Here is a great article that was originally posted on Mashable.com. It has some great tips but of course they only work if you use them. Facebook is a very powerful tool that when leveraged properly will have great returns. The issue is that to get there you do have to work.
You can friend me on Facebook here.
It’s important for any digitally-minded non-profit to be on Facebook because of the sheer number of active users. So, great — you set up a Facebook account for your organization. Now what?
Best practices are pretty variable when it comes to social media. This is especially true with Facebook, which switches up its appearance, services and features every few months. We did our best to put together some of the best approaches for non-profits, with some serious help from three social media mavericks at top causes.
Read on for some dos, don’ts, and a golden rule or two for how non-profits can better utilize Facebook.
How Facebook Can Help You
“We have to remember that Facebook was not made for non-profits,” says Danielle Brigida, the digital media marketing manager at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). “Unlike Twitter, it is very hard for an organization to foster any individual relationships on Facebook, and it is almost best used as a discussion tool or for broadcasting.”
This certainly doesn’t preclude the ability to have conversations with your audience. However, the format does change how and what your audience will respond to. A question about IT staffing on Facebook may result in crickets, but that question would perform well on LinkedIn, says Holly Ross, executive director of the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). “But if we ask our Facebook group what kind of music we should add to our hold lines, we’ll get twenty responses in an hour.” Ross sees NTEN’s Facebook community as a virtual water cooler — great engagement is about knowing what your community wants from your various social media profiles.
Golden Rules of Facebook for Non-Profits
“Ask open ended questions and use [Facebook] as a two-way street,” says Brooke McMillan, Livestrong‘s online community manager. “Always stoke conversation between you and the fan as well as fan-to-fan. We’ve seen some of the most supportive comments in the fan-to-fan relationship.” McMillan has helped build a vibrant online support community on Livestrong’s Facebook page, which has become a key component of Livestrong’s online identity. On the tech side, McMillan recommends posting at least once a day or as often as your organization has fresh content.
For Brigida (NWF), her golden rule is actually the age-old golden rule: “I engage with people how I want to be treated on Facebook,” Brigida said. “I don’t post things that will not engage our members … or overshare.” The NWF has specific audience pages — for photographers, teachers, gardeners and more — which Brigida targets from message to message. Understand that your community may be interested in different facets of your organization and tailor your posts to those niches.
Definitely Do Not Do These Things
Our experts honed in on two major non-profit no nos: lack of purpose and being too promotional.
“You have to have a reason to be on Facebook,” says Ross (NTEN). “Are you recruiting volunteers? Cultivating activists? Stewarding your donors? You won’t find any success in Facebook if you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish.” McMillan echoed this, urging non-profits to keep their site active and their audiences engaged.
The other unfortunate truth is that no one really likes press releases. You don’t like writing them or receiving them, and your fans will get turned off by boilerplate messages. That said, your fans do want updates and information about your success and new campaigns. Ross recommends writing a post specifically for Facebook rather than copy/pasting a release. Adds McMillan: “In the [non-profit] world we often have really great studies and scientific papers that we want to share, but the general public doesn’t necessarily want to read an abstract for a research study — snoozeville.”
Find a way to deliver this information in an engaging way and your Facebook fans will reward you by actuallyreading it.
Every non-profit will have a different way of running its social media strategy. A lot of that depends on the size of staff, the importance of social media to the organization and myriad other factors. We asked each of our experts for some tips on how they keep their sites up, running and wonderful.
National Wildlife Federation — Danielle Brigida
“I do several things to keep community engagement lively. I post one or two times a day … with content that either has interesting photos, a neat project or questions. I do not post asking for a donation directly, simply because that is very prevalent on our website and throughout our email communications. I will occasionally promote the cause, and every Friday I do a “Friend Friday” where NWF links to a smaller wildlife fan page that deserves attention. We also keep our members up to date on important information if there are wildlife issues on people’s mind.”
Non-Profit Technology Network — Holly Ross
For Ross, there are three main components:
“One: Don’t just talk about ourselves. We try really hard to highlight the good work that others are doing, not just us. We don’t have an official ratio we follow, but we try to live by that general rule. Two: Mix up the content. All text status updates over and over again are really boring. We try to mix it up with lots of pictures and as much video as we can manage. Three: Respond. We don’t reply to every comment, but we do try to get into the middle of comment threads to show that we’re listening.
“We talk about non-profits and technology (our mission), but we also talk about the puppies our staffers get and the latest Google April Fool’s joke. It’s our chance to build a more personal relationship with community members, and for community members to build relationships with each other. That’s essential when you are working with a community that rarely gets to see each other in person,” she says.
Livestrong — Brooke McMillan
“Make sure you use Facebook as a tool to start a two-way conversation, not just to throw up a post. Make it a safe environment where people can support each other. Don’t worry so much about people who post negatively against your group. Most of the time the community ‘takes care’ of haters. I hardly ever pull comments unless the individual continually attacks another fan even after I’ve warned him.”
Sometimes it’s just as important to take those Facebook conversations offline: “When someone posts that they have a friend in treatment, I offer to send the friend a care package and give our email address. Also, if someone posts they are having a hard time with a diagnosis or issues with bills or need support, I always post on their post about our services and do a ‘warm transfer’ to the service. I inform our support team that an individual may be calling about XYZ issue and then post on the person’s comment that our staff is waiting for his/her call. We’ve seen a huge increase in referrals from Facebook by doing this.”
Facebook can be a little tricky to navigate for non-profits. However, with a good set of best practices it’s possible to make it a successful part of your organization’s mission and outreach. Use the comments below to share your own experience and tips for non-profits on Facebook.
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