Facing up to Facebook
As a 24-year-old who once was grounded for excessive use of MySpace and only intermittent use of my textbooks, I never imagined that someday Facebook would be listed as one of my job responsibilities. However odd it seems, I am indeed responsible for putting in face time on Facebook to expand my organization’s participation in the world of social media.
When I started my organization’s first Causes page on Facebook, I used my own personal Facebook profile. I figured I was already signed up and had my own account, so why create another one? I didn’t realize at the time that using my personal account meant that all the members of the Causes pages I create on behalf of my organization could see me (Christina Johns) as the creator of the pages or that I would become a public speaker for my organization via them.
Though not a conscious choice at the time, tying my private and personal Facebook page/identity to the work I was doing for my organization was one of the best (and most risky) decisions I’ve made.
I first saw the impact of using my personal account rather than an anonymous account for my organization when I began to thank members who joined our Causes page. I did this on a daily basis by sending short, personalized messages to their Facebook profile accounts (even if we weren’t “friends” and I couldn’t see their profiles). I couldn’t believe the response I received from sending out these little messages.
By far the best advice I have for growing a Causes page on Facebook is to always say thank you. People like to know that their participation means something, that in some way your page is better now that they’re a part of it. And the truth is, it is better. A simple “thank you” from an individual person — and not the organizational logo — sends this message loud and clear.
The level of intimacy created when you connect with supporters as an individual completely changes the tone of the conversations. The new members I was thanking didn’t know I worked for the organization that was the beneficiary of the Causes page they just joined, nor do I think it would have mattered.
What did matter is that before my personal message of thanks as Christina, the creator of the page, we were total strangers and now were linked together by a shared concern for a common cause.
By taking the extra step and reaching out to thank these new members for joining me in the quest to support my cause, I was able to turn a group of strangers into my new “friends.” The supporters of the cause often requested me personally as a friend and sent me questions on how they could do more to support the cause, or how to get more information on my organization.
The insight I was able to gather on how to communicate with these supporters through this connection has proven invaluable. To be clear: Though I never hid where I worked from our Facebook supporters, I also didn’t hide who I was as an individual — and that is where I was able to connect to people on a level where they felt comfortable to open up to me about why this cause means something to them.
People who support a cause generally have a personal reason for doing so and are willing to share that with a fellow supporter. This type of dialogue breeds the cultivation that has the potential to foster the type of advocates organizations dream of.
Using my personal profile on Facebook to manage and create Causes pages on behalf of my organization allows me to act as a sounding board for what is now more than 9,000 supporters. The bottom line is people want to talk to people, to a face (it is called Facebook after all) — not to a picture of a logo.
I mentioned this route was also a risky road to take. When blending your workaday Facebook and your weekend Facebook personas, you have to be prepared to maintain a certain level of professionalism at all times. It’s a tricky balance to remain “real” enough to encourage the human connection, while still operating within the confines of an organization’s standards of behavior even when you are off the clock. It does sometimes feel like living a double life, but the connections I’ve been able to make through this method have been astounding and well worth the extra effort.
Tips for putting a face on your Facebook efforts
- Have a social-media policy in place for any individuals representing your organization, as well as for other employees who might be using social-media sites. Make sure the expectations and behavior are clearly defined and understood by both the management and the employee making the contact.
- Create a separate e-mail address in your Outlook account for social media. I use an e-mail address that goes into my Outlook account and is used only as a contact e-mail for social-networking sites. I receive many questions to this address regarding the organization I work for or the Causes page itself on Facebook and how donations work through the page’s application. Having this e-mail address allows me to answer as myself, Christina, but from my organizations’ e-mail address to maintain a level of professionalism and authenticity when responding.
- When you thank new members for joining your Causes page or group, always ask them to tell their friends about the cause. Keep the thank you short and casual. Remember, the whole point is to communicate more like friends than in the formal structure of an appeal to a donor.
- Separate personal and professional contacts. I have more than 500 friends on Facebook, but almost 100 of them are people who have requested me as a friend because of the Causes pages I have created. To help me keep social-networking contacts separated from my personal friends, I make lists within my Facebook account. You also can limit what lists of friends see which elements of your personal profile.
- Make sure you have the time it takes to manage these relationships successfully. Causes pages might start out small with only 50 members, and then before you know it (if you’re lucky) you have thousands of members and 30 e-mails/messages a day with 10 to 20 new members each day. If you slip on updating your messages, answering questions, making page updates or sending thank-you notes, people will forget about you and turn their attention to something else.
Christina Johns is the project coordinator for radio and TV at the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, as well as a regular contributor to FundRaising Success’ monthly Giving 2.0 e-letter.