Why Non-Profit Social Media Is Unique

by Chris Giovagnoni on Jul 28, 2011

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How To Hire A Social Media AgencyI attend all the big social media conferences and some of the smaller ones. I’ve heard the who’s who of social media deliver keynote after keynote. I’ve read their books, and I read their blogs. Daily.

I’ve learned about engaging and empowering the tribal groundswell as a trust agent of the now revolution via open leadership in the “thank you economy.” And I know that the letter C commands the social media world.

We talk about creating, curating and consuming content. We talk about collaborating and connecting within communities. And of course we talk about context, conversation, customers and commerce.

But I work at a faith-based non-profit and I sometimes feel like I’m putting a size 12 shoe on size 9 foot. The information is helpful but it doesn’t always fit.

I know what Coke, Starbucks and Ford are doing well, and I’ve heard case studies from Buffalo Wild Wings, HP, GE, Dunkin Donuts, etc., but non-profits aren’t retail.

Not every non-profit is as large as the American Red Cross or has the cachet of Kiva or Charity: Water. The budgets and staffing are different, as is the media interest or availability of celebrity spokespeople.

The non-profit sector does have thought leaders addressing its unique needs, analyzing and applying the latest theories, demystifying ROI, providing practical tips and instructions for working in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., but more is needed.

What’s needed by many non-profits, particularly the smaller ones, is a starting point. A bible of sorts, like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, one that focuses on the basic “how to’s.”

Here are the five “how to’s” I share with non-profits that ask to pick my brain.

1. Do It Daily

Out of sight, out of mind rules here. If you’re not talking about your organization, why should anyone else? Sharing content daily (i.e., regularly and predictably) allows you to shape the conversations relevant to your niche.

Don’t only talk about yourself; you’re not THAT interesting. Keep your focus on your audience. Talk more about them than you do yourself.

Additionally, if you don’t listen to what people tell you, why should they listen to you? Find out what your donors want and deliver it.

2. Do It Deliberately

Hit singles. Don’t swing for the fences. Get enough singles and double and you’ll get into the Hall of Fame.

This is a foundational thing. And it can be done affordably and consistently.

3. Do It Decisively

Don’t dip your toe in the water; you can’t learn to swim that way. If you want to reap the benefits of social media, commit to a long-term strategy and execute it. Hesitate and you’ll have to work harder later.

4. Do It Differently

You’re not Coca-Cola. You’re not the American Red Cross. You’re not selling ice cream, clothing, electronics or airline tickets. But you are selling.

You may not have a product you can “place” or be able to offer coupons or rebates. You may not be able to give away stuff to people that check-in to your store, because you don’t have any of those, but you do have something valuable to offer.

How can you take the intangible concept you’re “selling” and make it tangible?

At Compassion International, we’re selling deeply personal one-to-one relationships, and one of our tangibles is the letters exchanged between sponsors and their sponsored children.

5. Do It Directly

Speak personally, one-to-one, not as an organization afraid of losing donors, focused on short-term numbers or one second guessing itself.

Speak simply and frankly. Don’t worry about what other organizations are doing, and don’t worry about making mistakes. You can’t do anything about the former, and mistakes are going to happen.

Stay focused on each individual you’re serving and why, and you’ll be successful.

Post Author

Chris is the Sponsor Engagement and Social Media Program Manager at Compassion International, a Christian non-profit focusing on holistic child development....