Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Supporting your Mission with Social Media

Tuesday, July 20, 2010
With so many different social media outlets available we’re sometimes left wondering, “Where do we even start and what makes sense for our organization?”

Over the past several years, I have seen marketing take a positive shift. The social media wave that we are experiencing has opened up more opportunities for organizations to reach their audience.

In the past, an organization’s reputation often was based around what the public said and thought about them, whether it be their fundraising efforts through the events they hosted, the strength of their boards, public financial information, or the funding they received to help carry out their mission. Now, organizations have the opportunity to regularly communicate with their audience and let their own voices and more importantly, their mission, be heard.

Not sure where to start? Start simple. Before you start any type of marketing initiative, do your homework. What are comparable organizations doing? Have their efforts been successful?

My suggestion would be to begin by creating a “Linked In” account. If you haven’t done this already, take advantage of a free resource that gives you access to over 50 million professionals worldwide. To join, all you need is a valid email address and a password. After you’ve signed in, complete your profile with as much information as possible, by adding a photo of yourself, your work history, and most importantly your organization’s website to the section labeled “Websites”. Adding this information is crucial for making it easy for people to find you. The great thing about Linked In is that it is Google friendly; meaning once you have created one, the more likely you are to show up on the first page of a Google search. After you’ve done this, you can begin doing your research.

Using the “People Search” with the “Advanced” feature on Linked In, select a location. Location may not matter if your primary goal is to learn as much as you can about what non-profit organizations are doing nationwide regarding Social Media. Next under Industry, choose “non-profit organization management”. Then, take time to click through different individual’s profiles that show up through your search results. You’ll see that some profiles have added websites; some even have Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts and blogs- be sure to explore these as well.

Eventually, you will come across a few you like and that will give you ideas for what you’d like to start doing for your organization to become more recognized using social media. In addition to searching for ideas, you’ll also want to take advantage of searching for and connecting with your board members, contributors, co-workers, and other contacts. I’d strongly recommend that all employees in your organization consider joining Linked In as well.

The next step to become more visible in the online community is to start a blog. Think about what you want to say about your mission and what you want your audience to know about you? Blogs are conversational and informative. If you’re not sure how to begin your first blog, why not talk about an upcoming event your organization is hosting, it’s an extra opportunity to get the word out. Once you begin researching other blogs and seeing what they’re communicating, it will become more natural for you to discuss a topic. Encourage your supporters to visit your blog and solicit their feedback. If you know any experts, ask them to guest blog on a topic that would impact your audience.

Use this resource as much as you can to communicate your mission with the public. Set up links from your website to your blog and from your blog to your Linked In. Put these links in any print or electronic communication you distribute. The more traffic you can drive to your organization’s websites, the better.

Once you have decided that your organization is committed to social media, develop a social media policy to be followed by those in your organization. This way, everyone is on the same page about what they want to communicate and how. Just make sure that everyone realizes this is a commitment, and will not happen overnight. Your social media initiative will take time, but if you track your efforts, you will see results.  So break out of your traditional marketing shell and be "social"!


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