Five easy ways for nonprofits to kill a social media campaign


by Ulises Silva, Detroit LISC Communications Program Officer

By now, if you haven’t at least heard of Facebook, Twitter, or social media, you’re either a newborn (and a phenomenally gifted one if you’re already reading this), an inanimate object that’s just gained sentience (congratulations), or a 19th Century time traveler who’s just arrived (welcome, and sorry about the air quality).

Social media is growing. And fast. In fact, as of today, 13% of U.S. adults online are now “twittering” (as my boss would say), and it’s just seven months since we were enthusiastically quoting, “8% of adults are on Twitter!”  And because of its fast growth, vast networking capabilities, and low cost (approximately $0.00 to open most accounts), social media can be especially effective for nonprofits looking to increase their visibility.

Social media is the great equalizer. It’s changed the way people communicate, and empowered nonprofits who, only 10 years ago, would have to spend precious, unavailable dollars to do any kind of marketing. But a social media campaign can just as easily be a dud.

Here are five ways to ensure your big, ambitious social media campaign withers away within a few short months.

1. Leave it in a corner, neglected, unfed, and unloved. It’s not enough to start a Facebook page, post a few status updates, walk away, and expect it to do something magically. Social media accounts need love and attention too. Someone on your staff should post updates at least once a day to ensure your accounts are active and fresh.

2. Share intimate details about your current sitting position with your followers. Make sure you’re posting relevant updates, though. You know that joke about first-time Twitter users tweeting, “I’m sitting on my porch”? Avoid that when updating your accounts. Nonprofits have great information to share with communities, and none of it has to do with where you’re currently sitting or what you had for breakfast. In fact, don’t think of social media as a “status update” platform so much as an information-sharing one. Speaking of which…

3. Assume Facebook is only good for games and quizzes. Facebook can be a powerful tool in helping nonprofits generate exposure. Did you take some great pictures at a volunteer event? Post them on Facebook! Found a great article that other nonprofits might appreciate? Share/tweet the link! Found a great link on another nonprofit’s page? Hit “Share” to post it on your wall and still give them props! Make sure to comment and “like” to show you’re engaged. On Twitter, retweet good posts, reply to users, and share your own links: anything that keeps the account active, relevant, and well followed. These are great, easy ways of gaining exposure and networking with similar organizations without the agony of five-hour meetings on beautiful, sunny days. Just be careful not to…

4. Follow organizations that have nothing to do with your industry. While it’s great to network, make sure you’re engaging with users pertinent to your industry. Just because you personally like a Facebook page (I’m partial to anything zombie related) doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for your organization to “like” that page too. Account administrators need to be selective about which accounts to “like” or “follow.” Detroit LISC, for example, follows great organizations like Inside Detroit and Southwest Solutions, but won’t be following Zombie Survival Tips anytime soon. Which leads us to the final related point…

5. Mix up your personal accounts with your professional ones. Remember the social media pro who lost his job at Chrysler for this little indiscretion? It’s a cautionary reminder to NOT mix up your personal accounts with those you administrate for your organization. Avoiding child-inappropriate language isn’t enough: maintain your organization’s integrity by treating every post with some degree of professionalism. Just because you’re liking another organization’s link doesn’t mean you should say, “DUDE! WAZZUP? Like, I am TOTALLY liking your link!!!!!!”

Is social media the only way to market now? Of course not, because any marketing communications platform needs to be comprehensive enough to reach the folks who aren’t on Facebook, etc. But the influence of social media is growing exponentially, and we’d be wrong to ignore its potential.

Even if it means heeding some of this quasi-facetious advice.


Posted on June 3, 2011, in Best Practices and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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