5 Ways to Hit your Social Media Stride

Philanthropy411 is currently covering the Communications Network Fall 2013 Annual Conference conference with the help of a blog team.  This is a guest post by  Elizabeth R. Miller, Communications Associate at the Knight Foundation.  Follow Elizabeth on Twitter – @elzbthmllr.

Eliz_Miller1What keeps foundations and nonprofits from hitting their stride on social media? It’s actually a variety of factors, according to a session at this week’s Communications Network conference in New Orleans.

For example, it might be an organization’s cultural aversion to experimentation. Or it might be a lack of staff expertise to carry out a successful social media strategy. A lack of buy-in from senior staff and leadership was a much-cited problem. In some cases, it could be an outdated social media policy that discourages individuals to tweet content relative to their jobs.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Jason Howie

Photo courtesy Flickr user Jason Howie

After identifying some of the barriers, breakout groups got to work brainstorming how to overcome the more common stumbling blocks.

Below are five tips that surfaced during the afternoon:

  1. Content is king. Focus on it: A social media strategy shouldn’t be any different than the rest of an organization’s communications strategy. You can’t be good on social media unless you have good content to share. It can come from lots of places: your staff, your grantees or even a peer foundation.
  2. Involve program staff, early and often: Show them the benefits of being active on a social network and be willing to meet them where they are. Be patient and help them look for ways to contribute original content to share.  An e-mail they wrote to their boss, or a grant write-up they recently wrote could easily be turned into blog posts that can be shared across many social media platforms. If they’re strapped for time ask if they’re willing to do a five minute sit-down with you that you can then upload as a podcast or set to photos of a relevant project.
  3. Identify your audience and where they’re active: Find out where the people are you want to reach and know what you want to say to them. Don’t feel pressured to focus on one social media tool versus another just because someone else does. Try not to get caught up in the “next big thing.” If you know your network isn’t active on Pinterest, don’t create an account that’s going to languish.
  4. Make the best of limited resources: If you are strapped for time (and who isn’t), smart small and plan to scale up later after you know what’s working. It’s better to do one or two things well than to spread yourself too thin.
  5. Use metrics: Keep track of what’s working in your social media efforts to help you determine what to do more. Or less of. Share it with staff since it can be a good way to get more buy-in from people who may be on the fence about being more social. Sometimes it can be as simple as showing a program person who tweeted their blog post, or that a blog post they wrote was the second highest viewed piece of content on your website this week.

While breakout groups spent time tackling these issues and others, they certainlyaren’t topics that could be covered in an afternoon. To that end, we hope conversation was only the beginning of a richer and ongoing conversation.

As a group we will continue our monthly check-in chats to dive deeper into some of these topics. We’ll also continue our “social media collective” listserve for people to ask questions and others to offer insight (get in touch with us if you want to sign-up).

It is our hope that as a group we can share lessons in what’s working in social media and brainstorm ways to combat what’s not throughout the year. If you want to join us, please get in touch with any of us from the panel. You can find me on Twitter at @elzbthmllr or via e-mail at miller(at)knightfoundation.org.

We look forward to continuing the conversation beyond New Orleans!

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