One of the most difficult parts of using social media effectively is deciding on which type is right for your organization. Many organizations hear about “social media” becoming the next big thing, and are in such a rush to get in on it that they don’t stop to think about whether it’s actually right for them or not. Even if they do take the time to analyze whether their organization needs social media or not, they often fail to take into account the vast differences in scope and audience between the different types of social media available. This post will examine the different types of social media and what sorts of organizational goals they’re best suited for. (Note: If you haven’t already, you should check out our post “Is Social Media Right For Your Organization?)

The most important thing that must be done in order to determine what type of social media is right for your org is to evaluate your goals. What do you want to get out of your use of social media? Some common goals are to raise awareness of your organization, to connect members and coordinate volunteers, to publish news updates, and to raise funds.

If your goal is to raise awareness of your organization, then really many types of social media are well-suited for you. Facebook and Myspace have the largest number of users, so they’re great places to start. The Facebook Causes application (there’s a similar app for Myspace as well) is great for nonprofits, while the Pages feature is better for for-profits and associations.

For connecting members and volunteers, Facebook is without a doubt the best. Creating groups on Facebook allows members to connect with one another, post comments on the Wall and in discussion boards, and to post pictures, video, and other multimedia. It also gives your organization a centralized list of members, volunteers, and interested parties, as well as a designated mode of communication with them.

As for publishing news updates, the best avenues are blogs and Twitter. Blogs give you the flexibility to post anything you want, with no constraints. Twitter, while limited to brief 140-character updates, is also great for publishing short updates. Twitter has the advantage of being able to reach a much wider audience than just those who specifically visit your blog – and you can always use Twitter to direct people to blog posts, if you feel you can’t say it all in 140 characters!

While it may seem like there’s a ton of articles published about using social media for fundraising and advertising, we would caution you and your organization against focusing too heavily on social media’s uses for fundraising purposes. Social media’s true value lies in the increased awareness and recognition it can provide, as well as giving your organization a more personalized image. However, if you do decide you want to use social media to help accomplish fundraising goals, the best site to use is Facebook’s Causes. It has built-in donation capability, and is already set up and integrated for use with fundraising. Another possibility is Youtube, which has recently launched non-profit-only channels with built-in donation integration as well.

Social media can be a great investment for your organization, if you take the time to evaluate your goals and decide what type you want to use. Another important thing to keep in mind is your audience – where is your target market already gathering? Rather than trying to bring them to you, you should be going to them. Engage your market in the places they already gather. With a strong concept of goals and audience, you can easily choose the type (or types) of social media that will be best for your organization, and accomplish your goals effectively.

What type of social media does your organization use? Why did you pick it? Let us know in the comments!

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