This post originally appeared on TechSoup.org's blog and was written by Chris Edwards.
Recently, TechSoup hosted a webinar discussing how to use social media to acquire and support volunteers. The webinar explained how each social media tool can be used effectively, how to use the right medium to reach your target audience, and how to manage social media policy for your organization.
Part of the webinar included this survey of the listeners below, which in of itself is useful for tracking how nonprofits and libraries recruit and support their volunteers.
Here are the results of one of the live polls conducted during the webinar:
As we can see, the most widely used social media site is Facebook, and in last, blogs. The huge number of people on Facebook is no surprise, considering there are 750+ million active users, and with only (if it can be called that) 90 million pages and groups, meaning it is a seller's market. Here are some key points the speakers made about each of the most common social media tools:
Facebook is a great tool for gathering interest by putting a spotlight on what volunteers are doing in your organization right now, and in addition, makes current volunteers feel appreciated for the work they are doing for your organization. You can also provide external links in addition to a blurb about activities that your group at-large or particular volunteers are doing.
Twitter is a great tool for getting your message out in a method that spreads quickly. Although smaller than Facebook, how information spreads through the site allows a very large and diverse group of people to see your message. The 140-character limit to each post means that content has to be concise and much more in "the now," than say, a blog post.
When you make a post, it gets added to your followers' Twitter feeds and if they re-tweet your content, everyone following their Twitter feed sees what you posted, and their followers can re-tweet said info, and so on, and so on. This viral method of getting information out, is just that - viral. The speed of information sharing is advantageous for acquiring last-minute volunteers to help in an event.
LinkedIn is a social media site, but unlike Facebook and Twitter, it is much more professional in its usage. It allows you to get important contact info from your volunteers, look up a volunteer's credentials and experience, and allows volunteers show that they are affiliated with your organization. The site it not update-centric, but more focused on résumés and recommendations. However, there are opportunities to have RSS-fed updates flow into and out of an individual's profile, so your volunteers can help share your information and recruit their friends and colleagues here as well.
Blogs are a great way to both build community with volunteers and be able to address your community in a much more fluid way than using your organization's official website. Blogs are usually quite easy to create through blog hosting sites like Blogger and WordPress, and can look very professional with not too much work. A great use for blogs is allowing the community to get involved and let them upload photos, write articles, take videos, and post them to the blog which is great to make your volunteer network feel involved and important.
One important thing to keep in mind when using social media sites is that it should be clear who owns what property. You could possibly run into a situation where volunteers are using Facebook and Twitter to post your content on their private accounts. In that situation, you do not have the ability to control what content they post, with exception of confidentiality. You could be posting content through someone's private accounts while they work at your organization, and when they leave they could keep possession of the accounts and leave you to start anew. So although you will not need to have written contracts involving lawyers, it is good to make these things clear and ensure that your social media identity doesn't walk away when a volunteer does.
If you want some more resources for social media, you can visit the websites that were discussed during the webinar:
- Erin Barnheart: Effective Altruism
- Jayne Cravens: Coyote Communications
- Beth Kanter's blog: Beth's Blog
- For policies: Workforce Online
And of course if you have any other great Ideas, links, or responses, feel free to post them as a comment below or in the forums!