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How Nonprofit organizations Can Get The Most Out of Social Media

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Includes 24 Tips and Best Practices

By Hector Cisneros

A couple of years ago I was asked by the Clay County Chamber to put together a panel of social media experts so we could put on a Clay Chamber University program to help its members better understand and utilize social networking. The panel had five members who contributed topics, questions and answers to be used during the program. A moderator would bring up the questions, and each panelist would then elaborate on their perspective answer. Members of the audience could also ask questions and receive answers directly from the panel. The program was a huge success, and it prompted me to later write my hit article called; Social Media Tips, Tricks and Best Practices from the Pros. This article remains very popular and can be very useful for anyone trying to maximize their return on social media marketing. In this article, I will focus my coverage on helping nonprofits maximize their return. So, get ready to share these tips, tricks and best practices with your favorite charitable organizations as we explore how nonprofits can get the most out of social media marketing.

The first question that needs to be answered is why would a non-profit want to engage in social media marketing in the first place. The truth is simple. If any entity is not engaged in social media marketing today, they have either been hiding under a rock, or they just missed the boat altogether. Here is my short list of reasons why social media is a must do marketing initiative.

Top Eight Reason to Use Social Media

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  • It’s cost-effective - Social media has no hosting fees, no ongoing fees of any kind. Posting is free; there is zero cost for having a database of followers. The only real cost you incur is the labor cost for growing your following and any direct advertising you engage in via pay per click, pay per impression, boosting a post or other timeline advertising.
  • To Connect – There are 7+ billion people on earth. There are at least 3 billion using some form of social networking. Facebook alone has over 1.5 billion subscribers. You can significantly grow your followers by inviting people to follow you and to share your information.
  • To Engage – Social media makes it significantly easier to engage the social media subscribers. If you're not active on social networks, you're missing out.
  • Drive Traffic – Using Social Media is a fantastic way to acquire more traffic to your website. Just share your links and ask people to check you out will create tons of traffic.
  • Greater Exposure – Charities are always looking for ways to get their message out. Social networks are big pools of people looking for relevant, timely, interesting and useful information. Social networks allow you to reach the most people with the least cost.
  • Marketing Tools Included – Most of the social networks come with built-in marketing tools. You can engage in pay per click campaigns, boost social post and post to the newsfeeds for a very low cost (compared to advertising in Google Adwords, print, TV or Radio).
  • Better PR Reach – It's hard enough getting analog media to pay attention. And Press Releases cost lots of money. Social networks are suitable places to share your message without the cost of conventional PR. I’m not saying it eliminates your regular PR work; it enhances it substantially.
  • Raise More Money – Let's face it. Your charity would not exist without donations. Many Social networks like Facebook and Twitter make it easy for your donors and followers to contribute to your cause. Charitable Social giving has come of age, and it can become a significant portion of your fundraising efforts.

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Now before you jump in with both feet and take advantage of the benefits social media has to offer, understand that there are some rules you need to follow. I call the rules the pre-requisites of social media marketing. These are principles you need to be adhered to if you want to make sure you don’t raise the ire of your loyal following.  Stick to these rules and flourish, break them at your peril.

Prerequisites and must know items.

Social Media is Primarily a Branding Tool – Social Media is great for building your brand, creating trust and credibility. Make sure you are consistent with your images, logos, messages and purpose. Make sure you look professional by grammar/spelling checking everything. This will help make the best first impression and help build credibility.
Don’t Sell – Share Events and your Story – Nobody wants to be sold! Make sure your posts are geared towards sharing and not shouting who you are and how you're helping. Don’t beg. Clearly, show the plight of whom you're looking to help. Pictures are worth a thousand words.
Provide Value Add – Through authoritative blogging, video streaming, podcasting. Make sure your post does more than just expose the plight of others. They must be relevant, interesting, timely, useful and maybe even entertaining.
Make it Easy for them to Connect – Actively invite followers and make sure your address and contact information is listed everywhere. Also, make sure your profile is fully fledged and provides links to all social networks you’re on.
Make it Easy to Share - Actively make sure links are provided for all your web properties including
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websites, landing pages, social networks, blogs, photo galleries, rating pages, and media sites like internet radio, YouTube, and podcast download pages on Google Play and Apple iTunes. Also add gadgets to your blogposts so that anyone can engage in one click, sharing with friends and followers.
Stick to the top Networks - If you’re going to fish for followers, go where there are lots of fish. The largest and most popular networks are where you want to be. This includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn and Blogger. These networks have billions of combined subscribers, and this will leverage your efforts.

Speaking of leverage, you need to make sure you maximize your efforts by using leverage at every chance you get. Posting to social media eats up a lot of time in labor and running any social media campaign consumes even more. Because of this, you need to make sure that not only your message is getting out, it’s getting heard. Because time is money, saving it becomes a priority. Make leverage your friend and take advantage of these 24-time savers and leverage boosters.

Here Are 24 Tips and Best Practices for Nonprofits

1.    Post to your Social Sites Daily – Once a day is a minimum for authoritative and curated posts with links to your websites, landing pages, blogs, other Social networks, fundraising sites and downloadable apps. If you have enough content, three a day is much better. Don’t be out of sight - it makes you out of mind!
2.    Use Aggregation Software - Aggregation software like Hootsuite, Buffer or other programs to leverage your posting time. They will allow you to schedule posts to go out in the future and also allow you to take a single post and shared to multiple social networks simultaneously.
3.    If you are putting on events, look at using ticketing software like Eventbrite. The tickets can
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be free, but using the software can add a high level of professionalism, and it allows you to capture the participant contact info.
4.    Blogging is Your Best Friend. Blogging is today’s news medium of choice. It is the best way to shape and share your message. More people read blogs today than all other types of print media combined. Blog articles are the ideal fodder for your social sites. Authoritative blogs put you in a league above the rest who aren’t blogging. Blogging adds credibility and enhances trust. It provides for full multimedia layout. Videos, images, and audio can be included, and blogger is hosting is absolutely free.
5.    Produce Daily or Weekly Video casts (aka Vlogs). Four out of five people would rather watch a short video than read a short paragraph of text or just look a still image. On top of that, videos can be leveraged by re-posting them, adding them to your blogs, creating podcasts out of them, sharing them in multiple social nets and by using them as content ideas for future articles.
6.    Actively Tag Participants in photos - By tagging people in photos that you share on Facebook, you will automatically be inviting people to check out your social post. This encourages them to comment, download and re-share your post.
7.    Create Hashtag Campaigns - Creating a unique Hashtag and encouraging people to use them can greatly expand your reach on the social nets. Anyone who does a search on a hashtag has access to every post created with that hashtag whether they follow you or not. This gives you access to thousands, if not millions, of connections without being connected to these people.
8.    Run Fun Contests and Games -  It’s important to connect with people, and fun sells better than doom and gloom. If you want people to donate to your cause, you must get them to pay attention first. Offering related games can do the trick. Make sure the games capture the players’ info and that it asks them to share their engagement on their timeline.
9.    Provide Engaging Post – These include: Thank you notes to donors, congratulating followers on their successes, consoling followers on their losses, and asking donors relevant and engaging questions about your cause and the world at large. Asking questions shows that you care about what they think as donors and followers. 
10.  Engage in The Daily Hello - This type of post is like a kick-off for the day. It needs to be unique,
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catchy and useful in some way. It can include a daily thought, tip, suggestion or even a poem. It can be a fun way to connect. It gives followers something to look forward to when tomorrow comes.
11.  Connect and Introduce Others - By befriending others, you help your cause. Take the time to connect followers with other causes, people and those of similar beliefs. People who love dogs often care about other animals as well. You get the idea. By helping others, you will help yourself.
12.  Share Testimonials - The internet is full of deception and criminal activity. Trust is the biggest obstacle of receiving donations today. You need to encourage your followers to post testimonials about your organization and causes. These testimonials are what will prove you are trustworthy. They can be used on other networks to get your message of trust and integrity out as well.
13.  Share High-Quality High Production Value Content – This can be from others but your authoritative posts are best. These items can include videos, pictures, articles, or content from live events, podcast, videos and blogs you produce. High quality keeps the consumer's attention and increases the likely hood of your content being shared, liked and commented on.
14.  Make Sure Your Sign-Up Tools are Prominent – Make sure it’s easy to find and sign up for any call to action you are asking viewers to engage in. They need to able to easily find the donation button, your free downloadable podcast, white papers, useful list – eBook’s, etc. And make sure you ask for their contact information.
15.  Create Your Own WebTV Show - Creating a WebTV show is not as hard as it sounds, nor is it as expensive. The script can be your weekly blogpost hosted on Blogger. You only need a good backdrop (an office setting will do). You can broadcast on YouTube or Facebook, for free. This can be accomplished with a laptop, a C90 webcam from Logitech and OBS studio software (which is free). You still need to learn how to use the software and manage production, but that’s it.
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16.  Create Your Own Internet Radio Show - You can create an internet radio show for as little as $39/month on Blogtalkradio. Just like with video, your blog can be your show outline, and the shows can be live or uploaded. The show can also be uploaded to iTunes and other podcasters platforms for distribution.
17.  Direct email blast - You can purchase lists of likely subscribers based on their demo/psychographic interest. These lists can be used to solicit members and donations for your cause.
18.  Email Newsletters - Once you have a following, create a database of email addresses that can be used for touch marketing. These must be opt-in followers, and your newsletter must contain news, along with other interesting and useful content. Your solicitation for donations needs to be subtle as this form of touch marketing is used more often than the email blast approach.
19.  Minimize the Number of Clicks to Give -  Your donation links must include only one or two clicks before the donation is made. Any more that this and you will frustrate the donor into changing their mind.
20.  Say thank You Every Time - Make sure you reach out to thank and touch your donors, every time to donate to your cause. Also, reach out when they haven’t donated in awhile and thank them again.
21.  Thank them publicly (with their permission in some instances). Most of us like being patted on the back when we’ve done good. This small reward reinforces the notion that you appreciate what they have done.
22.  Make Sure You Can Provide Documentations for Donor’s Contributions – Many donors want to have documentation for their charitable donations. This is necessary if they are to take charitable deductions on their tax returns.
23.  Be Open and Transparent with How the Donations are Used – List on your website and social site how the money donated is used. Show how much is used for overhead and how much is directly used for your cause. Many donors only donate to charities that have low overhead.
24.  Be Patient and Persistent -  Building a loyal following of donors takes time. Be willing to earn their trust. Be credible and consistent. This is a long game not a quick fix.
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This article contains a wealth of information. It may even seem like drinking from a firehose. However, the reality of Social Media is that there is a lot to be learned and implemented. You won’t be able to swallow this elephant in one or two bites. Below are a list or reference articles that I recommend reading. Our blogs’ notes page has even more. Take the time to learn as much as you can about using social media for your nonprofit. It will allow you to maximize your efforts in reaching your goals and helping your cause.

Resource Articles specific for Nonprofit

In this article, I have provided a large amount of information to help any non-profit maximize its use of social media. It’s the longest article I have seen to date on this subject. It was my intention to provide a comprehensive view of how social media can help nonprofits. I hope you agree with me that this resource article provides just that.

That’s my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

Get your FREE copy today.
If you feel your business could use some help with its marketing, contact us at 904-410-2091. You can also fill out the form in the sidebar of this blog; we will provide a free marketing analysis to help you get better results. If you found this article useful, please share it with friends, family, and co-workers. I recommend reading our articles called: In Search of Digital Donations, How to Grow Your Twitter Flock – 14 Surefire Tips for Explosive Organic Growth. A Dozen Easy Ways to Grow and Market to Your Facebook Fan Base and The Secrets to Building an Audience for Your Business. You can also find dozens of other social media specific articles on our blog by typing in “social media” in the search box at the top of this blog. Also, check out the “Blog Talk Radio, Internet, podcast, that goes with this article ” and the Show Note Page, it has, even more, links for you to check out.  If you have a useful comment or opinion related to this article, leave it in the comment section of this blog.  Also, don’t forget to plus us, on Google+ and share us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.” 

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