Etiquette Lessons for Online Engagement
In their session, “Miss Manners: Online Communication Etiquette,” at the sixth annual Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference held in National Harbor, Md., last week, fundraising and marketing experts Katya Andresen, Jocelyn Harmon and Sarah Durham talked about best practices for engaging with supporters online.
Andresen talked about customer service and how organizations have to change their thinking about it. Customer service no longer is just the person answering phones and fielding questions about how to make out the check or why the website is down.
Increasingly, organizations’ engagement with people online is perceived as the new customer service, she said, adding that social media “could be the most amazing thing ever to engage people and advance our missions.”
Andresen said the No. 1 reason donors stop supporting their organizations of choice is “a lack of appropriate kindness and attention.”
“People say they just want someone to be nice to them,” she said. “Yes, the bar is that low.”
So how can a nonprofits make the best of the amazing opportunity that is online engagement? Harmon discussed the social norms that need to be adhered to in the online setting. They include:
- Be yourself but a little bit better.
- Make sure your posts sound like you.
- Remember that people don’t connect to organizations; they connect to other people.
- Bring your humanity.
- It’s a sign of respect to respond to e-mails.
- If you look at your e-mails only at a specific time of day, set an auto-responder to tell people that.
- Definitely use an auto-responder if you are out of the office for a day or more.
- Make sure there is more than one first-responder to e-mails that come in from donors, potential donors and other supporters.
- It’s human nature to reciprocate when someone does something for us.
- The power of reciprocation is so strong that even if we don’t like the person who has done something for us, we still have a very strong feeling of being indebted.
- Don’t just take and take and take online and not give back. Follow people who follow you on social-networking sites. Respond to posts, ask questions and engage with your followers.
- It’s all about transparency.
- If something goes wrong, be honest and open about it.
- People appreciate vulnerability.
“We are in a privileged position as communicators in the nonprofit space to make people feel valued.”
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it’s still important that we do something different.”
Finally, Durham provided the “hows” behind Harmon’s “whats,” offering these tips for polite, effective online engagement.
- It’s bad manners to push your own agenda too hard or too fast in social media. Engage in relevant conversation; don’t broadcast.
- Manage conflict warmly, openly and directly. It is possible to turn things around.
- Build a sense of community, and celebrate the people in it.
- Keep a consistent online presence, and be sure to respond to posts, comments and other messages.
- Share helpful content across channels.
- E-mail thoughtfully, following best practices for good e-mail communication.