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Great article. TechSoup's article Determining Your Social Network Needs covered all the main aspects of maintainging a social network.
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wcookHow many social networks does your organization maintain a presence on? Did you begin with an individual profile? How did you build up your presence? What would you recommend to other nonprofits just getting started with social networking?
This obviously depends upon where your current donors are.
The first step would be to search social media sites (Start with Twitter and Facebook) for relevant keywords. For example, the American Heart Association would search for "heart disease", heart attack", "high cholesterol" and so forth.
Then, create accounts on the two sites that returned good search results and start developing conversations with like-minded people. Most of my clients started slowly, just listening to what people were talking about and then contribute to discussions when appropriate. They've built up their presence with my help and some hard work on their part.
The biggest mistake you could make is to approach social media like it's a "market to marketed to" - like a massive free email list. Facebook and Twitter are places where millions of people have meaningful discussions on just about every topic you can imagine. If you approach these sites with the goal of adding value to the community, you will soon have a successful experience.
Hope this all helps.
John Haydon Social media and inbound marketing for non-profits.
Megan is spot on with her tips. I have found that Tweetdeck or Seesmic for Mac or PC are the best ways to update multiple accounts from one location. as of now, you can update twitter, facebook, myspace, and linkedin. I also think that having a uniform setup is ideal as well. the local newspaper has all of their writers on there, and the setup is: @name_rs with the rs indicating Record Searchlight. This helps in branding them and also establishing them as a presence on twitter as their newspaper grows. another part is the acronyms used online are changing every day and I never hesitate to ask when I don't know what one means.