Lessons Learned for Non-Profits and Social Media

I was reflecting back on my time putting together a social media plan for Syracuse Habitat for Humanity and realized how much I have learned in the past year about social media. I put together my program a little over a year ago, since then I have learned so much about social media through my Graduate Assistant Position, personal experience and through my research. I wanted to take a moment to write out some basic ideas for a non-profit and best practices for social media. If you stumble across my blog and want to chat more about social media, I’d love to talk. Shoot me a DM on Twitter or send me an email and I’d be happy to talk! pjfiorenza@gmail.com

Since I am busy with classes, these post work best if I break them out into a series. Here are the tips to be covered and then gradually break them out throughout the next few weeks:

  • Start By Setting Some Goals
  • Be Human and Engagement is Key
  • Be Comfortable with the Tools
  • Get Others Involved in Content Generation
  • Set a Sound Policy and Report back!
  • Be Careful How You Integrate Tools
  • Build Relationships Through Educating and Engagement
  • Give it some time, be ready for some rocky roads

Tip 1: Start by setting some goals

You know how everyone in Harry Potter freaks out when you say “Voldamort,” that’s how I feel about the following statement, “Well, everyone else is on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, so we should be too.” This is not a good strategy. I am a big advocate that conversations about starting/modifying a social media program should not include talking about available tools. Not every tool is right for every organization. The first step to social media is identifying what deliverables you wish to create. One way to think of social media is by saying, “I want to improve how I communicate with my donors, volunteers and members.” Or if you are really good, you will say “How can I improve how I engage with my donors, volunteers and members?” Or if you are a rock-star you will say, “You know, I feel like the community has a lot offer us, we need to find new outlets to tap into and engage with people to help this organization build some capacity and solve problems society faces.” Beautiful. This does not have to be complicated, just think “why do I want to be on these networks and what benefit will it create for my organization and community.” Once this is done, match the objective to the social network.

Again, the lesson is this, think about what you want the tools to accomplish. Don’t think Facebook, don’t think Twitter, think as an organization, what do we want to deliver. Once you got some ideas down, address the tools.  But Pat, isn’t this a little silly? Seriously everyone is on Facebook, why can’t we just jump to Facebook, talk about content and call it a day? Concerned reader, your assessment is correct in many regards. I would just add that in the preliminary stages of developing a plan, you need to address clear deliverables you wish to achieve and ways to measure that success.

Also, social media’s benefit is more than just being out there on the web – we’ll talk about this more, but you need to realize what you are doing in this preliminary step is auditing your organization. Take the time to review and see how else you can improve your organization. You may find that the deliverables you want really do not relate to social media. Don’t set yourself up for failure. For instance, I want donations to improve by 10% over the next year – the problem is that you don’t have a fundraising plan or donor recruitment strategy that will allow this to happen.

This early stage is a good way to tease out your wants from you needs as an organization in relation to social media. Striking up conversations about your organization and how to make it better is always great – social media is a great vehicle to start up that conversation.

Finally, another reason why you think of specific strategies is that new tools are always emerging. Maybe right now there is not a tool you see fit or you are not quite ready to jump on the Twitter bandwagon. Having a framework of what you want to accomplish as part of your social media strategy will help as the way we interact online changes and new tools emerge.


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