The real power comes when people, including staff and board members who care about an organization, are empowered to spread the word as individuals. After all, social media is social, and people value interactions with other people above those with brands.
That was the message shared by Cary Walski, technology education and outreach coordinator at MAP for Nonprofits, at a technology breakout at the 2013 MCF Philanthropy Convening. Walski used statistics from the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of the Twin Cities (where I also happen to be a board member) to make her point.
Traffic on the group’s website nearly tripled in one year, and event attendance increased 45 percent in the same time period. So how did they do it?
- YNPN-TC used social media as one part of a cohesive online communications strategy that also included a robust website and timely email marketing.
- YNPN-TC adopted a positive social media culture.
In order for an organization to embrace a positive social media culture, several things must happen first.
- Recognize that staff and board are always representing the organization; trust them to do it well on social media, as they do elsewhere.
- Agree to a policy of 100 percent participation on social media, and include it in staff job descriptions.
- Provide ongoing social media education
- Write social media policies that are “Yes and,” instead of “No, no.”
Grantmakers Must Move Beyond Concern
Walski noted that grantmakers in particular may be hesitant to adopt a policy of complete availability on social media, fearing that it could lead to an increase of poorly-fitting grant proposals. However, she made the case that it’s time to move beyond concern and embrace openness. Here’s why:
- Social media is a great way to promote and support the work of grantees.
- It provides additional avenues for community members to reach out to foundation staff.
- It may illuminate new opportunities for a foundation to meet mission and serve community.
- It gives program staff new ways to learn about issues they care about.
- It increases staff visibility, so they are increasingly looked to as thought leaders.
How does an organization transition to a positive social media culture? Here’s the roadmap Walski laid out:
- Survey and Align: Determine who your internal staff and board enthusiasts are, and identify or hire a social media champion.
- Build: Ensure your organization’s practices and policies encourage social media. Have your social media champions inspire and educate staff at informal gatherings such as brown bag lunches.
- Evaluate: Demonstrate the value to leadership and board members by using metrics like those in Google Analytics. Share screenshots of particularly poignant social media “mission moments.”
- Innovate: Stay on top of changing technology and help your organization find that next connection that will lead to improved service.
Through it all, don’t forget: people value interactions with other people above those with brands.
For further inspiration on jumpstarting your organization’s positive social media culture, check out Idealware’s The Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide and Unleashing Innovation: Using Everyday Technology to Improve Nonprofit Services by Idealware and MAP for Nonprofits.
– Chris Oien, MCF digital communications specialist