Social Media Use by Not-for-Profit Institutions – Danielle Young

Social media takes communication to a whole new level. Even though social media has been around for a very long time, it is only in recent years that it has exploded and become a mainstay in everyday life. When most people think of social media they think of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube for example. Amazingly those sites barely scratch the surface.

 

Magazines, video games, blogs, podcasts, wikis, mobile apps and videos are all examples of social media. All of these outlets have allowed people the opportunity to interact with each other in ways that were never possible just ten years ago. No only does it make communication the easiest it has ever been, but it also allows people to promote and share personal and professional events and stories.

 

Individuals aren’t the only ones who benefit from social media, businesses and corporations do also. Nowadays it’s rare to find a company that doesn’t have a Facebook page. All of these outlets extend a business’ reach and creates possible new customers and clients. It has become so important that it has actually created jobs to specialize in the area.

 

One area of business that really benefits from social media is non-profit organizations. The kiss of death for a non-profit is not being about to reach out to people and have their voice heard. Without promotion and popularity, an organization would flounder. The fact that social media is a free outlet for marketing a cause or purpose; there is little reason why an organization wouldn’t utilize such resources. They really cannot afford to not utilize all the free marketing platforms that are at everyone’s fingertips.

 

Cell phones have revolutionized the access to information. There are 285 million mobile phones in the U.S 70 million of them are smartphones. That number is only going to grow as more and more people upgrade their phones and technology just continues to expand its capabilities. Any item of information is only a few taps away when someone is using a smartphone. With this being the case, organizations have to always be one step ahead of their supporters. In order to do that, organizations have to utilize different strategies to keep things fresh and appealing.

 

On the Internet there are tons of tips and suggestions on how to successfully take advantage of all the online media outlets. Some of these tips are as simple as changing the background on your twitter account to reflect your organization or its efforts. Other suggestions are more complex, for example, constantly replying, retweeting, entering discussions, and staying up to date and relevant with the times.

 

Branching off of social media is SEO, otherwise known as Search Engine Optimization. Search Engine Optimization is the process in which a website works at getting top billing on various search engines. When people are searching a topic or for a company their attention span usually will only last going through two or three pages realistically. In order to be seen, you need to be higher up on the totem pole than other companies that offer similar services. SEO encompasses keywords, menus, names, email addresses, images, videos, and content management systems.

 

The Ultimate tool to being at the forefront of the pack is having a following. Without a following there is no cause. When you are fortunate to have a huge following, you have to work at keeping them. With this comes Do’s and Don’ts to social media. Some of the Do’s include having a strong plan before you take any action, create attainable goals, give readers engaging content, interact with the community you’ve built and be a good listener.

 

Although this doesn’t always seem to be the case, planning is a large part of social marketing. There has to be some sort of structure and organization in place in order to be successful and to be able to reach the goals that you set. The material that you post online has to be engaging to keep supporters interested. Readers now have shortened attention spans, all due to the overwhelming amount of information coming from all directions all times of the day. You also have to be able to connect with your readers and create lasting relationships and loyalty.

 

The Don’ts of social media are just as important to be mindful of as the Do’s; perhaps they are even more important. One of the biggest Don’ts is probably to only rely on one social media network. A reader may subscribe to Twitter and not Facebook, if you only have a Facebook Fan Page then you are missing out on reaching that person. Some other Don’ts include being impersonal, trying to sell yourself too much or being too demanding. These are all ways in which you lose a reader’s confidence. You want to reader to experience things at their own pace, you don’t want to push too much on them, and without a personal connection, they will quickly lose interest. You also have to remember that social media is global. Everybody can see everything. You have to be very careful of what content you are sharing online and remember who is reading it.

 

Dealing with all of these responsibilities and issues is not an easy task. They can become very time consuming. This is why many companies are hiring social media experts to take charge of these duties for them, as mentioned earlier. It will be interesting to see what else emerges from this relatively new outlet. As more and more companies devote resources to his area of advertising and as more and more social networks emerge daily. What is going to be the “next big thing” in online networking?

 

Social media, mobile devices, email and Internet access have completely changed the game when it comes to promotion and marketing. It has also leveled the playing field between a mom and pop shop and corporate chains. They all have the same access to the same resources. Now it’s become how you use them that matters.

 

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One comment

  1. outsidetheboxseries · April 9, 2012

    Danielle,

    This is very good but I would like some caveats. When and how does this go wrong? At some point I am sure social media and not for profits has gone badly I would like some examples unless I missed them. In all writing we need arguments. I know many NFP professionals who do not like nor want to use SM. They do not get it. I am sure the younger gen understands the benefit and uses it. Has it shown a marked increase in donations, membership, community reach??? I know you mention it but would like to see examples – both good and bad.
    News stories and articles and even actual examples – the next paper on Legal issues will be interesting CyberBullying would be a very active area I presume. Similar to virtual Frat or Sor – hazing???
    Doing a Flounder on FB??? Look it up Animal House – but now global reach???

    Patrick

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