Scratching the Surface: Understanding Social Media for Nonprofits

This is my first blog post (ever).  I’m writing this as a part of a semester long project for my Social Media for PR class.  Austin is a city that is home to several successful nonprofit organizations.  I am fortunate to be currently involved with two of them, The Junior League of Austin and Con MI MADRE.  These two organizations have truly changed they way I see my role of being an active citizen of Austin.  Both have fulfilled the desire to give back to my community and with causes that are important to me.  As a student of communication, I am interested in learning more about the local nonprofit sector and its use of social media to engage the community and its stakeholders.

Q:            Why is social media for nonprofits so important?    Like other businesses, social media has changed the way nonprofits communicate with their target audiences.  Mashable blogger Sam Laird’s sums up this growing trend in his post, How Non-Profits Relied on Social Media in 2012.  Laird points out how social media has become such an essential part of fundraising and donations nationwide.   Building an online presence and the creation of viral events, such as #GivingTuesday, are just a few of the techniques that are responsible for doubling fundraising over the past five years.  In his post, Laird included an infographic prepared by MDG Advertising, which illustrates social media’s success in uniting people for a good cause.

Q:            How can nonprofits use social media to their advantage?  Well, tactful strategy is the framework for having a successful social media campaign for your organization. Social media for nonprofits expert and blogger Beth Kanter welcomed guest blogger Ritu Sharma, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Social Media for Nonprofits to discuss the Three Simple but Powerful Social Media for Nonprofits Tips.  Sharma outlines the basics for establishing a great plan of action for organizations, they are as follows:

  1. Timing is everything.  Sharma stresses the importance of “catching people at the right time.”  This involves understanding the psychographics of your target audience. Consider what their day is like and when they are most likely to be checking their social media sites.  As quick as you can post = as quick as the moment can pass.
  2. Ask questions. Specifically, this is aimed at comments on Facebook and Twitter.  Sharma aptly points out that the difference between making a closed-end statement and asking a question that your audience can actively participate in and start dialogue.  The name says it all – “social” media.  Make posts that invite friends and followers to continue the conversation.  Be personable.
  3. Lastly, become a content curator. Be a “thought leader” through your organization’s social media sites.  Sharma explains how people place a higher value on knowing more about the actual cause, such as the people (or animals) you are helping.  It is important to find the right balance between posts about the organization’s needs and posts about the individuals you are actually helping.  Make your cause tangible for your audience.

I hope that I conveyed the experts’ reasoning on why nonprofits are using social media and a few basics on how to use it.  In the upcoming weeks, I will be investigating how our Austin nonprofits are successfully (and unsuccessfully) using social media to reach their audience.

If you don’t already use this framework for connecting with your audience, try it out this week and compare your results.  Please keep me posted with any feedback. Thanks for reading!

About abehara

Studying Communication at St. Edward’s University, specializing in PR and Advertising. Born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. Happily married and Austin resident for the past 10 years.
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5 Responses to Scratching the Surface: Understanding Social Media for Nonprofits

  1. jramon2 says:

    Hey Ashely!
    I completely agree, with your last paragraph. PR and social media is everything! I bet if someone did stop using social media for their nonprofit for a week they would see ALOT of noticeable results, not good ones! I loved your Q&A on the importance of social media for nonprofits! I hope to read the rest of your posts later!

  2. becky stocker says:

    Ashely!! Thank you for blogging this – as NPO director and someone who is ‘lost’ when it comes to social media, its so good to be reminded the importance of it. I’m so excited/glad you are blogging this! THANK YOU!!!

  3. abehara says:

    Thanks Becky! I am glad that you mentioned feeling “lost” when it comes to social media because it can definitely seem like an intimidating task. I feel the same way. I am learning rapidly from this class and my goal is to ease people’s (and mine own) anxiety in navigating through social media. I hope it helps and thanks again for reading!

  4. Pingback: Using Social Media to Save Austin’s Pet Community | Nonprofits of Austin + Social Media

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