July 24, 2009

Tools & Tactics – Answers to Frequently Asked Nonprofit Social Media Questions

Filed under: Nonprofit, Technology — Tags: — kgilnack @ 10:25 am

This week’s Chronicle of Philanthropy Live Discussion featured Beth Kanter, who is among many other things, the author of Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media – a must read for anyone interested in nonprofits and technology.  I strongly recommend reading Beth’s follow-up post and/or checking out the transcript from the discussion.

The discussion was so engaging it ended up running over the allotted time, and being the social media savant she is, Beth called on the community to help with some of the remaining questions.    I was pleased to help provide some answers to the remaining nonprofit social media questions based on my experience and reading (much of it done on Beth’s Blog), and after seeing that they passed muster and warranted their own post on Beth’s Blog, I thought I’d share the answers here as well.

How often should an organization post to Twitter or send out updates on Facebook? Is there a fine line between sending too much that’s irrelevant vs. useful information?

Quality is more important than quantity. Make sure you’re sending useful, relevant information, and do your best to spread it out. Also, try not to tweet about your own org on an average of more than once every seven or so tweets. You will also find your followers engage you more if you engage them. Replies only appear in your intended recipients stream and in those of people who follow both you and the recipient, so don’t be afraid to have conversations with your supporters.

Talking about time, is there an application which would post an update on all main Social Networking Sites at once? I know of some but they would pick my Facebook personal profile instead of the Organization’s Page I am admin of.

While I would suggest using automated content thoughtfully and customizing your message where you can, I realize that’s not always possible. Ping.fm allows you to publish to your Fan Pages as well as many many other social networks.

Is the stigma of having fans or cause supporters with ‘questionable’ Facebook profiles true? Does it make the organization look too lax or less professional? We are a workforce development organization, and my superiors think it could be misconstrued.

I tend to be of the feeling that if someone wants to support your cause via social media, they should be able to. I’d argue it makes your organization look open, inclusive, and accessible. Especially in workforce development, as it’s very possible that those with questionable profiles could benefit from your work. However, one thing you could do is include a disclaimer that acknowledges you accept anyone who wants to support your cause but that by no means is intended to endorse them or their content.

I would like us to get our organization on twitter, but i’m afraid that if i only “tweet” about fundraising events, people will tire of it quickly–any thoughts on this? other content i might want to tweet about?

Yes, they will lose interest quickly. Look beyond what you need people to do (whether it’s giving money, volunteering, taking action, etc.). Before you can effectively get people to respond to those requests, and to build an audience in an opt-in system like Twitter, you need to show you’re there to add value to your followers as well as advancing your mission. Talk about how your spending their money (e.g. the goings-on and successes of your programs), news relevant to your organization, RT posts from other orgs and individuals, and respond to interesting/relevant tweets your followers are sending.

What are some best practices on Facebook to generate followers and turn them into donors? Also everyone says that Twitter wont’ raise any money. Is that true?

I don’t have the stats to back this up, but anecdotally, I believe that Twitter can generate more giving than Facebook Causes. The gifts will generally be smaller, but with the right cultivation, you can use Twitter to raise funds. Here are some examples from Beth from November, 2008 – I’d be interested in hearing about more data and experiences myself .

I haven’t done a lot of work with Facebook, but integration (linking from your website and enewsletter, writing about it in your newsletter, and sharing it through your other marketing and fundraising presence will help. You might start by importing your email list and suggesting they become fans of your page / join your group. Once you have staff and stakeholders on, ask them to invite their networks and share your page in their minifeeds. You can also find potential supporters by looking at the followings of aligned groups, though I’m not sure the etiquette for cold-inviting people.

What is the best process through social media of finding new organizations/individuals interested or working in your arena of social issues and connecting with them? I usually do simple Twitter searches and @replies, comment on blogs, but are there better ways or a general hierarchy of effective strategies?

I know that Beth has some great recommendations on paid listening services that she mentioned in the forum, but Twitter search RSS feeds to a Google Reader can provide some great insights. I’m not sure what you mean by simple searches, but think of all of the names, things, words that would help you find conversations of interest. You can also consider using the localization feature of Twitter searches. Finally, don’t forget that Google Alerts have web and blog search features in the comprehensive mode.

We have blogs and forums on our site, but have a hard time getting people to comment or post anything in them. Although our members will comment and post on our Facebook and Twitter… how do we get them to jump from those sites, onto our site and start discussing there?

If it is a struggle to get people posting in your forums but are finding Facebook and Twitter conducive to conversations, it may be worth evaluating what the value of those forums are and if it might be more worthwhile to drive traffic there for interaction. However, you might find that posting something like “That’s a great point, we actually have a thread going on this topic here [link to forum]” and/or asking key volunteers to do the same. You may get more comments on your blog by using Twitter and Facebook to drive people there, as well as by promoting posts in your e-newsletter and other outlets. Is the blog to buried from your front page? Also, I’m not sure if this is true, but one stat I saw said to expect 1 comment / 100 views (though I assume they pick up significantly after the first comment is left).

What tips or suggestions can you offer for partnering with FaceBook or LinkedIn to leverage their brand as a communication platform for alums, and the private companies policies for not sharing alumni data with the higher ed institution?

I’ve seen a lot of colleges creating groups on Twitter (http://twitter.com/higheredu), Myspace, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I’m not sure the value in highlighting their privacy settings, but if someone is reluctant to share their new contact info, asking for an email to invite them to a group, or providing them with a link to join, might be a good second ask.

PS: These are just my two cents (most of it read here at some point – just google around the site and I’d bet you’ll find great answers to most of these).

We’re thinking about how human service agencies can use social media to engage clients/consumers, their families, supporters/volunteers, interested community members, donors, electeds, and other groups, so if anyone has experiences or thoughts, I’d love to hear about them and other thoughts on the interesting questions raised above.

Please share any other advice you have on these questions, or if you have questions of your own that the community could help answer!

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