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Tending Your Social Media Garden

August 12, 2010 by MemberPath posted in: Social Media

Social media requires attention to ensure continued success. Luckily, this attention takes next to no time to give! Social media maintenance is easy: just post new content every now and then and make sure to interact with your followers.

There’s a lot of great free tools available to help you measure the ongoing success of your social media presence. Here’s just a few:

1. PostRank (Originally called AideRSS) allows you to enter a feed URL and it returns statistics about its posts, including which are the most popular based on how many times they are shared on a variety of social bookmarking sites (Google, Digg, Del.icio.us).

2. Google Analytics and Feedburner help analyze your company’s blog traffic, subscriber count, keyword optimization and additional trends

3. Xinu is a handy website where you can type in a URL and receive a load of useful statistics ranging from search engine optimization (SEO) to social bookmarking and more.

4. Bit.ly is a URL-shortening service that also offers a lot of powerful click-through tracking features
 

Hopefully some of the tools we've linked to above will help you get started with keeping your social media campaigns well-tended, as well as help you measure their success!

Do you have a favorite analytics tool? What do you think is the best way to measure the success of your social media campaigns? Tell us about it in the comments!

Social Media's ROI for Non-Profits

It's one of the biggest social media topics discussed on the internet today: Return on Investment. "How do you measure ROI for social media campaigns?" is the question that gets asked over and over again. However, that's really not the right question to be asking initially, especially for non-profits. A better question to ask first is, "Should we be trying to measure and quantify our ROI for social media?"

One of the most important things to take away about measuring ROI for social media is that there is no universally accepted metric or system for measuring ROI. In fact, it’s a mistake to think of social media as a plug-and-chug, “if you build it, they will donate” kind of solution.

The most important part of exploring social media’s ROI is your goals. However you choose to measure ROI for your organization’s social media campaigns, it is absolutely essential that it matches what your goals for the campaign are. If your goal is to increase awareness of your organization, you should measure your “ROI” in terms of something like percentage increase in monthly unique visitors to your website. The biggest mistake you can make is to only think of ROI in terms of literal dollar amounts – this concept simply doesn’t apply to social media. So instead of traditional ROI metrics, try measuring your social media success based on things like number of followers/friends, quality of conversations, click-through rates on your links (see the next section for information on some tools you can use to measure this), or number of interactions.

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.

ROI is a tricky subject, not least of all because it's often what boards of directors and committees want to hear about as a "bottom line." However, its important to keep it in perspective when talking about social media - evaluate your organizational goals first, and decide if it's even right for your organization to be attempting to measure specific ROI for your social media campaigns.

 

How does your organization measure the success of its social media campaigns? Tell us about it in the comments!

Best of the Rest, Part 3: Myspace and Ning

Today's "Best of the Rest" installment is a little different. It's the final post in our series (read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here if you missed them!), and today's two featured social networking sites are actually, in our opinion, usually best avoided. However, we recieve lots of questions about them, so here's our take on Myspace and Ning:

Best of the Rest, Part 3

 

5. Myspace

Myspace is one of the larger social networking sites on the web. However, we would caution nonprofits against trying to use Myspace for increasing awareness or for fundraising activities. In our experience, the only organizations that Myspace would be a good choice for are those with a very young (early teen) target demographic. In nearly all other cases, we’ve found Myspace to be less than useful for nonprofits.

 

6. Ning

Another service we get a lot of questions about is Ning. Ning is an online platform which allows users to create their own social networks based around specific interests. Users can choose and customize the features and visual design they want.

While Ning may sound like a great idea, however, in recent years the company has been at the center of a lot of controversy. One of the most disturbing developments was when Ning notified its network creators that Ning would be emailing their entire membership bases with marketing emails – however, most members were not even aware that the network they were part of was a part of the larger Ning network. Even worse is that Ning network creators often pay a fee to keep Ning promotional ads off of their sites – so the idea that Ning would bypass that completely by sending marketing emails straight to network members is unsettling.

Furthermore, social networks already exist for just about everything under the sun. Why try to do something better than the market leader? Facebook has already done all the work of creating a huge network with a lot of features, so why not just use theirs?

 

So now you've gotten our take on the major social media sites - what's yours? What do you think of the "Best of the Rest" websites we've discussed? Are there any we missed that you'd like us to talk about? Let us know in the comments!

Best Of The Rest, Part 1: LinkedIn and YouTube

Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace are the giants of the social media world. But what else is out there? Today, we’ll be starting a short series of blog posts discussing the “Best of the Rest” – which other social media outlets are also worth nonprofits' attention, and why?

Best of the Rest, Part 1


1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social networking site for business and professional networking. Site users can build a network of business contacts that they either know personally or know through a friend. One of LinkedIn’s unique attributes is its focus on a reputation-based system – users vouch for their “connections” (contacts), and the implication is that one’s connections are people that you know and trust in business.


LinkedIn also has a feature called “LinkedIn Groups.” LinkedIn Groups are similar to Facebook groups, but with a business focus. Groups can be formed in any subject matter – for example, alumni groups or industry groups. With Groups, LinkedIn users can find new contacts in relevant areas of interest.

LinkedIn can be especially useful for nonprofits because of its professional focus. It also has a recently-released applications platform that will allow you to integrate your blog content, slideshows, upload files such as resumes or whitepapers, and even display your business travel plans.

Getting started on LinkedIn is easy. At www.linkedin.com, just enter your information into the signup form. After you’ve entered your basic information, you’re also able to upload a resume, import contacts from your email address book, join Groups, and update your profile.

 

2. YouTube
YouTube is a site for posting, sharing, and commenting on videos. YouTube users can upload videos from their computers, create playlists of other users’ videos, and watch and comment on videos. Recently, YouTube has launched special channels specifically for nonprofits. The Non-Profit Channel Program features increased uploading capacity, as well as built-in donation integration.

YouTube in particular can be useful for nonprofits because of its widespread reach and accessibility of medium. Videos can add a personal, yet professional touch to a fundraising campaign. They're also more eye-catching and attention-grabbing than other, more traditional forms of online media.

Signing up for YouTube is, unsurprisingly, just as simple as signing up for LinkedIn. Just go to YouTube.com and click the "Create Account" link in the top right-hand corner. Enter your information, and the on-screen instructions will guide you through the rest of the process of uploading videos.


Do you use LinkedIn? What about YouTube? What, in your opinion, are some of the characteristics of good videos? Should nonprofits be exploring alternative media on the web, such as video? Tell us about it in the comments!
 

Tweetcabulary

July 01, 2010 by MemberPath posted in: Social Media

Today, we'll be taking a little bit more focused look at some specific linguistic quirks that are unique to Twitter, the microblogging network. We've talked about Twitter before - you can read about it here.

One of the most intimidating things for new Twitter users is the new vocabulary they have to learn. Twitter’s 140-character limit has led to a whole slew of abbreviations and specialized Twitter-lingo that can be difficult to pick up at first. To help with that, here’s a quick glossary of some frequently-used Twitter terms:
 

Basic Tweetcabulary

Tweet: n. the name for the 140-character maximum posting that a user makes to their Twitter account. In its most basic form answers the question “What are you doing?”, but can also be statements, links, anecdotes, questions, etc.; or v. To tweet: The act of writing a tweet and posting it to Twitter
Follow: vt. To “follow” someone on Twitter means to enable their updates (see: “tweets”) to show up in your timeline
Timeline: n. The chronological listing of tweets of those whom you follow that comprises the majority of the Twitter homepage when signed in.
RT: vt. To “ReTweet” is to copy and paste someone else’s tweet verbatim (or as close to verbatim) as possible. Follows the format “RT @username text of original tweet,” or “text of original tweet (via @username)”
DM: vt. To “Direct Message” is to send someone a private message that only they can see. Direct Messages do not show up in the public timeline.
@-reply: n. a way of directing public tweets to specific users, or of mentioning users by name in a way that links others to their Twitter accounts. Ex. “@username did you see that article in the NYT yet about Twitter?”, or “Grabbing a quick bite to eat with @username!”
 

Advanced Tweetcabulary

Hashtag: n. a way of organizing groups of tweets about particular topics. Commonly used for disaster relief, memes, and location reference. Ex. “#sandiegofire 300,000 people evacuated in San Diego County now”, or “Where’s a good place for sushi in #rva?”, “#welshfilms Breakfast at Mythanwys”
Tweeps: n. pl. A portmanteau of “Twitter” and “Peeps (people)”, “tweeps” is what many Twitter users call their followers
Twitpic: n. a third-party service that allows users to post photos from cell phones or email to Twitter
Trending Topics: n. pl. Topics that are being mentioned frequently by many users. Trending Topics are searchable and tracked by Twitter.
Tweetup: n. When Twitter users meet in real life.

 

 

Hopefully this glossary can help clear up some of the confusion you can have when you first start using Twitter.

Do you use any other Twitter terms? Give us a definition in the comments and we'll add it to our glossary!

 

 

Getting Started With Twitter For Nonprofits

June 21, 2010 by MemberPath posted in: Social Media

So: your organization has decided that it wants to explore social media, and you’ve decided on using Twitter as one of your avenues of communication. However, starting out with new technology can be intimidating and overwhelming. To help with that initial startup anxiety, we’ve put together this guide to getting started on Twitter for nonprofits.

1. Create an account and set up your profile
The easiest, and also the most important part of the whole process. All you need to do is go to Twitter.com and click the big “Get Started – Join!” button. Fill in the required fields, and bam! You’ve got a Twitter account.

Next, you have to set up your profile. Make sure to add a photo – you can either use a personal photo of the person who’ll be updating the account, or your organization’s logo. Make sure to post a link to your organization’s blog or website in the “Web” section, and add a brief (very brief – 160 characters is the limit!) description of your organization to the “bio” section. Here’s some examples:

“Official twitter stream for the American Red Cross. Follow us for disaster and preparedness updates.” - @RedCross
 
“Create The Good is the network to connect AARP members, friends and families with ways to make a difference.” -@CreateTheGood

2. Build your network
Post one or two introductory “tweets” – maybe a link to your blog or website, and a brief introduction. Then you can begin to build your network. Use the “Find People” feature to check for people in your email address book who are already using Twitter. You can also use the search feature to search for people who are tweeting about your area of interest – for example, you can search for “poverty” or “hunger” to find people tweeting about those topics, then you can follow them. Often, people you follow will follow you back.

3. Listen!
Once you’ve built up your network a little bit, you need to listen! Before posting frequent tweets, take the time to see what your followers and the people you follow are talking about, and how the conversations flow. Get an idea of the culture that your particular field has in its Twitter presence before jumping in.

4. Engage
After you’ve figured out how the conversations are going, it’s time to engage. Join into conversations with your followers, post facts about your organization, updates about upcoming events, interesting links, etc. Make sure that everything you post has some sort of value to your followers. Encourage followers to join in with a call to action – ask them to “retweet” your posts, tell a friend about your organization, and so on. When people become engaged, you’ll develop relationships that can build a great deal of value for your organization.

Blogs vs. Forums vs. LISTSERVs

One of the most frequent questions we get here at MemberPath is “What’s the difference between a blog, a forum, and a listserv?” For someone new to social media, all these things can seem interchangeable and confusing – in reality, however, they all serve distinct purposes.

Blogs
The word “blog” comes from a contraction of the words “web log,” and a blog in its most basic form is just that: a log of whatever the author choose to write about. Originally, most blogs were online journals of individuals, dedicated to their daily lives and whatever else they wanted to write about. Today, while that type of blog is still very common, the most successful blogs are usually centered around some specific topic – they can be location-based (like “Dining out in Richmond, VA”), interest-based (like “Awkward Family Photos” – really!), or anything else the author has the desire to write about.

With blogs, one person (the blog’s author, or “blogger”) has control over the content. They can post what they want, when they want. Most blogs allow other users to post comments, but the blogger still has control over what gets posted and can choose to delete any comments they want.

Forums

A forum is an online meeting place or discussion board, where users can start conversations (or “threads”) with new topics, or contribute to already-existing threads. In a forum, all members are created equal – except for the moderators. Forum moderators are people with administrative power, who keep an eye on the forum’s posts and watch out for abuse and off-topic content. Forums can be public or restricted, general or specific, and ___. Forums are much more community-based than blogs are.

Forums can be organized into different areas for different things – for example, a forum about pets could be organized into sections for “dogs,” “cats,” “small mammals, “birds,” “reptiles,” etc., and then each of those categories can have many different threads, like “what’s the best type of food for 2-year-old Labradors?” or “Are parakeets good pets for children?” etc. Forum members can then share their knowledge and experience with each other. Many forum threads are based on questions from members, but they can also be media-based (“post pictures of your pet turtles here!”) or informative (“list of links about Siamese cats”).

LISTSERV
A “LISTSERV” is a commonly-used name for an online mailing list. Technically, it’s actually incorrect – the term “LISTSERV” refers to the specific computer software developed to help create and manage mailing lists – but to many people, the terms are interchangeable. The way a mailing list works is simple: a user sends an e-mail to the mailing list address, and the listserver (software that is being used to manage the list) distributes the message to everyone who is subscribed to the mailing list.

With a mailing list, typically one or a few people are writing, and many are listening. There are two main types of mailing lists: “announcement lists” and “discussion lists.” An announcement list essential functions like a newsletter – information is distributed in one direction to people who are subscribed to the list. Discussion lists, on the other hand, are more like forums – while one person may start the conversation, list subscribers are all able to contribute and reply to everyone else on the list.

Other types of personally-published online content...


Podcasts: a “podcast” is an audio recording that usually has the same type of content as a blog, but can also be interviews, roundtable discussions, etc. podcasts are typically produced in mp3 format (as it’s the most commonly used audio filetype), and made available for download through the iTunes music store or on a blog or website.


Vlog: a “vlog” is a video weblog. Again, the content is usually the same as a blog/podcast, but in video format. Videos may be uploaded to YouTube or a similar service, and then posted on blogs and websites.


Wiki: a Wiki is collaborative informational website that allows users to upload and edit content. The most widely-used and well-known wiki is Wikipedia, a massive online encyclopedia.

Further information

A great video about blog basics, by Lee LeFever of the CommonCraft Show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NN2I1pWXjXI

Another CommonCraft Show video, this one on wikis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dnL00TdmLY
 

What companies and organizations are using social media well?

Sometimes the best way to gain inspiration for how your organization should use social media is to look at other companies and organizations that are using it well. In this post, we’ll look at two for-profit companies and two non-profit organizations that are successfully utilizing social media to accomplish their goals.

For-Profit: Whole Foods & Comcast

Two for-profit corporations that have really taken social media to heart are Whole Foods, a healthy grocery chain, and Comcast, the telecom giant.

Whole Foods uses Twitter and blogging to connect with customers. On their Twitter account, they post about new things going on with the store (“just launched bicycle delivery for downtown Austin!”), respond to customer complaints, and host giveaways for things like tickets to Bonnarroo, a huge folk and rock music festival. Whole Foods uses their blog to write about a variety of subjects. They have different contributors, who all go by their full names – giving their blog just the right level of personal touch. They post about everything from summer skin care to the difficulties faced by cherry growers to progress with their “Local Producer Loan Program,” a program initiated to help local farmers raise the funds they need to grow their crops. Their posts always have a connection with the store (their post on the health benefits of probiotics mentions that Whole Foods offers lots of foods and supplements which contain the bacteria, for example), but it never feels like an in-your-face sell. You can check Whole Foods out on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wholefoods, and their blog at http://blog.wholefoodsmarket.com/

Comcast has gained some media attention lately for their use of the @comcastcares Twitter account. @comcastcares is the Twitter account run by Frank Eliason, Comcast’s Director of Digital Care. Through the @comcastcares account, he responds to customer complaints and service requests. This personal touch and individual attention has helped smooth a lot of ruffled customer feathers. You can visit Frank’s Twitter account at http://twitter.com/comcastcares.
 

Non-Profits: Create The Food & The National Wildlife Federation


On the non-profit side of things there’s Create The Good and the National Wildlife Federation.

Create The Good is the AARP’s community network for connecting AARP members, family, friends, and volunteers. They use Twitter in a highly effective manner to coordinate volunteers, disseminate useful information, and interact with people. They also use Facebook to post videos and links to other blogs and organizations. Create the Good is on Twitter at http://twitter.com/createthegood and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Create-The-Good/60336535038.

The National Wildlife Federation is also using Twitter in a great way. In an article on Mashable.com about 26 non-profits on Twitter, the author writes “Not only has The National Wildlife Federation embraced Twitter by tweeting under some of their own brands like @greenhour and @wildlife_watch, they’ve mobilized the troops to tweet under their own identities to help promote the mission. They also have a Twitter search stream on their website for people to see what other wildlife watchers are twittering about.”* The National Wildlife Federation’s main Twitter account is at http://twitter.com/nwf, and you can read about who’s behind the tweets at http://blogs.nwf.org/arctic_promise/2009/01/nwfs-staff-on-twitter.html

So, in short, social media is a great tool for non-profits and for-profit corporations alike, and many organizations are using it in new and creative ways. How does your organization use social media? Leave us a comment about it!

*26 Charities and Non-Profits on Twitter." Mashable – The Social Media Guide. 19 May 2009 <http://mashable.com/2009/03/19/twitter-nonprofits/>.

Blogging about Blogs: Self-Publishing in the Digital Age

Blogging is an absolute necessity in today’s web-driven business world. Long story short, you MUST blog. Luckily, it’s not a hard habit to pick up!

First, you must choose whether you want to launch a blog within your own website or use a free blog service. Both choices have pros and cons – launching a blog within your own site means your hits stay on your site, you have absolute control over design and content, and your blog is streamlined with the rest of your site. However, you’ll have to find a solution for updating and editing your blog that works for you, and it won’t be as plug-and-play as most blog services are. Using a free blog service can help simplify the blogging process, which can be helpful for new users. Many blog services have excellent templates so while design won’t be identical to your site, you can definitely get close. However, most free blog services support themselves with ad revenue, so you might have advertisements on your blog. Furthermore, users will have to leave your main site to access your blog, and the domain won’t match yours.

Once you decide what platform you want to use to blog from, you must think about what to blog. Always, as with anything you publish online, keep your goals in mind. Provide fresh content that is relevant to your goals – and provide it frequently. Blogs should be updated at least twice a month, but weekly or bi-weekly posts tend to be a good, manageable frequency. Make sure your content provides some sort of value to your audience, and has some relevancy to your organization’s industry, field, and goals.

Another thing to keep in mind while blogging is how to increase your audience. Blogs can be a great way to drive traffic to your site, as they can often receive unique hits of their own, and even gain their own followings. So search out where people are gathering and talking about the things you post. Find other bloggers and link to their articles, or find forums centered around some topic you’ve written about. If you can increase your blog’s traffic, you can also increase your website’s traffic!

Always include links back to relevant areas on your website. For example, when we here at MemberPath blog about things related to increasing your website’s traffic, we like to mention our TrafficGrow program, which you can find more information about here. This keeps your audience searching around the site, and points them to information within your own website that might be useful to them (for example, did you know that we do FREE TrafficGrow consultations? Request one now!).

Finally, empower your audience to spread your message. Enabling comments on your blog posts can spark discussions and get people talking about what you write. Get people fired up about your message! Every time someone says “Hey, I read this great blog post the other day…” about something you write is another chance to gain a new visitor to your site and possibly a new donor or customer!

So, to sum it all up: Blog. YOU MUST BLOG. Whether you blog on your own site or use a free blogging service, make sure you’re always thinking about how to increase your traffic and always linking back to your own site (and other sites!). And finally, empower your audience to spread your message. Happy blogging!

 

How do you use your blog to increase traffic to your website? Tell us about it in a comment!

Social Media for Philanthropic Non-Profit Organizations

The use of social media for philanthropic non-profit organizations (NPOs) has been well-documented on blogs all over the internet – it’s rapidly becoming a more widely-accepted tool for promotion and (sometimes) fundraising.

The best use of social media from a charitable org perspective is for raising awareness. Just like many for-profit companies are using it to raise brand awareness, non-profits can do so as well – often with great success. Some great examples of this are the American Cancer Society and the 1010 Project. Both organizations use Twitter to raise awareness of their cause (Cancer and poverty in Kenya, respectively). The American Cancer Society tweets facts about cancer and news about the Society, while the 1010 Project tweets facts about Kenyan poverty and interacts with followers.

Another great use of social media for philanthropic NPOs is to recruit new volunteers. This is closely linked to raising brand awareness; as more people become aware of your organization, your pool of potential volunteers widens. Plus, with social media, you have an easy way to contact them. In the case of Facebook in particular, people who become supporters of a “Causes” page are those who already have some interest in the organization – so the likelihood that they’d be interested in volunteering is significantly higher than that of a random person off the street. Social media enables you to target volunteer coordination efforts specifically to people who are already interested. 

Social media can also be used to get current volunteers and interested parties fired up and active about your cause – having a near-constant level of contact about your efforts keeps the cause fresh in people’s minds. On Facebook, your organization can create groups and events to connect volunteers with one another. It also enables you to listen and respond to supporters, giving you feedback on what they’re interested in, how they can help, what they think of your organization, etc.

Two companies who have really gotten social media in a philanthropic sense right are the Nature Conservancy, and, surprisingly, the for-profit corporation Target. Chances are if you’ve been on Facebook at all in the past year, you’ve gotten an invitation for an application called (Lil) Green Patch. This app, which was developed for The Nature Conservancy, enables users to trade virtual plants with each other, and for every ten plants a person receives, sponsors contribute money to save one square foot of rainforest in Costa Rica. The Nature Conservancy’s social media strategy is simple and effective: “find where people spend time online and engage them in those places.”*

Retail giant Target has taken a slightly different approach. Target gives 5% of their income to charity, which amounts to about $3 million per week. For their “Bullseye Gives” campaign, Target allowed Facebook users to vote for their favorite charities. They then divided the $3 million according to the percentage of votes – for example, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital received 26.6% of the votes, so they received 26.6% of the money ($797,123).

While social media is a great tool for philanthropic organizations, it does have limitations. The main one is that it really is not an immediate donation-gathering device. Many organizations tend to think that “if we build it, they will donate,” which simply isn’t the case. Social media users are wary of being “sold” something, even if that something is a cause to donate to. Social media is much stronger as a tool for raising awareness – and through increased awareness eventually increased donations can come. Plus, social media may simply not be the right market for soliciting donations. Michael Nilsen of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, an industry research and advocacy group, has said that “These sites are attracting younger people who probably aren’t in their giving prime yet,” he said. “But it’s a great way to spread awareness and build relationships that could lead to donations in the future.”**

So, social media can be a great (and powerful) tool for charitable non-profit organizations. It’s excellent for raising awareness, coordinating volunteers, and getting people fired up. While it does have limitations, they are certainly possible to overcome with a strong social media strategy and a little bit of time and energy.

How does your favorite non-profit use social media? Tell us about it in the comments!


*Chaudhuri, Saabira. "Innovative Giving: The Nature Conservancy and (Lil) Green Patch." FastCompany. 15 Dec. 2008. 28 May 2009 <http://www.fastcompany.com/node/1112956>.

**Hiskes, Jonathan. "Facebook, Twitter, MySpace become latest way for organizations to connect with potential donors and raise awareness." Charlotte Business Journal 31 Oct. 2008. BizJournals.com. 28 May 2009 <http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/othercities/seattle/stories/2008/11/03/focus6.html?b=1225688400^1726170&brthrs=1>.

Do’s & Don’ts of Social Media for Nonprofits

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!

Social Media for Associations

Social media may seem like an obvious tool for charitable organizations – after all, its uses for awareness and fundraising have been well-documented. However, social media can also be implemented with great success for associations as well. The top 3 most useful social media tools for associations are Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace.

Facebook is one of the largest and most popular social networking sites on the web. One of the best tools for associations on Facebook is the “Groups” feature – you can create a “group” and invite members to join. They (and you as an administrator) can then post messages on the wall, upload photos and video, and have forum-style conversations on the discussion board. This can build a sense of cohesiveness and community. Furthermore, groups can be organized at several different levels of detail – you can have a national or global group for your association, or a more localized, regional group. That way, members from the same area can connect, as well as members from across the globe.

Another useful feature of Facebook is the ability to create “events.” With Facebook events, you can inform members of upcoming conferences, conventions, meetups, etc. Like groups, events give members and administrators the ability to upload multimedia like photos and videos.

Another powerful social media tool for associations is Twitter, a “microblogging” service that allows users to post short, 140-character updates. With Twitter, associations can post updates on current news and events within the association, as well as carry on one-on-one conversations with members.

One interesting and more unusual use of Twitter is the concept of “livetweeting” events – that is, posting Twitter updates from events as they’re happening. Not only does this keep attendees in the loop as to what’s happening, but it can also give members unable to attend a sense of connectedness to the event. The Vans Warped Tour, a national music festival, has used Twitter at concerts to facilitate secret giveaways – they’ll tweet things like “2 free tickets to see [a band] – look behind the stage left speakers!” and fans with Twitter-enabled mobile devices can then participate in the giveaways and other contests.

Finally, there’s Myspace. Generally, Facebook and Twitter are stronger tools for associations, but if your membership base has a younger demographic, then Myspace might be the right social media outlet for you. Although the general consensus of Myspace is that it’s populated by a high-school age group, statistics have shown that, much like Facebook,  Myspace’s fastest-growing demographic is the 34+ age group. Really, the most important thing to do is to examine your target market – if they appear to already be using Myspace, then it could be worthwhile to explore as a possible option. Much like Facebook, Myspace has a “groups” feature that can be utilized to connect members.

In addition to their uses as connection media, all three of these social networking sites can be used to help raise awareness of your organization – which can lead to an increase in membership and participation. These are just a few of the social media options out there - the three sites we've talked about are the biggest. If you’ve not already done so, your organization should absolutely explore social media as an option for promoting and enhancing your image and connecting members.

How does your association use social media? Let us know in the comments!

See Also: “Is Social Media Right for Your Organization?
 

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