I spend a lot of my time coaching and teaching nonprofit organizations on how to use social media. It’s not that simple of a task to take on, and nonprofits should not take the plunge into the social web lightly. It is super important for nonprofits to take this seriously and start getting organized — the tools of social media are free and more effective than any other marketing or mass media tactics used by nonprofits in the past.
There is a simple four-step framework for organizations to think about and to use to guide the process of developing a plan to use social media.
1. Read. Watch. Listen.
There are multiple tools to monitor what’s being said on the social web, but the important thing is to identify your geographic community, the search terms to look and listen for, the bloggers, the news feeds, the Twitter users — and to create all these searches in easy-to-follow alerts and notifications so you can quickly and efficiently stay on top of what is important to your community and, what your community is saying about your organization as well. You’re going to be watching videos, reading blogs and news items, following Twitter users and overall, paying attention to the content created in and about your community.
2. Find and Connect to Your Community.
The definition of community is not limited to geography. Sometimes geography plays a role; sometimes it does not. Maybe your community is the people in Ohio who love Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers. Maybe the community is comprised of only people who have a rare and particular kind of disease. No matter — a community is a group that has one or more interests in common. Find them by searching for them and inviting them to your network. Find them and follow their content. Find them by uploading the contacts you have already made professionally, as a student, as a family member and a community member into your social networking platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and connect to the people who already have a presence in these social networks.
3. Interact with the Community.
Answer a question. Reply to a tweet or re-tweet something others will find of interest. Click that “like” button often. Leave comments on blogs and on Facebook. Share other people’s links often. Be helpful. And — when the opportunity presents itself for your community to get together in person — at a conference, a tweetup or just for a cup of coffee, go and put faces with names.
4. Produce Valuable Content.
Take photos and publish them. Blog. Tweet. Make a video and post it to YouTube. Create interesting and thoughtful content and share it with your community to help them, make them stronger, to bring them together (and on and on).
It’s a simple framework, but not a simple execution — but it may help your organization take the first step toward getting a handle on how to tackle social media for the community’s benefit.