A New Way to Do Old Business
"It's just a new way to do old business."
So said Danielle Brigida, associate operations coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, in the session "Using Social Networking to Build Affinity, Community and Brand" at Fund Raising Day in New York 2009 presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater New York Chapter in early June. In her session, Brigida discussed the need for nonprofits to clearly articulate a strategy for utilizing social-networking sites to enhance brand, build affinity and expand reach.
Co-presenter Ayumi Stubbs, director of member communications for the ASPCA, said organizations should understand the difference between social networking and Web 2.0. Social networking is the act of listening and learning who donors are, while Web 2.0 is an umbrella term for the technology that enables organizations to do this — and a term that she says is really "no longer cool."
Social networking is about engaging constituents rather than talking at them. Stubbs said the key to effective social networking is getting constituents to "do something" so that an organization’s work on social networking sites is measurable.
Stubbs recommended these two key steps for moving constituents along the spectrum of engagement using social networks:
- Communicate the emotional and functional benefits of being part of your cause.
- Simplify and incentivize. To do this, ASPCA has offered a free sticker giveaway and free ringtone.
Stubbs recommended using Facebook as nonprofits can get cool stats on their friends without even directly asking for them because constituents offer information on who they are freely via their profiles.
She recommends that organizations:
- be creative and look for alternatives to build 2.0 components into measurable things you already are doing.
- Google or Technorati your organization. "You will find there are a lot of people talking about you," Stubbs said. "So you better make sure you are feeding them the right things to say."
Brigida noted findings from the 2009 Edelman Trust Barometer that show that, regardless of the channel or voice used, the majority of individuals need to hear a message three to five times before they believe it, which underscores the importance of using multiple channels to get your message out.
A key to social-networking sites is just being present on them and listening to the conversations going on there. Organizations can search Google news, blogs (Technorati) and social sites like Twitter to find and join conversations related to their causes.
Twitter is all about conversation and getting people to feel like they're a part of something bigger. NWF tweets new blog entries, random facts, breaking news, program information and timely events, and retweets posts related to its cause, using its Twitter followers as a mini-focus group.
Organizations can become educational resources on Twitter, keeping in mind the need for authenticity over institutional-speak. This later point tops the list of Brigida's tips for organizations when getting involved in social networks:
- Have an authentic message.
- Go where you constituents are.
- Respect them. Don't be an ad. Allow constituents to have a relationship with you.
- Know they are connected to a whole network of people.
- Involve their friends.
- Combine old and new techniques. For example, a press release can be repurposed into a blog post and then shortened to 140 characters and put on Twitter.
Brigida recommended picking social-networking sites that involve something you like doing or sites that will make your life easier. Empower staff members who are on these sites already on their own. If you're worried about the lines between their personal lives and work lives blurring too much, add social-networking guidelines to your computer-use policy.
One thing's for sure, you should know what you want out of a site before you join and put the time into developing a presence there. Look at what like organizations are doing and see if there's a niche that you can fill.