Social Media – What Now?


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Most non-profits are active on the web and understand the importance of ensuring there are ample opportunities for cross sharing between websites, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other platforms like Pinterest. My sense is that only a minority of non-profits – truly understand and then embrace social media as being vital to communication with stakeholders, increasing brand awareness, promoting a cause, and generating philanthropic interest and action in their organizations.

I understand it is difficult for many non-profits to allocate a staff person or more importantly overall staff time to social media work. Not doing so, however, will make it harder and harder to connect with one’s stakeholders deeply and continually. Not only is it imperative non-profits get sophisticated about social media, it is also an affordable undertaking, given that social media is typically free or very low in cost. Not having and acting on a social media strategy is a missed opportunity to experience significant impact with stakeholders at a very low price point.

Here are some trends that may help you understand the need for your organization to get more involved in the Internet and social media.

Mobilization of the Internet
Sometime this year, it is expected that accessing the Internet through mobile technology will surpass traditional desktop access. More and more people are engaging businesses, non-profits, and one another on their smartphones and tablets. According to comScore, nearly two-thirds of social network users use their mobile devices rather than their desktop. These two trends suggest that non-profits need to create websites that are easily transposed to mobile interfaces. If they aren’t people aren’t likely to ramble through a site that does not display simply and well in terms of navigation and content.

The Rise of Influencer Marketing
Stephanie Frasco (SocialMediaToday) reminds us that the sharing power of social media is critical to our success, especially if we can connect with what she calls “ambassadors and influencers.” Getting others who support your cause to post about you to their followers is a key strategy to be considered if you want to reach a high volume of people. This is called “influencer marketing” and while it may be a tad scary to put your marketing in the hands of others you cannot control, receiving support and affirmation from influencers are far more meaningful because the sharing is voluntary not orchestrated by your organization.

Emails are Still Important
What you need to consider is that the use of mobile devices to access emails has increased 110% since 2010. Today emails are opened on mobile devices 44% of the time, and that rate is expected to grow significantly over the next few years. Your emails should be written and laid out with that in mind. Don’t use a font size less than 11pt. Double that size of headers. And don’t get too fancy. Stick to a single column communication.

Where Should You Be Active?
The graph below tells us that people are using applications that do the following:
1. Storing and sharing pictures
2. Storing and sharing videos
3. Communicating via the Internet with friends and colleagues

Vine, the fastest growing mobile application. According to Wikipedia, “Vine is a mobile app owned by Twitter that enables its users to create and post short looping video clips. Video clips created with Vine have a maximum clip length of seven seconds and can be shared to Vine’s social network, or to other services such as Twitter… and Facebook.”  Note the videos are very short and implies that our messaging should be brief and to the point.

Take a look at the list below. Are you actively involved with these applications?  Are you integrating them amongst each other and with your website?


Of course being on social media is not enough. You have to know why you are there and what you are trying to accomplish.

Dialogue is one the key strategies worth considering. One way communication  (print materials like brochures, advertisement, newsletters, and static websites) are far less effective that two way exchanges between your organization and your stakeholders. You can create dialogue on a blog (allow people to make comments) and via Facebook and Twitter. You do that by not just expecting people to engage you on your Facebook page or through your Twitter page. You also create dialogue by visiting the pages of those who follow you and by retweeting other people’s tweets or commenting on them.

Information-Sharing is another purpose of social media. It’s less effective if that’s all you do, but if you are optimally engaged in social media, you are likely to get more results from sharing information about an event, an online fundraiser, or a show you are putting on.  Social media is also helpful in terms of informing others of facts they  may not be aware of and then linking them to places they can get more information if they wish to.

Calls to Action also can work well. When Bissell Centre had a devastating fire at its Thrift Shoppe, the organization lost all of its contents (primarily clothes and household items). Twitter was deployed very successfully to launch a “Restock the Shoppe” campaign. The retweets exceeded our expectations and people mobilized clothing campaigns at work, at their schools, and places of worship. Others got their friends to participate and many individuals showed up with bags of clothing they gleaned from their closets. Within a month we had more than enough stock to re-open at a temporary location.

Services can also be delivered via social media. I have resolved issues with Telus through its Twitter-based customer representatives and frankly much more quickly and effectively than through their telephone-based services. Perhaps there are ways for your organization to better serve donors, volunteers, and in some cases clients through Twitter.

If you are not yet as active as you should be or if you are reluctant to fully commit to social media as a social engagement strategy, I can understand the reluctance. You have to be prepared to give up control of your messaging for one thing and trust that your brand will be treated respectfully by the masses. Keep in mind, however, that even if you are not on social media, others can and do “talk” about you. Your absence is no guarantee that you are in control of things anymore when it comes to messaging, branding, marketing, and so on.

As I wrote previously on this blog, “Social media is communication to be sure, but also about engagement. It’s dynamic and more unpredictable.  The buzz created about your brand is no longer under your control.  Those doing the buzzing are commenting on your brand, interpreting it, judging it, and promoting it. Not only that, they are talking about you (having social conversations) in ways you might not, altering the message for context or effect (and yes, their bias), and if your social media efforts are successful, they are influencing and involving others in your cause. Actually, they are playing an instrumental role in shifting the your cause mindset toour cause. As Beth Kanter says somewhere on her blog, ‘Your supporters are the message’.”

In a slide show on social media, Beth Kanter referenced the work of Neil Perkin. I have adapted below. This outlines the differences between traditional and social media communications.

Some of the above may make you uncomfortable because social media is less predictable than traditional communications strategies. But the more people you have involved in conversations about your cause, influencing their friends, creating messaging together, the better able you will be to connect with people and learn from them.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Holmgren
Mark Holmgren Consulting
Mark Holmgren is committed to helping non profit organizations and local governments build capacities for new visions. Mark does this through the provision of custom designed strategic services that fit an organization's culture as well as its aspirations.


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