This is a guest post by Sheri L. Singer, president of Singer Communications, a PR, marketing and communications firm specializing in the nonprofit community.
As a communicator working in the association, nonprofit or foundation arena, when it comes to social media, you may identify with one or more of the following categories:
- We have a strategic social media plan and our members, leaders, staff and sponsors/donors are all engaged
- We are involved in social media but it happened organically--not through our planning and preparation. Where do we go from here?
- Our members are leading our effort without much input or monitoring from us.
- Social media—what’s social media?
Tip #1: Learn About Social Media.
Social media is an umbrella term used to describe using the web or mobile technologies to interact with your target audiences. Social media connects individuals through user generated rather than editorially controlled content. In laymen’s terms, social media is your website, private online community, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, podcasts, online videos, sites where you can share photography such as Flickr, online polls, etc.
For nonprofits, social media is a way to connect to your members, media, donors, sponsors, members of Congress and elected officials, and other stakeholders. It’s also a way for your members to connect peer to peer to exchange best practices and industry/professional information.
Tip #2: Plan, Plan, Plan.
In real estate, its location, location, location and in social media, it’s plan, plan, plan. While it’s great that your organization has jumped into the social media arena, you need to make sure you have a strategic plan that incorporates and integrates social media into your communication efforts.
Your strategic plan should incorporate your objective (umbrella statement about what you are trying to achieve), strategies (ways to achieve your objective), tactics (social media is one tactic in your plan), evaluation techniques as well as a timeline and budget.
Tip #3: Social Media is ONE Tactic.
Some organizations have gone overboard with social media. They are on every social media venue without really thinking about why they are there. Before entering the social media arena, be sure you think through all your tactics and that you have the resources to make it viable.
#4: Think About What Social Media Best Fits Your Nonprofit.
As you would any other tactic in your toolkit, give some thought to what types of social media will work best for your organization. Consider your:
- Overall objective—What are you trying to achieve? Do you want to position your leaders as experts? Pass legislation? Increase membership?
- Target audiences—Who are you trying to reach? Do you want to talk to your members? Potential members? The industry? Media? Congress?
- Pilot one social media program—Consider launching a trial social media program. Try it during your annual meeting, to pass legislation, or to announce the results of an organization study. See how it works and take the lessons learned to launch a wider campaign.
- Staff time—Do you have the staff to really engage? For example, to keep up a Twitter account it takes a few minutes daily.
- Budget—Do you have the budget for a dedicated social media staff member? Are there production costs associated with your YouTube video? Do you need to hire a photographer to post quality photos online?
Tip #5: Be Creative.
If you run into barriers to implementing social media, try some innovative thinking. For example, your association may not have staff time or the budget to implement a successful Twitter campaign but perhaps you can hire a college intern to send your Twitter feeds. They don’t need to be in your office—just provide them with the information for the feed.
Using these suggestions will create a social media strategy as part of your organization’s overall communication plan. In this way, you can leverage social media to add value to your outreach efforts and achieve your strategic objectives.
Sheri L. Singer is the president of Singer Communications, a PR, marketing and communications firm specializing in the nonprofit community. On staff and as a consultant, Singer has worked with more than 35 associations. She is a member of the American Society of Association Executives and serves as the co-chair of the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter’s Association/Nonprofit Committee.