Social media isn’t only about likes, despite popular belief. It isn’t about going viral or breaking a million followers. For the nonprofit world, social media is about interaction, education and creating a community.
Social media isn’t just a flashy trend that allows you to post what you had for lunch on Instagram. Instead it’s a powerful tool that allows conversations to take place all over the world, enables people to respond in real-time to life-changing events and allows us to connect like never before.
Social media is important to many industries, especially for those of us who work in the realm of advocacy.
We know working in the nonprofit industry—especially around public policy—that it’s tremendously important to engage fellow advocates and provide education to those who are looking for more information about our work or cause. This used to mean meetings—lots and lots of meetings. These face-to-face conversations are beneficial and allow us to start dialogues about issues that are critical to our work. We can spark an idea or even start to make changes in the lives of others.
But these interactions, these meetings take time, a large amount of resources and a lot of schedule juggling. Social media allows for that process to be streamlined. Personal interaction should never be fully replaced, but social media can be used to supplement those meetings.
In addition, it enables us to create a much larger and more diverse community. Social media allows nonprofit professionals to have these conversations and reach entire populations that traditionally wouldn’t attend an event or community forum. Thousands of individuals check their Facebook and Twitter feed daily; we have access to them through the touch of a keyboard.
Having a strong and engaged social media community is key to having success online. One post could reach thousands of people, which means your message and your cause could be seen by thousands.
Before jumping into the social media deep end of the pool, it’s important to understand which platform will be best for your nonprofit and consider a few other helpful tips.
While Facebook is the most popular social media website (as of the second quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.71 billion monthly active users), it might not be the most effective. For example, Twitter has become particularly popular for news and real-time information, so you might want to live tweet an event. If you are looking for clothing or food donations, Instagram might be a better fit, as you can appeal to individuals through strong visual messages.
Many businesses are using social media to build their brands through visually stunning stories. The nonprofit community is full of personal and emotional stories that can describe our work better than a paragraph of text. Social media should be personal, just like the nonprofit industry.
Take the time to understand where your audience is located on social media and start a conversation with them, just like you would in a small group meeting. Take your conversations to the next level and engage with an audience in real time around the world.
So yes, while likes and follows are great (and encouraged), social media can be so much more to the nonprofit community. We hope you will continue to use it to engage with us. If you haven’t already, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.