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No Such Thing as a Social Media Expert: 10 Tips for a New Frontier

The ways in which we communicate with our prospective and current supporters, as well as the general public, are changing... FAST. So how do nonprofits stay afloat (and on message) in the ever-evolving and unpredictable tidal wave of new communication technology called social media? We went directly to our source, Davin Green of Green Machine, Inc., for an expert's take on how to keep your head above water. 

Let me make a confession: I am not a social media expert. In fact, no one is. True experts spend tens of thousands of hours of trial and error perfecting a task, and 85% of professionals in social media have been in the field less than two years. The code has not been cracked—if it exists at all.

Why is social media communica­tion so difficult to perfect? Because it’s new, it’s fast, and it’s unpredictable. It follows the rules of the “free internet,” rules that are yet to be sorted out. But if you hit a sweet spot, social media can open up opportunities and revenue that you weren’t even aware of, much less taking advantage of.

So while I can’t give you “expert” advice on how to conquer Facebook, Twitter, or any other social platform, I can give you a few tips on finding the sweet spots that have worked for my clients, and myself.

It has nothing to do with you.

You must exist for your audience. They will not care about or put up with self-centered content unless it provides them entertainment or value. “We try really hard to highlight the good work that others are doing, not just us.” - Holly Ross, Nonprofit Technology Network

85% of professionals in social media have been in the field less than two years. The code has not been cracked—if it exists at all. 

One friend is worth a thousand “friends.”

Sometimes it can be tempting to buy followers or otherwise grab the easy ones (#fol­lowbacks). But what are you really collecting? Establishing a relationship with one person who talks to you and about you, who leaves honest feedback and shows genuine interest in the goals of your nonprofit, is a better use of your time than someone you engage solely to boost numbers.

Your followers are humans, so talk to them!

Just think about this: if you walked up to a stranger and said what you are about to Tweet, how would they react? How would a friend react? Speak like a person about things that matter to your audience.

Emotions get shared before facts and figures.

People are much more likely to share and talk about things that provoke an emotional reaction. Ask yourself how your audience will feel about a post, not necessarily what they will think about it.

Stop trying to monetize social media.

If you asked for a donation from every person you talked to, you would have a hard time making friends. However, when you have a great group of friends, they have no problem helping you succeed. “I do not post asking for a donation… 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.” – Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Federation

“Feels right” is as good a metric as any.

Just because you can measure everything about your social media accounts doesn’t mean you should. While it’s good to have goals, you should use your analytics to rein­force, verify, or disprove your gut feelings.

Don’t rely on just one person to run your Twitter, Facebook, and blog. Instead, assign one person to make sure those things get done. That person can do a lot of the actual “button clicking,” but your organization is the sum of its people. Make sure everyone gets a voice. {This also helps you accumulate fresh content.}

Waste time less wastefully.

We all “waste” time every once in a while browsing the internet. But you can make that time worth something: find a tool or app that lets you save the things you come across and like. That way, when you need something to talk about on your social networks, you have a collection of content to choose from. Feedly (feedly.com) is a great tool for orga­nizing the material you browse every day, and for sharing what you like!

Find good stuff by good people.

This is the most important tip for those just getting started. Make it a daily (or at least weekly) task to identify between one and 10 people who are creating great content relevant to your organization, then piggyback on them. Share their stories, and then ex­plain why you shared their stories. Let the authors know what you liked and why it helps your organization. Ask them for advice on growing your audience.

No “social media expert” knows more about your organization than you do. Trust your­self, trust those who are already making an impact on social media, and above all else, trust this last tip:

Do it now and don’t stop.


Davin Green is lead strat­egist at Green Machine, Inc., an Atlanta marketing firm specializing in online campaigns for nonprofits. Find him on Twitter @gmideas or at facebook.com/greenmachineinc.

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