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Social Media Is Going Mobile, and So Should Your Nonprofit

As the Web goes mobile, so does social media and so should your nonprofit. If there is one thing I have learned over the last 10 years of using the Internet for fundraising and mass communications, it is that the nonprofits that can embrace change quickly, empower their visionaries, and adopt new Web trends reap the benefits of being early adopters.

The Web and how people use it are transforming quickly. There are more than 65 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices, and that number grows daily. MySpace estimates that 50 percent of its Web site traffic will be mobile within 24 months. In 2008, more than 2 trillion text messages were sent worldwide. One trillion of those were sent by U.S. mobile subscribers, triple the number of text messages sent in 2007. Millions of those texts are being sent via Tweets on Twitter.

Social media is definitely going mobile. Here are three mobile strategies that your nonprofit can start experimenting with and considering for 2010:

  1. Text messaging for advocacy and fundraising: Services such as Mobile Commons and mGive offer mass text messaging and text-to-give services for nonprofits. The tool set is amazing and they get good reviews, but most small to medium-sized nonprofits can't afford their services. MobileCause offers a similar tool set and is a little less expensive, but for those who cannot afford hundreds of dollars a month, some relatively inexpensive alternatives are TextMarks, EzTexting, and Frontline SMS. One thing to keep in mind is that most new services are expensive when first launched but go down in price significantly over time as new vendors flood the market.

    My guess is that 2010 will be the year when many nonprofits will be able to starting utilizing these new, powerful mobile tools at a much lower cost. Just keep in mind that it takes time to build your build your mobile list, so even if you don't launch a campaign until 2010, you might want consider adding a "Mobile" field to your year-end promotional materials.

  2. Mobile Web sites: When I said social media is going mobile, I meant literally. All the major social media sites have mobile versions of their Web sites: m.twitter.com, m.facebook.com, m.youtube.com, m.myspace.com, m.flickr.com, m.linkedin.com, etc. How about your nonprofit? Do you have a mobile Web site? Have you considered how your current Web site looks on a mobile phone?

    Two organizations that have been early adopters and pioneers in their use of social media are the National Wildlife Federation and the World Wildlife Fund. Now they are leading the way in mobile technology. See www.nwf.mobi and www.wwf.mobi. Services such as Instant Mobilizer and mobiSiteGallore allow to you build a decent mobile Web site in a matter of minutes, but with a little technical and HTML know-how, you can custom build a mobile Web site for your organization pretty easily. If you are going to design your own mobile Web site, make sure you check out the article Mobile Web Design Trends for 2009.

  3. Nonprofits as Real-time Reporters via Social Media and Mobile Devices: This is a dramatic shift in Web communications. Rather than reporting highlights from your annual gala dinner in your print newsletter two months after it is over, or in an e-mail newsletter just a few days after the event, smartphones and social media apps now allow nonprofits to report live from the event in real time.

    Whether you're updating your Twitter account with Tweetie, recording a video with your iPhone and uploading it to your YouTube channel within minutes, or posting a Status Update to your organization's Facebook page, the news cycle has changed forever. So nonprofits need to be thinking about reporting live from fundraisers, conferences, protests, etc. To do this, you need to make sure that your key communications staff are empowered with a smartphone, such as an iPhone, BlackBerry, or PalmPre. There is a good reason Time magazine named the iPhone the Invention of the Year in 2007 and that 87 percent of smartphone consumers in the United States chose the iPhone. Perhaps an iPhone or two is something to consider writing into next year's budget?

Heather Mansfield
© 2009, DIOSA | Communications

Owner of DIOSA | Communications, Heather Mansfield has over 10 years of nonprofit fundraising and online-community-building experience. In addition to serving as the Nonprofit Community Manager for Change.org, Heather created and maintains the "Nonprofit Organizations" profiles on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and MySpace. She also blogs at Nonprofit Tech 2.0. Fueled by a strong passion for the Internet, Heather spends her days helping nonprofit organizations utilize the Internet as a tool for social change. In March 2009, she was named a Fundraising Star of the Year by Fundraising Success Magazine and in October 2009 placed on Twitter's Suggested User List. On November 18, she will present a free GuideStar webinar on social media for nonprofits.

Topics: Communications