On another typically sunny Wednesday morning in LA, dedicated non-profit workers and volunteers slogged through the traffic jams that lead to Downtown and converged upon The California Endowment to learn about what to most of us is a quagmire: Social Media and optimizing its various channels.
Nonprofit Communications and Media Network (NCMN) hosted a very informative event with three expert panelists. Juntae DeLane (Founder, Digital Branding Institute; CEO, DIGITAL DELANE, LLC; Sr. Digital Brand Manager, University of Southern California) moderated the panel, which included Adriana Ruggiero (Journalist, Communications Specialist, Founder of PLURAL) and Monique Stennis (Social Media Manager, University of Redlands). The panel addressed the key questions that plague every social media manager and anyone whose organization needs a social media presence:
- How do we get started?
- Which channels should we be using?
- How do we engage our followers and grow our following?
- What tools are available to help us manage and optimize our channels?
- How does a social media manager bring in senior management and other team members to engage with the social media strategy?
One overarching theme that continued to resonate throughout the hour was the importance of identifying the channels that are used most by an organization’s target audience. All three panelists agreed that it isn’t necessary to try to hit every social network, and optimizing an organization’s outreach by focusing on a less-is-more approach will not only prevent burnout, but allow more time to be focused on areas where time-value is greatest.
Ms. Stennis imparted that the key to building a following and getting them engaged was to make it a relationship. This is not just a one-way news source, this is a place for organizations to interact with their followers and make them invest in the brand of the organization so that they keep coming back and staying engaged. Furthermore, it’s not only important to create content people want to interact with, but an organization must be available to respond to keep up its end of that interaction, which not only encourages followers to continue to engage, but also works the social media algorithms, particularly on Facebook, so that posts are seen as organic, which results in greater reach.
Building on this premise, Mr. DeLane presented the importance of organizations acting like humans rather than impersonal entities, and developing personalities for their brands. Followers want to bond with the pages they follow, they want to know what to expect, to feel something and be moved, not just passively gather information. As social media platforms change their algorithms to determine which posts are showing up in newsfeeds, they cater to what people seem to respond to most, and it turns out that that is live content. In other words: people want to get closer. They want to feel like they’re there with the poster as they interact with the post.
Ms. Ruggiero built on this by establishing these keys to successful content. Content must: (1) Be linked to Emotion, (2) Bring people together, (3) be moving; and/or (4) be controversial. There are many ways to do this, from generating live content to creating eye-catching graphics, telling stories to creating hashtags and using aggregated user-generated content (that is, content other people post about your organization or the topic you’re posting about) to build a larger story from the stories others have shared.
On the technical side, the panelists provided helpful insights towards programs and strategies such as Hootsuite and Buffer for managing multiple pages, setting up a calendar of posts and scheduling times to respond to comments, using larger posts such as blog entries to create multiple smaller social media posts, batching content to surround an event or topic, and the importance of linking video content back to YouTube, which is the second most influential social network after Facebook.
As a closing nugget of wisdom, Mr. DeLane urged all attendees to make use of any new feature a social network puts out, whether it be live videos, Facebook’s upcoming Facebook Watch network, or whatever the newest thing is. This not only is something new and engaging for followers, but the social platforms want pages to use these features and therefore boost the reach of those that do.
The expertise and strategies shared in this one hour are invaluable for the attendees. In this new age of media, when buying radio and television ads is no longer the only way, or even necessarily the best way, to tackle marketing and outreach, the world of social media is a mystery for many, but is essential for nonprofit organizations, who can use these free marketing and networking platforms to get the word out about their organizations to potential donors, volunteers, board members, and supporters. NCMN has provided another valuable program and all in attendance have an abundance of information to process and use to optimize and build their organizations’ social media presence.
This blog was guest written by Annie Bennett Wiebe, Communications Director of Bark Avenue Foundation (www.barkavenuefoundation.org), a 501(c)3 non-profit animal welfare and advocacy organization whose mission is to empower pet owners and local communities to prevent pet homelessness and neglect through spay/neuter, humane education, and assistance programs.