Some years ago when I was working at a nonprofit organization, I remember talking to my boss about social media. He saw the need for it in the organization, and I agreed, but my question to him was, “Where am I going to find the time for it?”
I think that’s a question that many nonprofit staff members have asked themselves too, am I right?
Fast-forward to where I am now, I see the hesitation I had of diving into a full-fledged social strategy was really because I didn’t know what I was getting into and not because I didn’t have the time. I didn’t now what a “full-fledged social strategy” was so I thought it was another huge project I was adding onto my endless to-do list.
So if I could talk to myself back then, this is what I’d say to give myself a reality check.
You already know this stuff!
I was a sophomore in college when I signed up for Facebook right after it opened up to colleges beyond Harvard. This is why I’d give Past-I-Don’t-Have-Time-For-Social-Media-Ifdy a slap in the face.
Most of us are already on Facebook for personal use so we know how the platform works. We know how to login, view friends’ profiles, like and comment in the news feed, post pictures, play videos, and share. We know how to talk to each other, the things to say (and not say) and some of the acronyms like LOL, IDK, and BTW.
So if we know how the game works, the insides and outs, it’s not a big step to learn how to use it strategically.
You’ll have to make some changes, but they won’t be overhaul.
Adopting a social strategy didn’t turn my workday upside down; instead, it complemented it by breaking me out into a room full of people talking about the same things I was.
For example, I already had Google Alerts set up to monitor news articles relevant to my cause. So when we opened up our Facebook fan page, I just shared them with our followers. Before, I was reading them mostly for my personal benefit but now I was curating content to our supporters, and they loved us for it!
Before, we would send out surveys in our quarterly printed magazine to see what kinds of things our readers would like to see from us. Now, with Twitter, I followed hashtags and keywords to talk to new people and get that information quickly.
Social media didn’t interrupt my workflow, but complemented it instead.
Work hard to break out of that corporate tone.
This was one of the two hardest things for me. I was so used to speaking on behalf of the foundation, and though that’s always going to be the case, I had to break free of the corporate tone.
The first thing we did was schedule personal stories from patients on our blog every Friday. These were the true faces of the cause, and when you tell a story that’s so personal and compelling, your formal tone disintegrates. Your voice becomes warm, friendly, and human. This transcended to everything else we published online.
I learned it was ok to be fun and interactive, to welcome people’s quirky posts because, after all, our foundation was about them, not us.
This was the second hardest thing for me and one I sometimes still struggle with. At times, I would stare at my computer monitor for 15 minutes thinking of how to respond to a funny comment on Facebook or how to structure a Tweet. It was agonizing, and felt like a complete waste of time. No wonder I didn’t have time for social media!
The solution to that is to just be you when you’re behind your nonprofit’s Facebook page. Respond how you’d normally respond to your friends (without being offensive, of course). I had a college professor who, when teaching us how to find our voice, said: “Write as you speak at your best.” Apply this to your organization’s social interactions.
And even though there are general social media best practices out there already, I remind myself that it’s an ongoing experiment, one that everyone is still trying to figure out. If you use Facebook or Twitter personally, you’re part of the experiment shaping the way social media works.
You’re in it, so take the helm that’s rightfully yours and steer!