Social Media For Nonprofits

In the perfect world, sometimes only imagined on the Internet, social media seems to have reached a status of the deliverer of all things news, branding and fundraising. Down in the trenches, the view looks somewhat different. Positive, effective, but somewhat different.

On Thursday, May 12, we invited a panel of our peers in the Flathead nonprofit community to speak about their experience with social media. Representatives from Alpine Theatre Project, First Best Place Taskforce, Flathead County Library System, and the Glacier Fund gave practical insights into their use of various social media channels to raise awareness about their missions.

Here are some of their insights:

* Start with a marketing plan. Social media is one of the tools to get your message out. It is not advertising. Instead, think of how you can share your stories to “draw others in.” It’s a type of branding.

* Social media is a means to drive donors, customers, clients, volunteers, etc. to your website and organization. Yet, it is a messy means. You will lose some control over your message.

* Have fun with it. Many, including the younger generations, view social media as a play tool. So, don’t take yourself too seriously. Know, also, that most people do not use social media with the intent of being asked for money. In fact, the panelists reported poor results from using social media as a central cornerstone for fundraising. Instead, the panelists saw increases in online donations after the potential donors were first drawn in by the stories, mission and message through social media, and then visited the website to give.

* Social media can have a powerful multiplier effect. An event sent to a small network of people can go viral, spreading through the networks of that small network. Therefore, it is important to invest in building that network and reciprocate in spreading the messages of others. As a Flathead nonprofit community, we can work together to cross-promote!

* Traditional media (newspapers, television, radio) will follow you on Twitter, and will often call if a tweet sparks their interest for a story or the promotion of an event.

Additional Resources

* Google Analytics can help you measure the effectiveness of your social media strategy.

* HootSuite and Tweet Deck can help you manage your social media, all in one place.

* WordPress.org offers you a free and simple way to design a website that you can easily update and manage in-house.

* Google Apps can help you save on software costs.

* Dispora and FourSquare are two unique social media channels. Dispora acts as a closed social network, while FourSquare can be used to promote your location in a fun way.

* Cool Iris is a way to add photos and media to your website.

* Idealware’s Social Media Decision Guide helps you to define the best social media strategy for your nonprofit.

A huge thanks to Alpine Theatre Project, First Best Place Taskforce, Flathead County Library System, and the Glacier Fund!

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