Social networking continues to be a big part of communication for non-profits. And it should. It’s an informal, disarming way to interact with your membership on its terms. When looking at ways to effectively use social media, I’ll focus today on creating community-based social media campaigns, though campaign is too formal a word.
You may have heard the metaphor of the bullhorn for how not to use social networking. The bullhorn approach means making a post when you have something to say and not doing much else with your social media accounts. This means too much of a one-way street, and if ever someone didn’t want to communicate this way, it’s a non-profit. Your membership, volunteers, and other supporters make up a community and should be nurtured as one. This means active participation by people who follow your twitter feed and friend you on facebook and so on.
John Haydon, co-author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies, asserts that posts that end in question marks generate twice as many likes, shares, and comments as those thudding to a close with a period. It makes sense. And comments mean engagement, since the open-ended nature of a comment from a community member lends itself to another comment, and then, perhaps, a surprising chain of comments that can make members feel empowered, and perhaps can shed serious light on some of the social issues your non-profit is addressing.
Sharing articles begets a lot more in the way of comments than news announcements, with the implicit invitation to agree or disagree with the author, etc.
These methods should make your members feel valued and enthused in keeping the communication alive.
Inviting collaboration also builds community in the social networking milieu. Configure your settings to allow users, friends, etc. to add to your photo albums. Solicit pictures from community members, allowing them to build your photo album. You may come in and add photos after others have had a chance to add theirs, causing the communication to be circular, amorphous, certainly not linear, from you outward.
One of the best ways to provide true engagement is to have your members share material you post. They will be re-tweeting (sharing, etc.) to—of course—all the people on their list, meaning many folks who aren’t on yours. This makes them ambassadors, owning the material in a way. If they are sharing an article advocating a policy friendly to solar panels, for example, they will take the fore on defending it if some of their audience voices disagreement. This strengthens their commitment to the cause.
The benefits of sharing make an argument in favor—as though any more were necessary—of using photos, since these are commonly-shared. But it also brings up the concept of humor. While you want to be careful with your uses of humor in your cause-driven communication, it’s possible to post or share funny content, particularly that which provides true comic relief.
A 2013 survey from Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange found 49% of American respondents claiming to usually share “funny things.” The same number claimed to share “important” things, which your organization will be posting regularly—it’s worth a reminder that humor is also available, and that it’s very useful when you’re trying to get a message passed from person to person.
The way to keep people engaged is to keep them active stakeholders and particpants rather than audience members. The above approaches are centered on promoting the community ethos through all of your communications.