Social-Media Best Practices: 12 Tips for Making the Best of Any Social Site, Part 1
[Editor's note: This part 1 of a two-part series on social-media best practices. Check back next week for part 2.]
Do you know how many of your supporters use popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube? Twitter has more than 16 million users, and 42.3 percent of the entire American population uses Facebook. YouTube is the second most used search engine in the world. With usage stats like that it’s probably safe to assume that a large portion of your followers use at least one social network, right?
Knowing that a good portion of your supporters already participate on the social Web, and with the continued growth and popularity of social media, it’s very likely your nonprofit organization is focused on figuring out how to best utilize sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. But as with anything, it can be challenging to figure out where to start or how to ensure your efforts are going to be effective.
With that in mind, here are 12 tips that will help you succeed no matter what social-networking site you apply them to.
Claim your land
As you get more and more involved in using social media, be sure to claim your land by creating your organization’s Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, LinkedIn profile, etc. Think about it like when the Internet became popular — you wanted to secure your domain even if you didn’t plan on using it right away so others wouldn’t register it.
Fill out your profile completely
The social Web is essentially a place where relationships are built, maintained and enhanced in a digital space. It’s really no different than real life in that people want to get to know who you are, what you stand for, how you're changing the world and what they can get by connecting with you. So make sure to take advantage of all the profile space you have by adding a picture, putting up information about your organization, providing links back to your website and so on. This way others know you’re a real nonprofit doing real things.
Spend some time observing (aka listening)
An easy way to understand this concept is to think about attending a party where you don’t know many people. It’s doubtful that you’d go barging in to conversations or groups of people without first getting the lay of the land by observing the room, looking for others who you may know or know of, and thinking about what you could talk about with those attending. The social Web is no different. It requires that you learn the culture, people and way to interact on each specific site. Twitter is different than Facebook, and Facebook is different than LinkedIn. Spend some time observing how others interact, speak, share and communicate before you dive in. Creating a social-media listening dashboard helps as you get started. You can get one up and running in 30 minutes or less for free.
Locate your peeps
Once you’ve begun to get acclimated with the culture and overall way to interact on each social site, start to look for those who are talking about or interested in things you find interesting. For example: If you’re a nonprofit that focuses on disaster-relief efforts in places like New Zealand, then you may want to connect with the Red Cross and begin building a relationship with it. Or you may want to find individuals who are talking about the events around the world where disaster relief is needed.
This allows you to engage with people who are interested in the things you do and who might become supporters of yours one day. You should also get familiar with using search features like Twitter Search to help you find the right people to engage with. Here are 13 simple twitter search examples to get you started.
Engage, but don’t yell (or ask for donations)
After you’ve been observing for a while and locating like-minded organizations and individuals, you want to begin building relationships with them. The key point to remember here is that you should not start by selling your wares or promoting your programs or asking for donations. Start by getting to know the individuals who run the social-media accounts you interact with — offer your help, assistance and support to them. Be the initiator and giver. Spend some time in chitchat-type conversations to build real connections and relationships with others — it will pay off in the long run.
Build your fan base (just like building your housefile)
As you start to engage with the right individuals and organizations, you naturally begin to build your fan base — it’s the organic way of doing things on the social Web. In addition to that, once you’ve developed a solid presence, part of your fan-, friend- and follower-growth strategy should include promoting your presence on social-media sites to your current supporter base. You can do this by putting social-media links on your main website and sending e-mail communications to your housefile, letting all your supporters know where to find you on the various social-networking sites you participate on.
This helps build your social-network fan base in two ways. First, it gets all those who you have e-mails addresses for to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter and so on. Second, it gives you exposure to your fans' networks and provides the opportunity for many more to find out about you.
Check back next week for tips seven through 12.
Frank Barry is manager of professional services at fundraising software provider Blackbaud. He is also a blogger at NetWits ThinkTank and a guest blogger at Mashable. Reach him via Twitter at @franswaa.