While many nonprofits have a social media presence these days, senior leadership is still struggling to figure out how to best integrate it into their communications plans.
What kind of content should they be sharing over Twitter and Facebook? How do you engage millenials who have “limited attention spans?” How much time should you spend on social media if you have limited resources?
These are great questions that I had an opportunity to address at the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) yesterday along with Colin Delany, Gloria Pan and Shireen Mitchell. During our panel we boiled our discussion down into five tips nonprofits can use to better leverage social media.
Engaging Content is King
Do you like to read boring content that puts you to sleep? Probably not. So why would anyone on a “social” platform like Facebook or Twitter want to read boring tweets or updates?
Social media is an incredibly active and social space. Content gets read and shared at an incredibly fast pace. Your content needs to be engaging to stand out.
Delany, who heads up the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) online department, says that one tactic he uses to repurpose NWLC content in an engaging way is to share compelling stats from their policy factsheets. Compelling stats can be great conversation starters, especially if you frame them around a question like – "Did you know that on average, women make 75 cents to every 1$ a man earns?"
Communications should be Multi-Channel
If your communications team is still solely focused on distributing press releases and pitching newspaper reporters, you are missing out on major opportunities to generate earned media and reach your target audiences via multiple channels. Here’s why.
- Newspapers are dying.
- People curate their own news today.
Pan shared some great info about declining newspaper circulation. For example, in 1995 the New York Times had over 1.1M newspapers in circulation. By 2010, the NYT circulation went down to 950,000 papers in circulation. Other newspapers like the LA Times have seen even steeper decreases in circulation. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, in 2010 average weekday sales were down by almost 9 percent from 2009.
Why is Newspaper Circulation Going Down?
Today, people get their news in a variety of ways such as blogs, online versions of newspapers, social media, etc. News is self curated as opposed to the days where people relied on getting news by reading their favorite newspaper delivered to their front door.
To remain competitive and relevant, your organization needs to have a multichannel communications plan for all of your campaigns and work to reach the most amount of people.
Create a Social Media Staff Handbook
No organization should let their staff use social media to promote the organization without some clear guidelines. A good social media handbook does not have to be long and intimidating. It can be short and focus on common sense guidelines such as:
- What is appropriate to share on social networks about the organization and its work?
- What is NOT appropriate to share on social networks?
- What is illegal to share on social networks? Susan Scanlon, NCWO, Chair reminded organizations that as 501C3’s, it’s illegal to endorse or oppose candidates running for office.
Check out the American Red Cross’s social media handbook. They do a great job at providing staff with clear guidelines.
Social Media is Like a Cocktail Party
Sometimes organizations forget that social media is about being social and having conversations. “Social media is like a cocktail party,” said Delany.
Social media is not about promoting your press releases, being wonky or shutting down conversations because you don’t agree with what someone else said.
Sometimes leadership wants to control every word that is being said about their organization/brand and opts to scrutinize each tweet and FB status update before staff can post it. That is ridiculous. Don’t bother being on social media if you can’t trust and empower staff with your brand. If you have a social media handbook in place and hire staff you trust, you shouldn’t have to worry too much that they will post sensitive, false or inappropriate information.
Be Efficient: Dip in and Out of Social Media in Increments
Some large nonprofits have full time social media staff. But many organizations don’t have the budget and resources to devote a full time staff member to manage their social media presence. And that’s ok. Nonprofits can still have an active social media presence by dipping in and out of social media in small increments. Danielle Brigida, who manages social media for the National Wildlife Federation, recommends that nonprofit campaigners dip in and out of social media for about 10 minutes at a time. This gives staff time to share engaging content, respond to tweets and comments, and participate in conversations. Everyone can spare 10 minutes a couple of times a day.
What are your favorite tips that nonprofits can use to better leverage social media?