A 20-minute Crash Course to Jumpstart Your Social Media
By Sarah McMaster
Social media is about communication, sharing information, and socializing, but it's also a powerful tool for branding, recruiting, and assessing your constituents needs.
Many people ask what social media can yield for their organization that their website cant. In summary, social media helps:
Build visibility: A social media network can place you and your message in front of the right people. Social media is social. People express their interests and look for groups and pages to add to and share with their online network.
Create outreach: Once you're in front of those interested social media users, use it as an opportunity to begin a dialogue, provide education on issues, and alert people about important news and events.
Support fundraising: Diligent posting of quality information and providing a responsive, open approach on social networks can cultivate engagement. Maybe someone attends an event or two that you announced online. Maybe another person signs up for your mailing list through a link you provided in a status update. When you have a fundraising campaign, those individuals may hit that donate online now” link that shows up in their social media content.
If youre just starting your social media effortsor you want to start over and streamline your effortsyour two go-to applications are Facebook and Twitter.
Using Facebook Effectively
Facebooks 500 million members worldwide find that the services links, posts, and advertisements are driving traffic to hundreds of thousands of other websitesincluding your organizations website.
Facebook aggregates content from multiple sources, such as an organization's event announcement, an online friend's status update, or a shared link from another friends profile, and delivers that content as a dynamic stream much like a stock ticker, but for social commentary.
Its not uncommon for Facebook users to report that they dont know how to effectively and quickly use it to their organizations advantage. Others say that theyre unsure which aspects of Facebook are worth their time.
Start by using these steps:
New users: join Facebook and take a week or two to acclimate to the environment and become Facebook friends” with your colleagues, friends, and others before you undertake the next step of creating a page for your organization.
All users: create a page” (not a group”) that includes your logo, mission statement, and contact information in the info” tab.
Invite colleagues to like” the page through the automated invitation feature in Facebook.
Begin posting relevant content at least twice a week (although once a day or more is best).
Relevant content includes event notifications, organizational accomplishments, and member success stories.
Monitor and respond to comments as they are posted by interested parties. The more responsive and interactive you are, the more ROI you will see for your efforts. Remember, social media is about dialogue, not just making announcement.
Twitter: Big Returns, Small Investment of Time
Twitter is the short-attention-span younger brother of Facebook. Limited to 140 characters, updates on Twitter can seem cryptic and meaningless if taken to the extreme, but if you follow a few simple best practices, a few minutes a week will pay big dividends.
In short, you post updates (called tweets”) and read tweets posted by others you have chosen to follow, based on mutual interests, existing relationships, or whim. Tweets are an effective way to share information of interest. Twitter helps you keep your ear to the proverbial (but in this case virtual) ground for current events and big happenings.
A Twitter profile lists the information you provide and should include your website URL to direct traffic to your website. You can personalize your organizations profile page to include the logo or other branding.
Setting up a Twitter profile is considerably easier than a Facebook page, but the same steps should be followed:
Brand your profile with your logo, color scheme, and abbreviated mission statement.
To quickly maximize your reach through this new media channel, search for like-minded organizations and individuals using the search feature and begin to follow” those groups and people.
Follows” are very often reciprocal, so if you follow someone they will very often begin to follow you in return.
Best practice for frequency of tweets varies, but one or more per day is best, while one or two per week will suffice.
If you are using Facebook, too, set up your Twitter updates to be re-posted to your Facebook page.
Busy nonprofit staff members will appreciate that both Twitter and Facebook offer many online tutorials online to assist with all steps mentioned here. Once youve mastered these, youll find it easier to replicate great ideas that you see on other sites.
Sarah McMaster, principal of Quabbin Creative, assists nonprofits with social media marketing and online content development. She can be reached at 508-320-7875 or by email at email@example.com.
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