Many social services agencies are just getting started or are contemplating a jump into the world of social media. Many you have waited to see if Facebook was just a fad or if Twitter was only a trend for teenagers. Maybe you’ve looked into starting a blog but didn’t think you really had the time.
But now – you are seeing the benefits of social media. And you know it’s not going away.
Are you ready to take your nonprofit down into the “rabbit hole” of social media? If you are, I bet you already have a few preconceptions in mind… A few myths that need busting:
Myth 1 – Set it and Forget it: Many believe all you must do is set up your account and you’re halfway done. Maybe do a few quick posts asking people for donations or volunteers and you can kick back and wait for the phone to ring. It’s not true. You do need to work at it to make it a real communication tool between you and the outside world. You don’t need to spend hours a day, and you really don’t need to put out a message every single day, but you must certainly be active. Social media is about being having that conversation with your fans. And having it often.
Myth 2 – Social Media Takes Too Much Time: On the opposite end of myth 1, a lot of people think they must spend 6 hours a day – time they don’t have – on social media activities to make it work. Some actually try to do this and give up. Or they never start. Honestly, you can have 1 to 3 accounts (a blog, Facebook, Twitter, for example) and spend about 15 to 20 minutes a day (or every other day) and still be effective. Link up your blog posts so they automatically go to Twitter, then set up your Facebook account to post everything that appears on Twitter. With one blog post, you’ve talked with all three groups of “friends” or followers at once.
Myth 3 – Social Media is Just People Talking to Hear Themselves Talk: While it’s true some people spend all day complaining about an achy back or what they had for lunch, social media can be a powerful tool. You can use it to talk about a new program at your agency, to highlight one of your clients and how they have overcome their disability, to provide tips on how you’re handling a budget cut, to give advice on a successful nonprofit merger, and to announce upcoming fundraising events. Find and follow influencers. Become friends with peers and prospects. Offer quality comments on their blogs. Re-tweet their posts. Give links to a great website or resource. Write great content. And you will see great results.
Myth 4 – Social Media Should Be Your Online Presence: Wrong. Your website should be your major online focus. You should have your blog on your website and not hosted by the blogging platform (WordPress, Blogger, etc.) You should provide links on your Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ and Twitter accounts that drive people back to your website. You should have a site and it should be your home base. You can use the site to brand your agency, to generate donations, to find volunteers, to tell your story, to bring in new contracts for your vocational facility, and so much more. Social media allows you to get your messages out there, but you should own your content on your own site and control your brand.
Myth 5 – Social Media is Too Technical: Is social media technical? Yes. Is it too hard to do? No. The very old and the very young easily have accounts. Nearly all social media is free with very intuitive and easy-to-use systems that require you to create them with a log-in and password. If you’re not sure how to create a profile or find new “friends”, simply read their online instructions or do a Google search asking questions and someone, somewhere will have covered it. Once you’re up and running, it’s a matter of producing good content, finding good information to pass along, and having a conversation with the people you follow. Don’t simply ask for money or help with every submission. And don’t talk about what you had for lunch – unless you can make it funny, interesting, or informative.
Myth 6 – Anyone Can Succeed at Social Media: Turning Myth 5 on it’s ear, this one is simply not true. While it’s true that anyone can use social media, it doesn’t mean they’ll do it well. Sometimes your social media presence should be run by someone within (or outside) your agency who is mature, smart, even-tempered, and knows how to tell a story. I don’t mean to scare you off but you should have someone in charge of your social media campaigns that will represent your agency well, will be able to find those resources I mentioned, and be able to craft messages that will do the 3 things mentioned in Myth 5 – be funny, be interesting, or be informative. That’s what will keep people paying attention to your social media campaigns, returning to you to read more, and eventually becoming more involved with your agency.
Social media can and does work for many social services agencies. It requires some time and some effort, but it will give you good results.