Nonprofit Organizations and Social Media

Nonprofit OrganizationsNonprofit organizations are lagging in the use of social media for outreach to their constituents, according to a recent survey by software and service company Sage, covered in an article in this week’s PR News.

Almost two-thirds of respondents in the study said they don’t use any digital tools to manage social media programs. Not surprisingly, more than half of the respondents weren’t happy with their social media efforts.

Since social media marketing would seem to be made for nonprofit organizations and their communications programs, this is an unfortunate situation.  But from my point of view as someone who has handled public relations for many nonprofit organizations – large and small – there is no mystery as to why this is happening.

While there are many large nonprofit organizations, there are also many more than have limited budgets and operate with a small, multi-tasking administrative staff whose work lives are stretched pretty thin.  Very few charities have an in-house public relations person – let alone a communications staff.

Outsourcing these activities is the answer for these organizations, but they often opt for pro bono work by an outside agency, where necessity dictates their taking a back seat to paying clients.

To be effective, social media marketing takes strategic planning, time and dedication.

It can be a vicious circle:  nonprofit organizations who don’t communicate with their publics on a regular basis miss out on fundraising opportunities, and lack of fundraising opportunities keeps them from adequately funding their communications programs.

Nonprofit organizations that eventually become financially stable have one thing in common: they have leaders who think big and look to the future.  they invest in a public relations program – and in today’s world, that program includes social media.

Post by Margot Dimond

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Starting a Social Media Marketing Program for a Small Business

Social Media MarketingYou own a small business – maybe a retail shop or a professional services firm – and you keep hearing that social media marketing is the way to go to get and keep customers.  But you don’t know where to start.  With so many new social networking sites, it can be confusing.

Don’t give up!  Social media marketing was made for businesses like yours – businesses that want to connect with potential customers, engage them in a dialogue and build the kind of relationship that leads to long-term business success.

The important thing to remember is that, like any other public relations or marketing venture, you cannot dabble.  You have to commit for the long-term.  And it may be best to designate one person or an outside agency to manage your program because, if done correctly, managing social media sites will take many hours per week.

That said, you definitely need to get on board.  But which sites should you start with?  Let’s keep it simple and start with these three:

Facebook.  According to American gangster mythology, when asked by a reporter why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton replied, “because that’s where the money is.”  Well, Facebook is where the people are.  It’s the top social site for referral traffic.  You can’t afford not to be on it if you are trying to reach potential customers.  But just having a Facebook page won’t get you anywhere.  You need to have a “call to action,” an opportunity to share, post photos and videos, and ask and answer questions.  Make your current and future customers feel as if they are a part of your business.

Twitter.    Got a sale coming up?  Have a special two-for-one pricing on meals or drinks?  Want to share a great tip on filing taxes?  Hear of a new trend?  Tweet all of the above – and more – in 140 characters or less.  Also, you can tweet relevant and interesting articles, start a poll, re-tweet customer comments, and on and on.  The important thing is to have an ongoing conversation with your customers.

Company Blog.  Your blog isn’t really a social networking site, but it is your voice to the world.  How is it promoting your brand?  Do you post regularly, or do visitors see outdated information there?  Are you linking back to your social networking sites and website, or does it just sit there – like an orphan?

Writing a blog is a real commitment, and it can become a chore, especially if you aren’t comfortable writing.  You can invite subscribers to post as well, but don’t count on that.  The important point here is that if you can’t keep it current by yourself, hire someone who can.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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New Takes on Social Media Users

A couple of interesting news items on social media came across my desk today.  One was an article in a business journal about a social media contest the publication is sponsoring.  It noted that of the 32 entries it had received to-date, 28 were from small businesses.  Very few of the larger companies the writer contacted for the article were actively pursuing social media.  Of those who did, most reported using it to communicate with employees or existing customers.

Social MediaThis has been our experience as well.  Social media is a boon for smaller businesses, for whom traditional advertising and marketing can be cost-prohibitive.  It’s an inexpensive way to reach potential customers quickly and efficiently and, in many cases, it can lead to rapid increases in sales and profits.  It also works well for larger companies that sell directly to consumers.

For large business-to-business firms, social media is less likely to produce immediate results.  The hierarchical structure of most large companies can make them less flexible when it comes to communicating, and flexibility is the hallmark of social media messaging.

The second piece of news is a report on Facebook fan pages in PR Daily. Apparently, brand promotion through Facebook is a dud with millennials – those cherished consumers born between 1980 and 2000.  According to a recent survey of college students, while 86 percent of millennials visit Facebook every day, only 1 percent visit a brand page daily.  If they are fans on Facebook, it’s usually for an organization they are personally involved with, such as a nonprofit organization or a sorority.  This seems to be yet another example of social media tools being used to communicate with people who already know you.

Posted by Margot Dimond

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What social media sites are best for my company?

Social Media SitesI worry that I’m falling behind in doing social media marketing for my company.  Just when I think I have a handle on all the types of social media, I hear of new ones and wonder if I should try them.  What’s the best way to decide what’s best for my company?

I can understand your confusion; it seems there is an endless array of sites out there, and it can get confusing and frustrating to try to keep up.  But it sounds like you are approaching this challenge tactically, rather than strategically.

Think of this as you would a home improvement project.  Your social media sites are your tools.  Do you look at the tools you have and decide what you can do with them?  Or do you look at what needs to be done, make a plan of action, then get the needed tools?  I think most of us would agree that looking at what needs to be achieved is the way to go.

It’s the same with promoting your company.  Determine what you would need to achieve your goals.

  • What kind of company are you promoting?
  • What products or services does it offer?
  • Who is your target customer?
  • When you communicate with them, what response do you want?

Once you do that, you’ll have a better idea of what social media sites will actually produce results for you.

The Social Media Examiner asked some of their top social media specialists for their 2012 predictions.  If you can wade through all 30 predictions, you’ll find some good insights.

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Pinning down copyright issues

Pinterest has become one of the fastest-growing social networks on the web, with millions of users.  The site allows you to share images from the web using a “pin it” button.  Your images are then published on your Pinterest “board” – a collection of images centered around a topic that you have chosen, such as home design or recipes.

copyright issuesHowever, the nature of the site is bringing up issues of copyright, leading some to fear being sued.  As has been widely reported, one lawyer/photographer deleted all of her Pinterest boards after looking into the legality of Pinterest.  One of the things that concerned her most was Pinterest’s Terms of Use statement, which includes this sentence on “Limitation of Liability”:

“YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT, TO THE MAXIMUM EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, THE ENTIRE RISK ARISING OUT OF YOUR ACCESS TO AND — USE OF THE SITE, APPLICATION, SERVICES AND SITE CONTENT REMAINS WITH YOU.”

In short, if an artist or photographer sues for copyright infringement, you can be held responsible for hiring a defense lawyer for yourself – and even for Pinterest!

Some of us remember when record labels began suing users of the Napster site for violating copyright by sharing music.  Will this go that far?

These legal concerns have led Pinterest to create a “nopin” HTML meta tag that Website can add to opt our of having their photos and media pinned.  That seems to put the burden on the creator of the work, not the user, so it’s unclear how that will work out.

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Don’t let this happen to you!

In a recent Twitter campaign, McDonald’s sought to promote the fact that the chain bought fresh produce from farmers.  First came the #MeetTheFarmers hashtag on Twitter; later in the day, the company launched #McDStories to generate positive stories from consumers.  Almost immediately users began tweeting stories about food with worms, food poisoning, and other such appetizing fare.  The large number of negative tweets caused a flurry of press coverage, embarrassing the company.

McDonald’s is not alone in experiencing a social media disaster.  Australia’s Qantas, car-maker Honda, and clothier Kenneth Cole are just a few more examples of corporate social media marketing plans gone awry.

Social media offers a great new venue for widespread exposure – especially for companies selling to consumers.  But it’s a double-edged sword that can also offer an opportunity for widespread embarrassment – as disgruntled employees, disappointed customers or professional gripers vent their frustrations in a very public way.

Understandably, seeing campaigns such as McDonald’s fall apart may make a marketing executive shy away from using social media to promote his company’s products or services.  But this type of unintended consequence can be avoided by remembering two important things:

1.  Have a Strategy.  As with any other public relations/marketing tool, you should know why you are doing the campaign.  Does it advance your brand?  Is it a good fit with your marketing goals?  Does it reach the right people with the right kind of message?  All of these questions should be asked before any campaign – of any type – is launched.

2.  Be an Emergency Manager.  A big part of emergency management takes place before the crisis happens.  Good emergency managers think, “What’s the worst that could happen?”  If there is a good chance your brand could be hijacked and trashed, you may want to try something else.  Even if you can’t think of a worst case scenario, have a crisis plan ready for handling any negative fallout.

Finally, monitor your campaign on a regular basis, so you will know how it’s going, and be ready to spring into action if things go awry.

There are always risks when doing social media marketing, but if well-planned and monitored, it may be well worth it for your company.

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