Social Media for Social Good

This week I had the pleasure of listening to a panel of social media experts at the Foundation Center’s Social Media for Social Good event.  Speakers included Renee Alexander from US Fund for Unicef, Julia C. Smith from Idealist, Farra Trompeter from Big Duck and Nten‘s Amy Sample Ward, preceded by a presentation by Small Act‘s Casey Golden.

As might be expected during an event on social media, there was an active stream on Twitter, which you can review with the #SM4SG hashtag.  Below are some highlights:

  • Mentioned several times this week and also by Danielle Brigida who recently spoke at the NYC 501 Tech Club, social media involves a lot of trial and error and experimentation.  Often you will have to try different tactics before you find what will work best with your audience.   Don’t be afraid to fail.
  • Engagement = stimulating a conversation and encouraging constituents to take action on issues.
  • Developing a social media policy for your organization will help guide your staff how to speak about your nonprofit online – look at the social media governance policy database and the social media policy generator for help.
  • Your social media policy should be a fluid, living document that is reviewed with staff and updated regularly, not in a book that is stored on a shelf.
  • On Twitter, in addition to sharing ideas from others you find worthwhile, make sure to include your own ideas too – the best Twitter streams have a mix of links, no links and original content.  See this example of a Twitter engagement formula.
  • If your management is still uncertain whether social media is worth the effort, show what your competitors are doing online to engage and build their constituent base.

Want more resources?  For a step by step process on how to use social media, download Idealware’s Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide.  For more guidance on developing a social media policy – Big Duck’s Measuring Your Impact and Creating Policies for Social Media.  And for general tips on Twitter, read Mashable’s Twitter Guide Book

Social media is sexy, but don’t forget the online basics: make sure your website and email marketing program is in place.  Social media works best when part of an overall communications strategy that includes any way you connect with your constituents, whether online or offline.  Focus not only on your organization’s programs, but on the issues which your organization (and constituents) is most focused on.

Thanks to the Foundation Center’s Vanessa Schnaidt for moderating the discussion and to social media guru Jereme Bivins (who manages the Foundation Center’s Twitter stream) for planning this event.

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