By: Corbin Hartwick, Techboomers.com
What is "social media"?
To understand how social media can help your nonprofit, it helps to know a bit about what the term itself means. Basically, "social media" describes a host of websites and computer applications that facilitate social interaction in different ways. In general, they allow users to share, exchange, discuss, and even sometimes create or modify content within virtual communities on -- or over -- the Internet. This content can include information, ideas, opinions, images, video, audio, and Internet links.
Think of it as a worldwide game of "show and tell": people share things that they like or are thinking about for their friends and others to see. Then, those people can ask questions about and comment on what they see, and even take it, maybe mix it up a little, and share it with other people whom they know.
How can social media help my nonprofit?
Now that you know a bit about what social media is, here are three general ways that you can put it to work for your nonprofit organization.
1. Increase your organization's visibility
Most contemporary businesses and organizations have at least some presence on social media, if for only one reason: exposure. With the popularity of social media alone, not to mention the general popularity of the Internet, having social media accounts is a long-lasting, far-reaching, and inexpensive way to make sure that your organization and its message get noticed by your target audience and potential supporters.
2. Engage existing supporters
Many social media platforms offer quick and efficient ways to keep in touch with the people who already know and trust your organization. You can let them know about upcoming events or policy changes, or ask them for feedback about how your services are working. The discussion that your followers will generate can both keep them involved with your brand and give you valuable insight on whether or not you're going in the right direction.
3. Build your community through connections
Each person who supports your organization is someone who can bring in more people to support your organization through their connections on social media. If you're lucky, a supporter will have links to someone who does something special -- like developing websites or specializing in marketing -- that might be just what you're looking for to help your organization grow even further!
What are some examples of social media?
To give you an idea of what social media specifically is and can do, we'll take a brief look at four of the most well-known social media websites in the world today: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
It's hard to describe Facebook briefly, because there are so many ways that people can interact with each other by using it. They can share thoughts and opinions, pictures, Internet links, life events, and even what other people post on Facebook. What's more, people can "like" and comment on almost anything that's posted, so you can see what's popular and what people think about the content on Facebook. You can even do things like create private groups, as well as create and organize events.
Facebook's popularity and versatility make it a great social media tool to use. Its features make it extremely simple for you as an organization to share important information with your supporters, such as policy updates, upcoming events, and news related to your organization's work. Facebook also makes it simple for your followers to give you feedback on your operations through comments and "likes". If you're having trouble deciding on a direction with an aspect of your organization, Facebook allows you to ask a question and have your supporters answer it via a poll with different options. You can even organize an event through Facebook by sharing its details, and having your supporters invite people they know to make the occasion the biggest success that you can!
Like Facebook, Twitter allows users to share thoughts, opinions, pictures, videos, Internet links, and more with the people whom they're connected with, or else everyone on Twitter in general. The catch is that each piece of content posted to Twitter can only be 140 characters in length (in the case of pictures, videos, and Internet links, this counts the file name and address). Therefore, as one of the more compact social media websites, Twitter is best used for sending out short, frequent updates, as opposed to long-form ones that you might post on Facebook or a regular web log.
Visit our Twitter Tutorials on Techboomers.com to learn the basics of how to use Twitter.
LinkedIn is often called "the social network of business". It's a place where both professionals and prospective job-seekers can post their credentials, connect with others to receive endorsements for their skills, and get information and advice on careers from every sector of the workforce. It's also great for businesses themselves, including even non-profit organizations like yours. By posting your organization's information and job opportunities on LinkedIn, you'll be putting them in a place where people with the skills you want are actively looking for work, and can see what a great team yours would be to join!
For more information check out the LinkedIn Review and Tutorials on Techboomers.
Pinterest is a relatively new social media outlet, but one that has been rapidly gaining popularity. A "visual bookmark" website, Pinterest lets you create picture-based collections of related news and information. For a nonprofit organization, you can create your own collection of news, announcements, and photos related to your work. Don't just explain to people what you do in words; show them with pictures that are each worth a thousand words!
Well, that wraps up our introduction to social media. Look out for new posts in our “Social Media 101” series, coming soon. We’ll take an in-depth look at the leading social media websites on the planet, and how your nonprofit can use them to get its message out there.
About the Author:
Corbin Hartwick is the lead educational content writer at Techboomers.com, which is a free educational website that teaches older adults and others with limited computer skills how to use the most popular and trusted websites on the Internet.
Techboomers.com is a free educational website that teaches older adults and others with limited computer skills how to use popular and trusted websites on the internet.