I had the opportunity to participate in a recent webinar “12 Common Mistakes that not-for-profits make in social media” given by Heather Mansfield, owner of DIOSA Communications and author of Social Media for Social Good.
While I am tiring of “the 5 worst”, “top 10 best”, “The most useful 7…” captioned/themed/titled blogs because everyone seems to have adopted these titles and it’s quickly becoming stale, this webinar did provide lots of good reminders and takeaways that, really, are just good common sense.
A lot of this content is good to remember even if you’re not in a not-for-profit environment but are engaged in social media. My comments here will relate to a not-for-profit environment as that is where I have spent much of my working life but you can use outside this context easily.
As a preamble…not-for-profits have been slow to use social media; recent studies (including a benchmarking study done by the Canadian Society of Association Executives – CSAE) show that there are a lot of associations and not-for-profits skulking in the weeds and still not ready to take the leap in to the pool of social media).
What is the hesitation? For many associations it’s the risk factor – risking or exposing their reputation. For some it’s the lack of a strategy (good on them for even thinking that they had to have a strategy… but don’t wait too long!). For others, it’s a fear of the resources that will be consumed by social media. There are countless reasons. Perhaps the most pervasive, and the one that lurks behind every reason, is fear of the new and unknown.
It’s incredibly important that as a not-for-profit (NFP) association that you fully consider your tactics and strategies. Do what best suits your needs and your resources and don’t get over-commit to social media practices that are better suited to large corporations; it won’t work – either from a creator or a consumer point of view as the (lack of) resource issue will catch up with you and it will show.
All of this being said, here are some thoughts and some helpful tips as you think about launching or tweaking your own social media presence.
Mistake one – not practicing integrated marketing. Way back when the Internet was new, it was considered a broadcast medium. People sought you/your association out by doing research; and you broadcast information via your website to your various audiences. Now, people are landing on your Website, in many cases, from another social media tool – Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. Your website needs to reflect these changes. A blog, with meaningful content, can be introduced via Twitter and Facebook and then it brings people to your website… where they might hover over other content once there. Make your Website visitors linger by presenting them with more pictures, larger fonts that attract attention and interesting content. Should I say that again? Interesting content. There – I said it again.
Mistake two – not investing in good graphic design. This follows on mistake #1. If people come to your Website and see crazy, sloppy design work, clip art from 1982, or no design what does it say about you as an organization – that you can’t be bothered? That you aren’t professional? You don’t want to give your existing audiences these impressions, nor do you want to give new and random visitors these impressions (‘cos they won’t come back). If you can’t afford a full service graphic design firm, there are always students looking for portfolio work – who might be great candidates for this type of work at lower (or no?) cost.
Mistake three – still with me? Posting boring content is a huge turnoff. (See mistake #1) Just as you may have had to tweak your Website for the 2.0 social Web, you need to tweak your content. Get good at telling your story – to both your existing clients and to your as-yet-unknown, future clients. Don’t post heavily marketing-oriented or fundraising content all about you… that’s boring! For you to be all bookish and wonk-ish – that’s boring! Comments like “did you know we’re also on Facebook?” don’t cut it! And, if you’re on Facebook or Twitter and your posts are getting no feedback via “likes”, commentary, or retweets – that’s a pretty good indicator that your content needs an overhaul.
To change this, think about how you can tell your story through the eyes of a member or client – and get them to tell your story via YouTube. What does your association means to them? If your NFP is involved in advocacy, build a story around a success story. What it has meant for one of your existing customers? Or, what could a change in policy mean to that same customer or client?
Come back tomorrow, I’d love to share the next three mistakes/ideas with you.