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Social Media is a swiftly rising trend in online communications, and nonprofits are jumping on board right along with everyone else. But it can be difficult to figure out what the best practices are, at first. To help alleviate some of that difficulty, we here at MemberPath have put together this short list of what we believe to be the most important "DO'S & DON'T'S" of Social Media for Nonprofits.


DO: 

Listen, Listen, Listen
When you’re just starting out with Social Media, the most important thing you can do is to get a “lay of the land” and a feel for how the community interacts. So for whichever type of social media you employ –Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc. – take the time to observe and listen before jumping in. That way, your interaction and relationships will be more sincere and more tailored to the audience.
 
Be Personal
One of the greatest things about social media is in the name itself – it’s social. People like it when they feel like they have a personal connection to an organization. So be personal in your communications. Focus on individuals, and the relationships that are formed between them.

Be Honest, Open and Sincere
Nothing bothers social media users more than insincerity and dishonesty – and they’re incredibly quick to sniff it out. Always be honest and upfront about your affiliations and intentions – several large companies (Sony and Wal-Mart, most notably) have been burned when trying to pass off corporate-sponsored promotion blogs as being unrelated to the company.

Participate – but not right away
After you’ve spent some time listening and observing the online community, participation is key. Interacting with other community members will increase your reputation and creditability. Engage in conversations and develop relationships.

 

DON'T:

Use Social Media as a push-sell method
Social Media is not actually the most effective way to sell a product, or solicit donations and memberships. Since social media is more about relationships, users tend to dislike blatant sales pitches and donation solicitations. The real value in social media lies in promoting awareness and visibility for the organization – from that, the rest can follow.

Spam
Never, ever, ever use social media to send out identical mass messages over and over. Sending the same thing out more than once isn’t going to make more people read it – if anything, it will alienate your audience and create hostility.

Neglect Social Media accounts once you start them
If your organization is unwilling or unable to put in the time and effort to maintain a social media account, then simply don’t. Starting an account that then doesn’t get actively used can make the organization look like it doesn’t care, or like it’s unresponsive to members.
 

What other "DO'S & DON'T'S" do you follow when using social media for your organization? Tell us about it in the comments!

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