Most nonprofits understand the potential power of social media to connect with both old and new supporters, advocates, and clients. But few nonprofits can articulate the strategy behind the time they spend on blogging, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
All good communications strategies start with a goal: What are you trying to accomplish via your communications? More specifically with social media, what do you want the reaction to be when someone reads your blog, or Facebook status update, or tweet?
I think the answer boils down to three basic choices for nonprofits. You want people to DO something, to THINK something, or to FEEL something.
DO Something. Your words are calling them to some kind of action. Donate, volunteer, call your legislator, register, and tell a friend are all common examples of nonprofits asking supporters to do something.
THINK Something. Your words are sharing something helpful or educational. You share a link to a news article or to a free download. You share an interesting fact or story. You offer some how-to instructions or tips. By sharing these updates, you hope readers will think about what you have presented.
FEEL Something. Your words show the human side of your organization and prove that there really are passionate people behind the 501(c)(whatever you are). You are building rapport by sharing content that makes your supporters laugh, cry, smile, feel included, or swell with pride. Never discount the value of building that human rapport. As Dr. Maya Angelou says, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Strive for a mix of these three outcomes as your write for social media.
Now, let's look beyond the specific updates and think a little more broadly about how you want your organization to be perceived within your social media communities. Social media success is most often defined by what we call "engagement," and we only get engaged to people whom we genuinely enjoy being around. So how can your social media strategy help you move down that path from being introduced to "just friends" to getting engaged and, you hope, into a life-long relationship with your supporters?
I have another three-pronged approach that I call the Three G's: Be Genuine, Generous, and Grateful.
Be GENUINE. Let your organizational personality shine through, and build up that rapport that makes people love your cause. Let us know how you feel about what's happening in the world. Express some opinions, instead of just sharing facts. Take us backstage and let us see what's really going on.
Be GENEROUS. It's all about being a helpful human. Think of communicating as gift giving—are you a good gift giver who thinks about the people on the receiving end and what they want or need? Or are you a bad gift giver, thinking about your own needs and treating communications as just another chore on your to-do list? Listen carefully and constantly to your supporters, and then respond in kind. Empower them with helpful information and resources, even if those materials have been created by other "competing" nonprofits (it makes you look really smart, confident, and in the know).
Be GRATEFUL. Being grateful is what you do in response to generosity from others. You can say, "Thank You," directly or you can do what I call "blowing kisses" throughout the day. Share a link to someone else, retweet them, or otherwise pass on information from others who have been kind to you, as a way of saying thanks. Tell stories not just about you and your clients but about your fans and followers, too. Show them how much they really mean to you.
Every nonprofit is a little different, and your social media strategies should be, too. But any strategy with these three-pronged approaches at its core is bound to be a success.
Kivi Leroux Miller, NonprofitMarketingGuide.com
© 2011, Kivi Leroux Miller, NonprofitMarketingGuide.com
Kivi Leroux Miller is president of NonprofitMarketingGuide.com, where she writes the top-ranked blog on nonprofit communications and teaches a weekly webinar series on nonprofit marketing, communications, and fundraising. She is the author of The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause.