Social media mistakes nonprofits can easily avoid

December 3, 2014

Social media mistakes nonprofits can easily avoid

Social media is a convenient marketing tool that reaches a broad population. For nonprofits looking to use it as an outreach tool, social media offers instantaneous communication and networking advantages at a low cost. As easy as social media is to use – especially compared to old nonprofit marketing standbys like direct mail or phone calls – there are problems that often crop up in its use by both for-profit companies and charitable groups. Because nonprofits rely so critically on creating a meaningful connection with their contributors and other stakeholders, fixing these mistakes is especially important.

Here's a look at a few of the most common errors that nonprofit groups are making on social media and what can be done to fix them:

  • Posting boring content: GuideStar pointed to this as one of the most frequently seen problems in the nonprofit social media sphere. Boring content such as bland posts that do little to inform or engage constituents, as well as empty promotion that doesn't offer specific or interesting data, isn't ideal. There's obviously a place for direct fundraising appeals and basic operational announcements, like the hiring of a new employee, but they need to be mixed in with reports, stories, data and other types of content that engage stakeholders. Creating or finding this kind of information can add time into a staff member's schedule but it will pay off in the form of a more interested social media community.
  • Lack of a consistent voice: Voice can be very highly defined or a simple set of principles that staff members use when writing on behalf of a nonprofit on social media. However, Social Media BirdBrain called not having a consistent way of interacting on social media one of the "seven deadly sins" for nonprofits using this tool. No matter where a given organization falls on the spectrum, consistency is key. It's easier to offer a steady presence, and generate a sense of continuity with followers, if a single person is in charge of social media. If many employees have to take on the task, consistency can still be achieved. A brainstorming session and the creation of communication guidelines will be necessary. This is another instance where a little planning ahead of time will provide rewards further down the line.
  • Inconsistent posting: Social media posts shouldn't be on a tight schedule so that posts always fall at exactly the same time every day. That being said, large gaps in posting will cause audience engagement problems and can hamper the effectiveness of social media activity. Posts should flow organically, keeping up with the overall less-formal nature of social media. Having a loose schedule or a weekly goal may be more appropriate in many instances, as it allows for more flexibility and leads to less pressure to have a post ready at a certain time on a certain day, over and over again.
  • Not being responsive: Successful social media approaches have to involve an element of conversation. It can be difficult at times to create sustained interaction, but by asking questions, sharing engaging content and finding ways to connect with followers, it's certainly possible. Whenever a follower comments on post, it's a good idea to respond in some way, even if only by liking or otherwise acknowledging that comment or tweet. This approach will encourage further conversation and let followers know that there's a real person behind a social media account.
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