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By Miranda Leonard
Does social media engagement translate to greater success for nonprofit organizations? Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and craigconnects.org, recently profiled the highest grossing nonprofits and their use of social media. Newmark found that of the top 50 nonprofits, 92 percent link to at least one social media presence from their homepage (Facebook). Additionally, 90 percent link to their Twitter account, and 70 percent connect to YouTube.
Do the most successful organizations have the most engagement on social media? Not necessarily. Within in the top ten earners, the American Red Cross, number five on the list, is hands down the top contender in terms of Facebook fans and Twitter followers. However, some successful nonprofits, such as Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Medical Mission Board, and Mental Health America barely have a social media presence to speak of.
More nonprofits today are getting on the social media bandwagon to advance their mission and connect to stakeholders. It can be useful (and doable) if you have a strategy. Here are some quick tips if your organization needs a nudge to start using social media, or just wants to take it to the next level.
- Have clear goals for your social media campaigns. What do you want to accomplish? Create SMART objectives (specific, measureable, attainable, relevant, and timely), and track the payoff from your efforts by using this return on investment calculator.
- Make sure you have staff and/or volunteers familiar with social media available to help your organization provide a steady stream of on-topic, engaging messaging. If you’re concerned about giving up control, consider creating a social media policy to provide training and support, such as the one Mayo Clinic provides to its employees.
- Identify the social media platforms that are the best fit for your organization. What are you already doing? What are similar nonprofits to yours doing? Ask your existing supporters and volunteers which social media platforms they use. What do they think would be most effective?
- Invest in your profile. A profile that is professional and engaging will pay off. For tips and tricks, visit nonprofit social media guru Beth Kanter’s blog.
- Have a conversation with your fans and followers. Keep your questions and content varied to keep things interesting and get more feedback. Post dynamic content that your followers will want to repost. Comment on their responses. Retweet content from those you follow as well as from your followers.
- Provide opportunities for your network to get involved offline. Post events and donation requests. Follow up and let the community know the results.
Newmark and his team offered this advice: “It’s about fostering conversations and interactions, not money. These are the keys to keeping up in the fast-paced arena of social networks.”
Amy Sample Ward, community development manager at Tech Soup Global, notes that “most research shows that if you have two hours total in a week, you can be successful in social media…Ask your constituents what they want, create a strategy and spend a half-hour, four days a week making sure the content is there for them. It’s not that much to commit to and it doesn’t have to drive you crazy.”
In today’s society, organizations are sized up by their social media presence. With a defined strategy and targeted resources, nonprofits can make social media work for them. I hope these pointers provide some useful tools for your organization to expand its network and deepen engagement with stakeholders through social media. If you have questions or need more information, contact your trusted social media guru, or me.
Miranda Leonard is an MBA candidate in Sustainable Management at Presidio Graduate School. She has years of experience producing marketing campaigns for nonprofits that endeavor to make the most of limited resources. Miranda can be reached at miranda dot leonard at presidioedu dot org