Social Media for Non-Profits: Overview


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White paper on how non-profits can use social media

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Social Media for Non-Profits: Overview

  1. 1. J J P E D I T O R I A L P ro v i d i n g w o r d s that work for business and not-for-profit BREAKING SOCIAL MEDIA’S SECRET CODE: 7 clues to what social media means and what it can do for your organization P. O . B o x 7 7 2 2 , H o u s t o n , Te x a s 7 7 2 7 0 - 7 7 2 2 • t e l e p h o n e : 7 1 3 - 8 0 5 - 3 11 9 • w w w. j j p e d i t o r i a l . c o m C o v e r p h o t o c o u r t e s y o f Wo r d l e . n e t
  2. 2. It seems like a secret language... Social media seems like a code word for something. But what? Social media -- it’s something everyone seems to be talking about. If you’re wondering what the heck social media means and whether you need to devote resources to it, take heart. Many people, especially upper level managers, are trying to unravel the same mystery. Here’s your first clue, and it’s a simple one: Clue #1: Social media is the name given to a wealth of online communities and tools where people share information. Social media sites help people share information with friends, cowork- ers, clients, and sometimes, strangers who share similar interests. Hun- dreds and hundreds of these specialty sites are online. Each site has a different function and therefore different followers. Some sites keep readers informed of political events, new craft ideas, the latest health care research, or list different types of blogs. Other sites aggregate news stories, act as an online address book, provide product reviews, motivate social action or help professionals network. Unless you’ve been under a rock for a very long time, you likely have heard of popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs. A few other social media sites include: Flickr, SmugMug, YouTube, LinkedIn, Digg, Jibe, Delicious, Second Life, Bebo, Meetup and WikiAnswers. There are many, many more. But this gets you started. Clue #2: Social media also goes by the names social networking, citizen media, conversational media and user- generated content. Who’s doing it? Yes, social media use skews to a younger audience. About 65 percent of kids 12 to 17 and 37 percent of adults ages 18 and older use social networking, says the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. However, older audiences are catching on quickly. For example, Facebook began its life as a networking site for col- lege students. As students graduated, they kept using Facebook to keep track of what their friends. Now, you’ll find 400 million active users -- housewives, grandparents, kids, businesses and non-profits on Facebook, all talking back and forth. Talking is the key and this insight leads to Clue #3. Lest you think only a bunch of young nerds use social media, consider this: The Community Philanthropy 2.0 sur- vey (March 2009) found that: “Social media power users of both the new 30-49 age brackets and the over 50 bracket have used social media to discuss philanthropy. In fact, 84 percent of the social media savvy aged 30-49 and 55 percent of those older than 50 used conversational media for these purposes. This confirms social media is a potential growth area through which major donors can be cultivated.” J J P E d i t o r i a l S e r v i c e s What can social media do for your organization? 1
  3. 3. Clue #3: Social media is personal, opinionated, grass roots and conversational. It’s used by millions of people and can be a low-cost avenue to reach those millions with your message. Organiza- tions use it to monitor their brand, tap into like-minded communities, promote events and even raise money. Child- Fund International provides just one example of the power of social media: “Social media gives [our supporters] an avenue to communicate with us, ask questions and give feedback. They can share their stories, photos, information with us or point us to other things they think we should be aware of.” David Hylton, ChildFund International You’re still skeptical... At this point you may still be stumped. Why would you want to talk to your old college buddy in a totally different line of work that you haven’t seen in years? David Sasaki, director of Rising Voices, a global outreach initiative of Global Voices Online, explains: “This is the thing about Twitter and many similar tools – they don’t make sense until you try them. And for most people they don’t make sense until you try them out for a couple weeks. You have to wait until you come across information that is relevant to you – information that you otherwise wouldn’t have come across – in order to appreciate the advantage of being part of the network.” Social media puts communication in the hands of the audience -- a scary thing for managers used to controlling the message through traditional media. So why do it? Clue #4: Social media lowers traditional barriers to communication. In return for this loss of control, you gain invaluable insight into what those in your community really think. You gain access to other people’s distribution network for your news and information, exponentially expanding your normal reach. You get an oppor- tunity to hear from people who might not bother to make a phone call or fill out a printed survey. At a recent social media conference, a senior manager from NASA’s Johnson Space Center also cited another benefit, one you don’t often hear about: Social media allows their team to get in front of people they can’t afford to travel and see in person at con- ferences, seminars and other events. Still not sold? Consider this: Pope Benedict XVI has his own YouTube channel, Facebook page and iPhone application which the church uses to spread his messages. His social media campaign even has its own catchy name: Pope2U. Clue #5: Social media is (relatively) cheap. Many social media sites are free to use. However, social media activity requires considerable time, especially when you’re first starting out. There are profiles and descriptions to write, icons to add to your organization web site, con- versations to start with your new-found network, comments to answer and launch emails to send. That’s after you’ve analyzed which social media sites best fit your needs and how it fits into your overall communications strategies. J J P E d i t o r i a l S e r v i c e s What can social media do for your organization? 2
  4. 4. Can’t I just hire a cryptographer to translate? Yes, you can hire a cryptographer (a.k.a. college intern or another young person who already knows all about social media), but consider this: Do you foist your important communications off on a newbie who doesn’t yet understand your organization, its brand and its clients? Clue #6: Social media requires strategic planning, time and effort. Like all successful communications, social media works best when it operates as a strategic piece of your overall puz- zle. While the tools are free, social media is too time-consuming to not be solidly grounded in your organization’s goals and shaped by the same prism you use to judge any other form of communication. Beth Kantor, a social media guru specializing in non-profit work, estimated the typical time investment for social media activities, once you’ve learned how to use the tools: • Listening and participating: 10 hours per week • Sharing your story/generating buzz: 10-15 hours per week • Community building/social networking: 20+ hours per week Kantor recommends giving a social media campaign months of steady attention to gain traction. That’s certainly what I’ve seen with my clients. Think of social media as a supplement, substitute or replacement (depending on your audience and your goals) for word-of-mouth communications, emails, press releases or direct mail. Of course, you still need to use the telephone, press releases, email and postal mail for certain audiences. Social media just helps you meet the information needs of people who prefer online communication. It’s not the entire cipher -- it’s just part of the complete code you need to reach your audience. Your final clue: Clue #7: Consider social media an adventure. After all, it’s shaped by people you don’t yet know, or know but don’t communicate with. If they follow your organi- zation, they care about the same things you do and probably consider your organization a credible source. How’s that for a mystery solved? J J P E d i t o r i a l S e r v i c e s What can social media do for your organization? 3
  5. 5. Code Crackers (otherwise known as a Glossary) A) Blog G) Social networking Think of a blog as an online version of an old-fashioned Facebook and MySpace are sites where friends and or- newspaper column. Blog entries are called “posts” and ganizations share personal news, photos, videos. Busi- generally focus on very timely news and helpful infor- nesses and non-profits create “fan” pages on Facebook to mation. The tone of a blog tends to be casual, conversa- tell their fans about events and news, too. tional and brief. Blog is short for web log. H) Twitter B) Blog directory Individuals, businesses and non-profits post short mes- A site that lists blogs, usually according to the type of sages called “tweets” of no more than 140 characters. content found each blog. Individuals tend to tweet back and forth with friends about what is going on in their lives. Businesses and non- C) Collaboration sites profits tweet about organizational news, consumer tips, These sites help users gather and share online informa- upcoming events and such. Twitter users have a lan- tion. Digg and ReddIt allow users to post a link to an guage of their own. Two of the most common ones: Peo- online news story or blog entry that they ‘dig’ or find ple who use Twitter are called Tweeps; Twitter messages interesting. Diggers gather followers who like their taste are called Tweets. in reading. Delicious is known as a social bookmarking or social tagging site. Users sign up and store, share and I) Web 2.0 search for web page bookmarks. Web 2.0 originally referred to web sites and online tools that required or encouraged user interaction. It still D) Photo and video sharing means that, but has gradually taken on the additional Sites like Flickr, SmugMug and YouTube let users post meaning of any hip, new thingy online. photographs and videos to be shared with a variety of audiences. Flickr and SmugMug handle photographs. YouTube is the site for video. E) Review and opinion sites Sites like ePinions, ConsumerSearch and WikiAnswers let subject matter experts answer questions posted by readers, review products and post opinions. Just who gets declared an expert varies from site to site. F) Social action hubs Networks such as, and serve as meeting grounds for users and activ- ists to collaborate, share information and take action on causes that they care about. J J P E d i t o r i a l S e r v i c e s What can social media do for your organization? 4
  6. 6. Bibliography Here’s a list of sites to learn more about the information presented in this report, plus a few good places online to learn more about social media. Top 50 social media sites from Website Magazine -media-resources.aspx Social media guru to nonprofits, Beth Kantor Insights into the ChildFun Twitter effort Social media best practices for nonprofits nted-by-jay-moonah-from-wild-apricot Sites to learn more about social media J J P E d i t o r i a l S e r v i c e s What can social media do for your organization? 5