives of your followers and a focus on promoting engagement. By examining those tweets that encompass these factors you can emulate them, develop a strong following and attain an even stronger return on investment.

What other factors go into making a great tweet? Let us know in the comments!


Converting the Skeptics: How Social Media Can Help Change the Minds of Non-Profit Naysayers

Non-profits are great. You know it, we know it, but, unfortunately not everyone feels the same way.

We hear the same reasons for not being part of a non-profit over and over again. Good, old-fashioned, one-on-one conversations can help turn the tide and make people realize professional associations, charities or other organizations are worth investing in. But sometimes people need more convincing. Sometimes your organization needs a way to reach not one, but tens, hundreds or thousands of potential connections consistently.

That’s when social media can play a role in turning even the most ardent disbeliever into a loyal member, volunteer, contributor, etc. We looked into a few of the more common situations where social media can help turn the tide, banish myths and highlight the benefits of being part of a non-profit.

Situation #1- The Investment Conundrum

Many people point to high membership dues without upfront value as a main reason for not joining their industry’s association. Many people only see the price tag of membership and not the benefits of it. Helping those in your industry see the true worth of an investment in membership can be done almost every day with social media in both big and small ways.

Let’s start with the small, or indirect, ways. By tweeting, posting, pinning and uploading frequently, your organization becomes the go-to source for information for your industry. All roads to knowledge go through your association. This shows people that it is worth being part of your association for its potential to unlock lessons that could bring their career to a new level.

On a larger, more direct scale, social media is a great outlet to promote events, draw attention to association services and map out exactly how an association plans to meet the needs of its members. Blogs are a great way to achieve this aim in detail and Twitter is a great platform to boost both reach and frequency of your message.

Situation #2- The Effort Theory

Social media is a great tool to show that making a difference is fun, flexible and has a huge impact.

For example, Nonprofit Technology Network announced a creative incentive via a blog and video post to raise $10,000 in scholarship money for people to attend the annual NTC conference. Executive Director Holly Ross let donors vote on which one of three embarrassing things she’d do if NTEN reached their goal. They quickly raised the $10,000 and donors voted for Holly to do a Single Ladies Video.

Using Instagram, Vine or Twitter to highlight the fun and inspiring moments of an event or fundraiser in pictures does more to change peoples’ attitudes than words can ever do.

Showing the extraordinary benefits of contributing can be done very effectively with Pinterest. By pinning an infographic of where someone’s money or time is going as it travels from their pocket to the cause is a great way for people to visualize how they personally are helping out.

Situation #3- The Generational Anomaly

Yes, associations have been around for many a decade and any institution that has been around that long is going to risk being called out of date. But the truth is every new generation breaking into an industry is going to benefit from joining an association more than their more experienced colleagues. Social media can put this into perspective.

Networking is a key ingredient to any young professional’s success and forming social media communities on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is a great way to encourage communication between members and show potential members the benefits of joining.

Similarly, highlighting the achievements of young professionals on blogs, Twitter, Instagram or other social media platforms may encourage others to get involved in your association and work to get recognized.

Situation #4- The Transparency Factor

When anyone gives money, or even time and loyalty, into an organization or a cause, they want to know where it’s going or have a say in the services that organization is providing. For example, many people want to know how much of the money they donated to charity is going to administrative costs and association members want to have a say in the education topics of a conference they are paying for. This is where social media steps in to lend a hand.

Social media gives the public easy access to organizations and makes it simple to start engaging and informative dialogues with the non-profits they get involved in or are thinking of getting involved in. That’s why providing information on spending or impact is easy for charities through Twitter or Facebook and pooling ideas on products and services is a piece of cake for associations on many different platforms.

More transparency means more trust and more trust means a loyal base of members, donors, volunteers and customers.

Battling myths is a past time of social media. That doesn’t mean every naysayer out there is going to turn into your biggest fan just because they are following your organization on Twitter. But a strong social media presence is another tool in your non-profit’s toolbox that be used to encourage participation, conversation and a more informed and active membership.

What Non-Profits Can Learn About Using Social Media From The Olympics

The 2014 Winter Olympics brought with them two things, a collection of medals and a collection of lessons.

No matter what country you call home, how much you know about sports like curling and the biathlon, or what you do for the living, the Sochi Games could teach all a thing or two.

As the athletes leave Russia and the flame begins its four-year journey to Pyeongchang, we believe there is lots to learn from the Olympics that can help non-profits on social media. We decided to look at three of these lessons a little more.

Being a Part of a Community Feels Good

Canadians from coast to coast packed pubs and bars as early as 4 a.m. to watch the nation’s men’s hockey team play for gold. Why did they do such a thing? While the one-day loosening of liquor laws was a factor, the main reason was that Canadians felt like they belonged to something bigger than themselves. They felt like they belonged to a community.

Creating a similar community online for your organization and its members will help yield similar results. Giving your staff, volunteers, members, donors, etc., an opportunity to get involved and be part of an experience will help generate pride, passion and ultimately a loyal and engaged community. Conducting a Twitter chat about a recent event, offering a chance to contribute an article for your blog or giving an opportunity to share a song on your organization’s Spotify playlist are all ways to use social media include your customers and build a community.

Handle Mistakes With Care

The first images of Sochi were not of picturesque mountains or triumphant athletes, but rather horrible hotel rooms and undrinkable water. These pictures, made famous by reporters, spread through social media. Instead of addressing these problems, Games’ Organizer Dmitry Chernyshenko responded by telling journalists to “turn back and look at the mountains.”

Social media comes with greater interactions and greater transparency, but this also opens your organization up to greater scrutiny and potentially greater criticism. The best way to handle this criticism is to face it head on. Have a plan in place to address mistakes made or complaints received. Don’t be confrontational or flippant. Find a solution quickly and use social media to improve your organization, turning a displeased customer into a loyal community member.

Gold Medals Don’t Always Define Greatness

Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris won bronze in the slopestyle competition, but in a post-event interview he had this to say about the third-place finish, “It feels like a gold medal to me.” Considering McMorris had broken his ribs just a month before Sochi, a bronze medal was a tremendous achievement for him.

Many organizations, not just non-profits and associations, can get caught up in getting a ‘gold medal’ in social media, i.e. a large number of followers/fans/etc., and lose focus on other important indicators of success. Measuring social media ROI success is based on many factors and indicators, including how big your organization is, how new the organization is to social media and how many interactions the account is receiving. The most important thing to keep in mind is to build on recent successes to increase not just the quantity of engagement, but the quality as well.

The Olympics have come and gone for another year. The lessons that the world-class athletes have taught us can be applied to our everyday lives. What transpired in Sochi can especially be applied to non-profits and associations on social media. Remembering that community, transparency and patience can often be the best tools for success is important.  All are characteristics that will take your organization to the next level.

What do you think organizations can learn from the Olympics? Let us know in the comments! And remember, stay social!

Facebook Is 10: Why the Social Network is Still Near the Top of the Class

In social media circles, Facebook just became a senior citizen.

Facebook turned 10-years-old last Tuesday, a monumental milestone for the social media giant. Facebook has paved the way for a new wave of networking platforms and has changed the way companies, organizations and individuals connect to others in its decade-long reign as one of the internet’s titans.

Amidst all of Facebook’s past triumphs are recent questions about the site. Many are wondering if Facebook is in a permanent decline and the social network is fending off attack after attack on its future.

We still think Facebook can be a great tool for non-profit organizations to connect with the community, build relationships and grow. So in honor of Facebook’s 10th birthday, we’re bringing you 10 ways the platform can benefit organizations.

1. Photo Albums

Images can inspire many emotions and effectively send important messages. Both of these are beneficial to non-profits who want to draw new connections and serve current ones. Facebook gives a lot of flexibility when it comes to posting photos, allowing users to upload whole albums, tag people, caption the photo (including hashtags), share them and set the location. Numerous studies also show that Facebook posts generate the most engagement and click-through rate.

2. Contests

Contests can be an interesting and engaging way to connect with members, donors, volunteers and the community and increase awareness. Facebook is a great platform to launch social media contests, especially with its new rules, instated last year, that make competitions easier, cheaper and more effective.

3. Mobile Capability

Mobile usage has exploded in the last couple years and it only keeps growing. More than 50 per cent of mobile users use their mobile device as their primary internet source. Appealing to mobile users is, or should be, a big consideration for organizations.

Facebook has a strong presence on mobile with an easy-to-use app. The social network also develops and releases new apps often. This makes the social experience even easier and more engaging for users and more important for organizations looking to build connections.

4. Videos

Videos are a great way to tell stories and the popularity of Vine, Instagram and YouTube underline how important they are to social networking.

Facebook allows organizations to upload videos to their page, capitalizing on the effectiveness of the medium. Combined with the ease with which connections can comment and share on posts, Facebook’s video capabilities measure up quite well against those of other platforms.

5. “Donate Now” Button

Facebook introduced its “Donate Now” button almost two months ago, making it easier for people to give to non-profits and charities. Online giving increased by over 20 per cent in the last year and it continues to trend upward. The “Donate Now” Button helps organizations capitalize on this trend, makes giving easier, and strengthens relationships between non-profits and the community.

6. Event Planning

Getting the word out and coordinating the details of an event can be difficult. That is why Facebook’s event feature is so effective. It enables organizations to plan gatherings and convey information quickly and simply. It also allows attendees to spread the word themselves, helping initiatives grow and thrive. Last, but not least, Facebook’s event feature is unique among social media platforms. No such thing exists on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.

7. Hashtags

Hashtags help organizations appeal to a wider audience and gather great content to share to members and their other connections. While Facebook hashtags took a little while longer to catch on than their Twitter cousins, they are seeing wider acceptance in recent months. Facebook hashtags also keep them level with other social networks that also use hashtags.

8. Networking

Having a space to network with others is the big reason for people to be on social media. Giving people that space will draw people to your organization. Facebook is one of the best platforms to achieve this. Conversations on your organization’s page can be vibrant and sharing the contributions of others can be done in various, engaging ways. At the end of the day, your organization isn’t the only one who will be gaining new friends on Facebook, so will your members.

9. Turning Negative to Positive

Sooner or later, your organization is going to receive some negative feedback. Whether it’s blunt or thinly veiled, criticism is a way of life on social media. The real key is knowing how to deal with negative criticism. Facebook provides a great space to turn that negative into a positive. Other platforms are limited in the amount of characters or the medium you can use and this often limits an organization’s response. Facebook has very few limits and thus provides a forum to turn that frown upside down.

10. Promote Other Platforms

Many non-profits have a multi-faceted approach to social media, using several platforms to serve the community or members. Facebook is a great way to let others know about these other platforms. Promoting your blog, Twitter feed or an infographic you pin on Pinterest is just a click away on Facebook.

Facebook may be getting up there in years, but the social network hasn’t lost its appeal or its effectiveness for non-profits. Happy belated birthday Facebook!

What do you like about Facebook? What non-profits use the platform best? Let us know in the comments!