You’re on social media—maybe Facebook, Twitter or your organization’s blog—and you’re having some success, but you know there’s room for improvement. Before you start strategizing big plans for what you might do with the tools, take a little time to consider what you’re already doing with it, and whether you’re making common mistakes that are needlessly hindering your progress. Here are 10 such mistakes you can turn around with a little effort for quick, improved results.
1. Not telling people you’re on social media.
If you build it, they will come—possibly true of a baseball field in an Iowa corn field, but definitely not true of a social media presence. Take every opportunity to let people know. Include your Twitter handle and links to your Facebook page on your website and in the signature on your email, link to them in your newsletters and other communications, and publicize them at events. Use Twitter and Facebook as opportunities to comment on other peoples’ posts, as well, which is a good way to establish a presence in the community.
2. Not integrating social media with your communications mix.
Your organization’s communications efforts may include broadcast emails, direct mail, maybe newsletters or some other outreach—these should not occur in a vacuum independently of your social media efforts. Consider them all part of the same overall strategy and make sure they tie together well.
3. Not integrating social media with your website to get people to take action.
You’ve got a website with contact info and other useful resources for constituents, maybe photos, staff bios, program descriptions, or donate buttons for fundraising. Why not link to it from your social media posts? Once you’ve engaged people, send them to your website to mobilize them to give, volunteer, or otherwise represent you and your cause.
4. You’re not thinking about the channel you’re using.
Each social media channel is a little different, with different rules, etiquette and protocol. It’s important to recognize and abide by these rules. Twitter posts should be succinct, but you can post a half-dozen times a day or more. It’s a two-way conversation, and that means interacting with others, sharing links and resources, and giving credit where credit is due. Facebook, on the other hand, gives you a chance to stretch your legs with longer posts, better photo galleries and other ways to engage followers, but followers expect far fewer status updates—no more than two a day—and may find too many overwhelming. Don’t confuse the two channels, and don’t spam people by sending the same message on every tool without changing it to fit the medium.
5. Posting inconsistently.
Posting too much or too little is not the only mistake you can make. You can also post unpredictably or inconsistently. Instead of waking up and posting six items first thing in the morning and nothing else the rest of the day, spread them out. It’s better to post twice a week over three weeks than six times the first week and then disappearing. People need to be reminded that you’re there.
6. It’s all about you—and you’re not very interesting.
Sure, you’re an organization, but organizations are groups of people, right? And let’s face it, people find other people more interesting than organizations. For starters, don’t be afraid to show a little personality. Don’t send out blanket news feeds or public relations material. Put up photos and multimedia that can add depth and texture to your presence. Don’t just promote your organization without providing other value. And don’t ask too much, or too often. If you want to reach humans with your posts, you need to post as a human.
7. Making it “antisocial” media.
Remember that it’s a two-way conversation. Holding up your end of that conversation is critical if you want to attract, engage and maintain a following. Take advantage of what each channel has to offer. Link to other people’s resources, and make sure you give credit to the people or organizations that provided them. Comment on other people’s posts, and reply when they comment on yours. Answer any questions people ask. Fail to do any of this and you’re overlooking 50 percent of what the tool has to offer.
8. Posts are disconnected from your mission.
Social media is about outreach, but it’s an extension of your organization—at least, it should be. What you’re posting should be connected with your “brand,” or mission. Stay on topic. Your mission is what attracted people to your organization on social media in the first place, and it’s what they’re interested in.
9. Not respecting people’s privacy.
This should be common sense, but the truth is, the Internet makes it easy to cross lines when it comes to people’s privacy. Don’t post photos of people or tag people in photos without their permission. This is especially true of children—get permission from their parents. Remember, too, that privacy doesn’t apply just to photos. Before you post anything that mentions other people, think about what you’re saying from their perspective.
10. Continuing to do things that aren’t working.
You should have some way to know whether what you’re doing is working or not—in other words, you should be measuring your social media efforts. You need to have specific goals for your social media and a way of measuring to know whether you’re meeting them or not. If you don’t adapt your efforts based on what you’re learning, you’re doomed to repeat your mistakes.
Rules are meant to be broken. Social media has rules, both formal and informal, and following them can help you make the most of these sites and all they have to offer your organization. Remember, though, that it’s OK to break rules from time to time—as long as you have a compelling reason to do so. Use common sense. Think about the practices that annoy you when other people or organizations do them, and think about those that you like. Find a way to make the ones that resonate work for you. You’re bound to make a few missteps—everyone does—but with a little consideration and thought, you can learn from them and improve your organization’s message.
This article originally ran in the March 15, 2012 edition of The NonProfit Times.