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Does your social media need CPR?

Community & Social Media
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By: Lindsay Turner, Digital Communication Specialist, ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development 

Do people love your nonprofit in real life, but no one “likes” it on Facebook? Does your name come up often in your community, but not on Twitter? You’ve tried to get social media up and going for your nonprofit, but it feels like a lost cause…

But it’s not! Don’t give up without performing some social media CPR. It’s possible to breathe new life into your social media strategy. And that’s the key word – strategy. I’ve had the opportunity to launch and relaunch social media in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors and I’ve learned quickly that social media, like everything else, needs to be strategic.

Lindsay TurnerI get it, it seems strange to use the word “strategic” and “tweet” in the same sentence. So here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Have a vision. Take a step back and ask, “WHY are we on social media?” Do you want to connect with donors and potential donors? Do you want to get more people out to your events? Do you want to build an online community? Keep in mind this may (and most would argue, should) be different for each social media channel (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Here are some ways you might approach popular channels differently.

2. Take another step back and ask, “WHO are we on social media?” Answer this question: If my nonprofit was a person on social media, who would they be? Drill that down even further: What does this person do in their free time? What causes and issues are important to them? Even, what kind of music do they listen to? It may feel silly, but this will help define your nonprofit’s persona. From there, come up with adjectives to describe your persona (e.g. knowledgeable, compassionate, friendly) and remember these adjectives when choosing what to post about and the voice you use to write the posts.

3. On Twitter, follow strategically. Remember that following someone is unofficially endorsing them. So you want to follow people and organizations that you can stand behind (quite literally the definition of “follow”). They should be associated with the work your organization does, which may include politicians, community partners and organizations, corporate donors, local media, and relevant bloggers. In addition, they should post frequently, post interesting information that you would share with your followers, and have a significant following themselves (there’s no magic number that I know of, but I tend to stick to people with at least a few hundred followers).

4. When you follow people, many of them will follow back. When they do, send them a personal thank you tweet. Tell them you’re looking forward to tweeting with them, or that you enjoy reading their blog. You don’t have to do this with every new follow, but it’s a good idea to do so with those you also follow. Start the dialogue right away.

5. Search keywords on Twitter, including your organization’s name and variations of it. Remember to include any incorrect names or spellings that often get used. This way, when someone uses a variation of your name you can still see what they’re saying and engage with them. Also track words associated to the work you do. For example at our children’s treatment centre, I track “#specialneeds” and “Autism”. Although it may pull up some irrelevant content, there are always a few gems that are shareable with our audience. I find the easiest way to track this is with Hootsuite (and it’s free!).

6. Tell people you’re on social media. This isn’t Rome - building a social media presence doesn’t mean they’ll come. Include links on your website and email signatures, in newsletters, brochures, annual reports, etc.

7. Create a content plan. While you have to leave some room for flexibility, having an overall content plan is important. For example, consider posting a tip every Tuesday, or talk about upcoming events every Monday. You don’t necessarily need to call out that you’re doing this (although #TipTuesday has a nice ring to it), but framing your posts this way will help you organize what you want to talk about. It also helps to look at a long-range calendar for big moments, such as holidays, events and awareness dates – both related to your work and more general.

8. Track, measure, adjust. What posts do people engage with and share? Which tweets are retweeted or start great conversation? And which posts seem to go unnoticed? Adjust your content plan accordingly. Some things won’t work, and that’s okay. Keep experimenting.

What tips do you have for performing social media CPR?

After five years in corporate marketing and communications, Lindsay made the move to nonprofit. She is currently the Digital Communication Specialist at ErinoakKids – Ontario’s largest children’s treatment centre – where she combines her love of social media, communications and kids. Follow her and ErinoakKids on Twitter at @lindsayt8 and @ErinoakKids.

Photo of flower by Surat Lozowick