How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media to Enhance Their Brand

By Bruce Mendelsohn

Bruce Mendelsohn
With the world as a potential audience, nonprofits are rightly embracing social media to increase engagement with stakeholders, to shape and promote their respective brands, and to promote their missions, messages, and priorities, but rightly doesn’t always mean smartly.

You don’t own your social media. Your audience does. And your audience, potentially, is the world.

The world of social media gets bigger every day. With a market penetration of almost two billion active users, Facebook is king of the social media world--followed closely by WhatsApp, WeChat, and Instagram. In the U.S., Facebook reigns supreme: Not only is it the undisputed social media king, but its other platforms (Instagram and Facebook Messenger) are Queen (2nd) and Prince (3rd) in active users and engagement. (Source: Smart Insights)

Ten years ago, only 7% of the U.S. population used one or more social networking sites. That figure has now increased almost tenfold, to 65%. Of those Americans who use the Internet, a vast majority (76%) actively engage in social media (defined as accessing one or more social networking sites every day). (Source: Pew Research Center)

Whether you have 40 followers or 40,000, someone is always watching...especially people beyond your circle of followers. When it comes to social media, nonprofits must be circumspect about what, where, and when you post.

Although the direction of social media adoption is full speed ahead, nonprofit leaders in branding, marketing and communications should heed the signs that say Proceed with Caution.

In its recent report, “Social Media and the Workplace,” the Pew Research Center observed: “The rise of social media has added a new layer of job-related activity for many workers...In effect, social media has made the once solid boundary between work and leisure a lot more permeable.”

Given the increasingly permeable boundary between work and leisure, here are five mistakes that you should avoid when you use social media:

Mistake No. 1. Poor grammar and spelling:

Little erodes ur credibility fatser then poor grammer n spelling misteaks.

Tip: If no one else is around to proofread your post, read it aloud. This will give you more time to think about your post and reveal mistakes in grammar, spelling and clarity. If it’s hard to read, rewrite it.
Mistake No. 2. Inconsistencies in your social media profiles:

Inconsistencies in your social media profiles (how you describe your organization) are the quickest way to sow confusion among your target audiences. When you describe your organization differently across your social media platforms, you reap eroded messages and brand misalignment.

Tip: Audit your organizational descriptions at least twice a year--during the end of year holiday period and again on a slow mid-August afternoon. First, Google your organization. Second, review your privacy settings (social media sites often change their privacy settings, which can retroactively change your settings). Third, update your profiles so they highlight your achievements and successes. Finally, use social listening to protect your online image: regularly monitor what others post about you (including the photos in which they tag you) on their social media profiles.
Mistake No. 3. Maligning previous employees, partners, or supporters:

This seems obvious but people are still doing it.

Tip: “If you don’t have anything nice to post, don’t post anything.”
Mistake No. 4. Being indiscreet:

Social media isn’t therapy. When you use social media to share corporate drama (or worse, personal or family drama), your lack of discretion could concern stakeholders and negatively affect the important your organization’s work.

Tip: If your post prompts pause, ask a friend or colleague to peruse it. Gauge their reaction. If you get the raised eyebrow, the noncommittal “huh”, or the pregnant pause, reconsider your post.
Mistake No. 5. Having minimal or no social media presence:

Maybe you’re a Luddite. Maybe you think social media is a fad. Maybe you’ve been living under a rock. Whatever the case may be, you’re not buying the hype. If you’re not on social media, what are you hiding? People will ask this question when they search for—and don’t find—your organization.

Tip: You can opt out of most social media, but at the very least you must create and maintain a LinkedIn profile.
Increased social media use in our professional and personal communications opens windows for stakeholders to discover more about us in a few keystrokes. You can protect your nonprofit’s brand by using social media to diligently control the details you want to keep private and regularly broadcasting your successes.

Bruce Mendelsohn is The Hired Pen, a digital marketing and social media consultant who helps nonprofit organizations and business leaders tell the stories that make their organizations stand out. Follow him on Twitter@brm90, email him at bruce.mendelsohn90@gmail.com or call 508-873-6324.
July 2017