Blog - Written by on Friday, August 21, 2009 15:12

Five Essential Tips for Promoting Your Charity Using Social Media
by Josh Catone

For non-profit organizations and other charities, social media is potentially an incredibly powerful tool to get the word out, connect with constituents, rally support, and even raise money.

But, like for any business, social media will only pay dividends for charities if they utilize it properly. You can’t just sign up for a Twitter account, create a Facebook Fan Page and then watch the donations roll in. It unfortunately just doesn’t happen that way.

Getting the most out of social media is hard work and requires patient diligence. But the eventual rewards are potentially enormous. Here are five essential tips for charities to get the most out of social media when promoting their cause.

1. Remember: Social Media is a Conversation
No matter what social media sites or tools you utilize to promote your charity — Twitter, Facebook,, Care2, 12seconds, etc. — you won’t get very far until you realize that social media is a conversation. Whatever you’re trying to achieve, and wherever you’re trying to reach those goals, the road there is a two-way street.

You’ll get a much better return on your investment in social media if you take the time to actually engage your followers, friends, and constituents. Don’t just broadcast information, consume it as well. That means doing things like asking your followers for feedback and ideas, and involving them in the decision-making process at your charity. Engaging your social media fans and creating a more involved constituency is a long-term positive for your organization.

By creating that personal connection with your followers, you’ll be more likely to turn those followers into die-hard fans — i.e., people that will evangelize your cause, spread the word, and participate in future campaigns.

2. Be Active and Responsive
On the web, activity is paramount. No one wants to follow a dead Twitter account or inactive Facebook Fan Page, for example. In order to keep the conversation going and keep your constituents engaged (see tip #1), you have to constantly keep your social media presences up-to-date and respond to your followers.

Ideally, this means that you have the resources necessary to hire a social media or community manager whose sole job it is to think about how to keep activity levels on social media high and keep people engaged. But at the very least (and perhaps more realistically for many charities), it means creating a routine where you hit your social media accounts at least a few times each week. Set up a schedule that assures you get new blog content out a few times during the week, that you send out a handful of tweets every day, that you respond to Twitter @replies, blog comments, and Facebook messages within 24 hours, etc.

Also, pare down your social media presence to only the essential sites. It’s better to really kick butt on two or three sites than to have inactive accounts on twenty. Inactivity only hurts your brand and turns users away, so be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Focus instead on the sites where the people you are trying to reach are the most active.

3. Be Personal and Authentic

Since social media is about conversation, you should keep in mind that most people would rather converse with a person than a faceless brand, so make sure your social media profiles have personality and authenticity. You’re a real person, so you should tweet, post, and email like one. Always interact with your followers on social networks as you. You’re representing your charity in everything you do, of course, but you’ll have more success in getting people involved if you aren’t afraid to share your personality.

Remember, you’re talking with people, not to them, so it helps if they can relate to you as a person. For charities, the social web is less about marketing and sales than it is about establishing relationships and connecting with people on a personal level.

4. Encourage Sharing
One of the great things about social media is its power to spread information quickly. By encouraging your followers and friends on social media channels to share information about your cause or calls to action, they will have a greater potential to spread virally and reach new audiences. The best way to encourage your followers to share your tweets, links, posts, and other messages, is to create an environment where sharing is valued.

That means two things: 1. consistently put out quality content, and 2. lead by example. The former point is obvious — the higher the quality of the content you share with your followers, the more likely they will be to spread it to their friends. The latter, though, is just as important. Your constituents will be far more likely to share if they can simply follow your lead. In other words, if you want your friends to share what you put out, you should share out the relevant, quality content that they publish. You should also use your social media accounts to publish or link to content from around the web in addition to your own content (e.g., share links to articles from outside sources about the topic with which your charity deals).

5. Make Social Media an Organization-wide Activity
If you really want to get the most out of social media, then you should put as much into it as you can — and that means everyone at your organization should make social media a part of their daily routine. Make social media participation an organizational policy, because if everyone at your charity is connecting with people on Twitter and Facebook, you’ll be able to engage many times as many people than if just a couple of people are tasked with using social media tools.

Of course, if you go this route, you should also strongly consider creating a social media policy to make sure everyone is on the same page. A social media policy doesn’t have to be big and complicated, it simply needs to outline your charity’s goals and expectations and how people in the organization are expected to conduct themselves when dealing with constituents over social media channels.

BONUS: Love What You Do
If you love what you do, your passion for your charity or cause will show through in your interactions on social media. People will be more apt to engage with you if they can feel the passion you have for your organization. As soon as social media becomes “just a job,” you’re in trouble. If you have fun with it, though, the results will follow.


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