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Socializing Social Media at Your Nonprofit

Socializing Social Media at Your Nonprofit

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Birds on a wire

It seems obvious, but one of the hallmarks of social media is that they are social. Yep, it's right there in the name.

Of course, you say, I know this. Great. You're out there being social for your organization, making connections and having conversations on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. You're responding to comments and playing matchmaker between members of your community.

But what about that community you have in the workplace? Are you considered a social media guru (gag), maven (double gag), or rock star (gag me all the way) at your nonprofit or charity? Is social media the domain of a single department, walled off in marketing, communications, or content? It's time to make social media something the whole organization can get involved in and excited about. 

When you get your organization on board with social media, your staff can become your best advocates and cheerleaders. 

HubSpot recently counted letting employees get social among its top ten social media risks we should be taking but are often afraid to. HubSpot encourages its own employees to include @HubSpot in their Twitter bios and notes that it trusts its employees to have good judgment. Trust: what a concept.

Perhaps not every organization can be as optimistically trusting as HubSpot, but you can help build that trust by creating social media guidelines or policies for employees. Idealware explains how to do just that in a handy article that includes links to its policy templates and workbook.

If you do go the policy or guidelines route, remember to focus on empowerment rather than rigid restrictions. The goal is to get people social, spreading the word about the great work your organization does and what a great place it is to work. Empower staff by sharing up-to-date information, making them aware of style guides, and having images, logos, and copy readily available. But don't panic if your coworkers use their own voices. In fact, you should encourage it. While it's great to get everyone "on message," a variety of natural voices is more effective than the same talking point spouted repeatedly. 

In the vein of empowerment, the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN) has a number of initiatives to get staff on board with social media:

  • An internal live-Tweeting tutorial open to all staff, during which they can also ask any general Twitter questions. This is helpful as a number of different staff are involved in live-tweeting NTEN webinars.
  • A detailed social media policy updated on a regular basis. Besides policy, this gives an outline of the different social media channels on which NTEN is present, the intent and audience for each outlet, and some example tweets and posts. NTEN also includes best practices and examples of how to respond to different scenarios such as complaints, controversies, and spam.
  • Each week, all staff members engage with the NTEN community through commenting on blog posts from around the community.

Here at TechSoup, we have a "TweetThis" email distribution list open to all staff, which we use regularly to promote news and announcements. Emails to the distribution list include sample posts for each channel and suggestions for how to spread the word. We've also recently begun using Flipboard and engaging staff to curate magazines in their expertise areas. For example, our in-house data expert Keisha Taylor curates a "Data for Good" magazine on the TechSoup Flipboard channel.

 Another important way to increase social media engagement across your organization is to get your leadership on board — and online! In this blog post, Beth Kanter looks at nonprofit leaders who are enthusiastically using social media. She notes how ACLU-NJ builds credibility and reach with the media with the active Twitter and Instagram accounts of its CEO, Udi Ofer.

How socialized is social media at your nonprofit, library, or charity? Are your staff tweeting up a storm? What have you done to encourage them? Let us know!

Image: Lindsay Shaver

Michael DeLong | Online Community Manager

  • Currently working on getting the staff up-to-speed on social media; however, do have a question:  As the Exec. Dir., I am out there personally, should I create a separate page, for example, twitter, for the organization?  Facebook and a website carry the name of the organization, but I share information on my personal twitter account.  Should that be changed?