How Charities Should Market Online using Social Media?

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Marketing and social media experts alike seem to agree on one thing: Social media has almost endless possibilities in helping charitable organizations increase awareness of the cause, start a conversation with potential donors, volunteers and board members, raise money and cultivate new pipelines of support. Most also say that social media is still in the beginning phases of use for many nonprofits, but that it is already making a difference, especially considering that small charities benefit greatly from online donations.

While each charitable organization is different, below are the major social networking platforms that nonprofits should consider as ways to travel through the constituent life cycle, from awareness and cultivation, to making the ask for volunteer or financial support, to stewardship and recognition, to a lifetime of engagement.

1.Nonprofit Facebook Fans

Charitable organizations can utilize Facebook in one of several ways:

Create a Facebook page.

Facebook is comprised of groups and pages. For the purposes of your nonprofit, create a page, as opposed to a group. This is with good reason. Pages allow you to publish updates directly into the news feeds. This means a nonprofit can engage fans with a variety of media, including status updates, polls and videos.

Utilize the Causes application.

Created in 2007, Causes enables Facebook users to make a difference in the causes they feel most strongly about without ever having to leave their social network. The Causes application was founded on the theory that in a healthy society, any individual can participate in change by informing and inspiring other individuals.

Speak up.

Facebook relies heavily on commenting, so provide ample opportunity for fans to do so. Track comments carefully. If, for example, you have plenty of fans, but zero comments, reconsider the value you are providing. You should concentrate on using photos and making your updates simple and easy to digest.

Create an application, game or quiz.

These elements can go a long way in developing an active and dynamic Facebook page. When deciding on a game or quiz, create one that users can engage with more than once. Make a nonprofit’s application fun and exciting. This way, users will want to post it to their walls so that their friends and social network can use it as well. Of course, if you have an actual game people would love to participate in, that wouldn’t hurt either.

Creating a store or donation box

Creating a store or donation box makes it easy for fans to buy merchandise or donate money to a nonprofit’s cause. Fans can participate without ever having to leave Facebook.

2.Tweet Your Core Message

As nonprofit organizations begin to delve further into social media, Twitter should be one of the organization’s primary channels. Because Twitter, which is a microblogging platform, allows no more than 140 characters per post, it is the perfect channel for promoting acute items of interest or information, along with sending core messages to a targeted base.

To maximize your success with Twitter, try the following:

Connect with other nonprofit organizations. It’s simple: Following other nonprofits will allow an organization to build connections and earn support for a cause. It is important to engage in conversation with other nonprofits, reply to their messages and retweet them (e.g. forward their Twitter content) to your followers.

Use Twitter to create buzz around a nonprofit’s cause.

Twitter can be used to promote blogs and news on a regular basis. Most social networks have the built-in ability to network with other sites, so when you update your blog or Facebook page, for example, this update can feed automatically into Twitter.

Make your tweets useful.

Do not tweet gratuitously. Determine your “Twitter mix” or the types of content that you will provide in advance. Eight of your tweets should be informational or entertaining (and related to your cause) and only one or two of your tweets should be about what you need (e.g., make a donation, volunteer, join the board).

Use Direct Message (DM) when you get new followers.

This Twitter feature can be set up to automatically deliver a message to your new supporters when they elect to follow you. The direct message allows for more characters than the 140-character tweet, and can be a great opportunity to foster additional involvement right away.

3.Link Up To LinkedIn

LinkedIn can provide a host of untapped potential for nonprofit organizations. This respected social networking site is comprised of more than 85 million professionals from 150 industries. Below are some tips for maximizing nonprofit exposure on LinkedIn:

Make the organization visible.

Based on your organization’s policies and the comfort level of employees, ask everyone working for the nonprofit organization to create a LinkedIn profile. These internal, professional connections alone will create instant visibility for the organization.

Use a signature that embeds the name of the nonprofit organization in it. This way, regardless of the message sent, employees of the nonprofit are getting the name and the cause into the digital space.

Create a LinkedIn Company Page

This LinkedIn feature offers organizations an even stronger way to market themselves via the LinkedIn community.

Make other nonprofit projects known on LinkedIn

LinkedIn allows users to list blogs or websites. If a nonprofit has multiple websites or other social media pages, make them known. In order to increase Google rankings, write a short sentence or two regarding the organization.

Start a LinkedIn Group

This will raise awareness of the nonprofit’s cause and increase credibility. As each member or individual associated with the nonprofit organization joins the group, a badge will appear on his or her profile. This badge will show affiliation with the group, build credibility and increase the organization’s online presence. Invite volunteers, advisers and board members to be a part of this group.

Of course, LinkedIn could also be used for market research, targeting decision makers and for understanding your own audience better.

4.Your Charitable Organization in the Blogosphere

With more than 100 million English-language blogs and growing, it seems as though every organization is blogging. If you are one of the charitable organizations that has not yet begun, add this to your “must-do” list.

Some important pros of leading your own blog:

  • Blogs can be used as calls to action.
  • Bloggers can write posts asking supporters to send an email to Congress, attend a fundraising event, or even just check out the charitable organization’s Facebook page. An organization will never know what its supporters are willing to do if it doesn’t ask.
  • Ask supporters to donate to a particular cause.
  • A blog can be used to increase awareness of fundraising. Blogs can tell a story with passion and creativity that can captivate an audience.
  • Use a blog to highlight the positive.
  • Blogs can be used to highlight press coverage. If a nonprofit finds itself in a magazine or newspaper, a blog can briefly discuss the story and then link readers to the original article.
  • Blogs can attract volunteers.

5.YouTube: The New “Must Have”

Sign up with YouTube’s nonprofit program. This program provides extra benefits to nonprofit organizations that choose to broadcast on YouTube. Benefits include branding capabilities, increased uploading capacity and call-to-action overlays. The call-to-action feature allows users to drive sign-ups, donations, website traffic and other types of response that require a user to take action. YouTube has become a powerful and highly effective means of raising cause awareness and funds.

Nonprofits should link their cause with video annotations. Annotations are added to create interactive commentary and can also be used to link viewers to external sites. By linking users to external sites, viewers may be more likely to donate or volunteer for a cause, especially if they are linked to the nonprofit organization’s website.

Social media marketing is changing the way that nonprofits interact with donors, volunteers, board members and fellow nonprofit organizations. This form of interaction is opening new channels of communication and is cementing the relationships between the organization and its constituents. This solidifying of relationships is ultimately leading to more donations, contributions, volunteer hours and commitment to the organization and its cause.

Mark is currently a freelancer working as a social media manager and a content creator. Reach out to him on Twitter @TomMark84