Magical Giving Fairies

On October 14th, I had the privilege of attending the Social Media for Nonprofits conference held in Redmond, Washington. I had a wonderful time connecting with my colleagues in the nonprofit sector and communications fields, and learned some great tips for building strategies for successful nonprofit social media campaigns.

Here are some of the best jewels of the conference:

  • “Facebook is not filled with magical giving fairies.” As much as we would love the different social media tools to be filled with magic, they, alas, are not. Success comes from hard work and effective strategy, not just being there.
  • Create social media plans and strategies that are S.M.A.R.T. That stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Don’t just join a new program or platform, because you heard that everyone else is there. By creating a S.M.A.R.T goal for each campaign, you will be sure that your staff and volunteer time is not wasted, and that you get good results for your investment.
  • Nonprofits can effectively use videos to spread their message, and they don’t necessarily have to invest large sums in equipment. With our smartphones, many of us now carry around effective video cameras in our pocket. Many nonprofits have shot web videos to share information about their missions and programs on these such devices. However, while you can get away with shooting video on low-end devices, it’s worth it to carry an external microphone to make sure that your audio is high-quality. You can get away with low-quality video, but if your audio is bad, the whole piece becomes worthless.
  • Don’t forget about your youngest supporters. Most nonprofits go after established adults for their programs, but children, tweens, and teens can be effective fundraisers themselves. Younger generations are empowered by technology and social media, and can spread messages, raise funds, and achieve social good on their own. Many nonprofits have spread messages of health and social good directly to these younger audiences via social media and games.

Beyond those tidbits though, I think that the best lesson of the conference was to remember that social media is about the “social” much more than the technology or any particular social media platform. Many nonprofits just go and get on Twitter or Facebook because everyone else is – they don’t always go in with a strategy and a plan for how they will use these tools. Their pages quickly go quiet, and these nonprofits often blame Twitter and Facebook for their campaigns going nowhere. You need to invest time and personnel to make sure that there is someone there to not just share information but lead conversations.

It’s also very important for nonprofits to have appropriate goals for their social media adventures. This point made me instantly think of a job listing that I recently encountered which was looking for a part-time staffer to take them from 50 Facebook fans to 100,000 in six months, and they had no mention of what they wanted to do with all of those new fans. A point made repeatedly that day in Redmond was that no one cares how many fans you have on Facebook or how many followers you have on Twitter. It doesn’t matter how many you have, but what they’re doing. If you have 100,000 fans who hide you from your stream, or never log in, you have wasted your efforts as opposed to another nonprofit who may only have 50 fans, but who are all actively engaged in conversations and off-line activities.

I am looking forward to continuing to connect with the great minds that I met at the conference and to using the information that I gathered to help other nonprofits better work towards their mission.

I do recognize that I am a bit late on posting this article here, but I had a road-trip vacation scheduled immediately after the conference. I invite you to join me on Google+ to see my pictures and engage in conversation.