Jason Pramas of Open Media Boston presented a webinar on Social Media: Why, What and How? for the Boston/New England chapter of PCN on March 7, 2013. Here are a few highlights and useful links for PCNers who are exploring social media further.
Why social media?
Over the past two decades since the web began, virtually all non-profits have started websites. Unfortunately, many organizations stopped there and have thus far missed the opportunity to build communities using the social networks where people now hang out on the Internet. Without taking advantage of social networks and social media in general, organizational websites remain static and unseen by most.
By utilizing existing popular social network and social media platforms, non-profits can build a robust online communities in place of a less active website. Connecting to social networks like Facebook, social media like Twitter, and other subsidiary networks and platforms, and devoting staff and/or volunteer time to interacting with people in those digital environments will result in the creation of a robust online community for your organization.
In addition, it’s also possible to allow people sign into your organizational websites via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other services. This has the advantage of getting more people closer in to your organization, and uses those vast fully staffed social networks and social media platforms to vet user accounts (make sure they’re not just spammers) and do the technical work of maintaining all these user accounts instead of trying to do it ourselves.
Best of all, those existing communities already have millions of participants that often include the people you are trying to reach. By making your site porous to social media, you allow people to reach you more easily, and become an active participant in the online networks where your audiences are.
What can you be doing?
Take an analytic approach to your website and to all your online interactions. Start with Google Analytics, which will tell you who is coming to your site and what content is attracting them, along with what sites are referring traffic to you. Use this information to decide which major social networks and social media platforms that you need to build a presence on.
Creating a Facebook Page for your organization is the best way to build a vibrant online community at speed. Just remember that it will have to be created via one of your staff’s or volunteer’s individual Facebook account, and that it will be necessary to to give your organization’s principals administrative access to your organization’s Facebook Page (in case the person that started the Page leaves your organization). Here are some tips:
- Post fresh content that engages your growing Facebook community on a regular basis.
- Build for your upcoming events by creating a Facebook Event, and invite your Facebook community to attend and also to invite all their friends.
- Constantly encourage more people to join your community by “liking” your organization’s Facebook Page.
Facebook also has its own analytics. To see your analytics in the Facebook environment, use Facebook Insights to see who you are communicating with and how they are interacting with your content.
Consider an investment in promoting your Facebook posts to reach larger audiences for a few dollars at a time. In Jason’s example, his news publication Open Media Boston spent less than $2 to reach an 300 people with a particular story. Spending $10 or $15 can help you reach an extra 2,000-4,000 people, and get lots of new Likes on your Facebook Page – building your community very efficiently and inexpensively.
Use Twitter for short communications to your growing network of Twitter followers. Organize your Twitter presence with browser based services like TweetDeck. Hold conversations over time by creating a “hashtag” based on your organization’s name or a particular subject that your organization specializes in. Make sure your followers add you to the Twitter Lists of key Twitter Users that they read regularly.
Be sure to “livetweet” your events, and make sure your online communities know times and dates for those events in advance. To track your Twitter analytics, you can use Twitonomy or search for “twitter analytics” on your favorite web search engine and look at other popular services.
How can you post easily and monitor your social media progress?
One of the most important things to remember is that for this to work, you have to do it consistently. Assign someone to “build a community” through regular interaction: responding to inquiries along with posting content. If you are not initiating interactions, people will forget about you. Assign someone who identifies as comfortable in this environment. Younger “digital natives” in your organization are generally idea for such tasks – just be sure that they are fully briefed on your organization’s history and mission.
There are also ways to automate your online presence. For example, there are a many tools that will allow you to easily promote your web content to Twitter:
- Manage your websites RSS feed with FeedBurner, then use Twitterfeed to automatically promote your RSS feed contents to your Twitter account (and other services, too).
- For people running WordPress sites, the JetPack plugin for WordPress has some good social media integrations and is well-maintained. Also consider the Social plugin.
For those of you who are interested to learn more, you can take a look at these resources: