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Getting Started with Social Media: A Strategy Toolkit for Nonprofits 1 Social Media Is Powerful Welcome! For nonprofits of any size, the everchanging world of social media can provide powerful tools to
Getting Started with Social Media: A Strategy Toolkit for Nonprofits 1 Social Media Is Powerful Welcome! For nonprofits of any size, the everchanging world of social media can provide powerful tools to engage volunteers, advocates and donors, and to build program offerings and impact. The challenge is how to do social media right how to develop a strategy that is appropriate for an organization s audience, goals and resources. This toolkit is designed to help small nonprofits work through the process of developing a solid social media strategy. It is written for organizations considering new social media efforts, but it can also help guide reexaminations of existing efforts. It is meant to be a flexible framework and a jumping-off point. There are many different directions you can take. What s important is to engage in ongoing strategic thinking about your social media efforts. The toolkit was originally developed to supplement Tweeting for a better world, which grew out of an intensive capacity-building project to help a diverse group of smaller nonprofits develop thoughtful social media strategies. The first recommendation is to read this article, which lays out the steps and reasoning behind social media strategy for nonprofits. Each section of the toolkit also includes links to relevant worksheets on strategy, benchmarking, evaluation and more ready for customization and collaboration. In 2015, we updated and expanded the toolkit s content. We revisited the social media efforts of one of the original six organizations, Educators 4 Excellence, and also sought advice and perspectives from three other nonprofits that have successfully engaged diverse stakeholders through social media: Code for America, DataKind and Public Lab. Like these organizations, we hope a strategic approach to social media brings you new opportunities for learning, engagement and impact. Elizabeth Good Christopherson President and Chief Executive Officer Rita Allen Foundation Contents 1. Choose appropriate social media goals and connect them to organizational goals 2. Define and understand your community Bringing a movement of teachers online Craft your story Sharing the stories behind the data Plan for engagement 10 A lively network of citizen scientists Create a content strategy 12 Code, video and inspiration 6. Determine what to measure Allocate resources to get the job done 8. Experiment, monitor and modify Worksheets Additional Resources Back to Contents Overview This toolkit will help you build a social media strategy that connects to your organization s real-world goals. The first template provides an overview of some of the questions the toolkit addresses think about these questions as you go, and revisit them at the end. Social media is ripe with diverse approaches and experimentation. The second template asks you to identify and investigate social media programs you wish to learn from on an ongoing basis including the social media of leaders in your field, organizations with similar goals, and organizations whose approaches you admire. Key Strategy Questions Benchmarked Social Media Practices!4 1 Choose Appropriate Social Media Goals and Connect Them to Organizational Goals Effective social media strategy flows from core organizational goals. Being clear about your audiences, activities, and intended short-and long-term outcomes will help you identify opportunities to use social media in your work. The templates in this section ask you to revisit these goals, considering your intended impact (what you re trying to accomplish) and theory of change (how you make it happen). In addition to targeting organizational goals, your efforts should play to social media s strength: encouraging authentic interaction through conversation with your audience. The final template in this section asks you to think about which gaps in your effectiveness social media can best serve. Intended Impact/Theory of Change Part I Intended Impact/Theory of Change Part II Matching Goals with Social Media!5 2 Define and Understand Your Community The next step is defining target communities for your specific engagement goals. Are you trying to reach your entire set of stakeholders (volunteers, donors, program participants, etc.) or a subset of these? What kinds of actions do you hope they will take? Also consider what these communities want. What are their social media habits? What will they gain from your social media? The templates below will help you create surveys and interviews to find out how your target communities would like to interact with you via social media. When you take the time to craft audience personas representations of your ideal supporters based on a combination of the demographics and other detailed information about specific members of your target audience you will assure that you are attracting and building your tribe. In addition, continue to spend time on social media yourself, paying particular attention to your benchmark organizations. Most of all, listen. How can your social media go beyond one-way communication to accomplish your goals and those of your communities? Survey Questions Interview Questions Photo Credit: Educators 4 Excellence Audience Personas This popular Facebook post features a video celebrating five years of teacher advocacy by Educators 4 Excellence and includes the voices of E4E s leadership and members throughout the United States.!6 Bringing a Movement of Teachers Online Case Study Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) is a national, teacher-led network that seeks to elevate the teaching profession and foster student achievement by helping classroom teachers learn about and take action on policies that affect their work. E4E was one of six nonprofits to participate in the Rita Allen Foundation s 2011 capacitybuilding workshop on developing strategic social media efforts. Since then, E4E has achieved excellent growth in its membership and influence, progressing from a small group of New York City teachers to a network of more than 17,000 members, with five chapters operating in different regions of the United States. Following the workshop, we approached our organization s initial work with a greater sense of how to leverage social media as a tool for connecting teachers to one another, to policymakers and to the media, says E4E s cofounder and co-ceo Sydney Morris. As a result, we ve grown from 2,500 followers on Twitter to more than 17,000 and from 400 Facebook followers to more than 5,000. Teachers and even job applicants have shared positive feedback about the news and content we share on social media. Social media offers valuable tools for connecting E4E s community of teachers, who may otherwise feel isolated in far-flung classrooms. However, social media plays a somewhat different role for E4E than first anticipated. E4E hosts events to allow educators to learn from one another and discuss the issues that affect their classrooms. At first, social media seemed like a natural venue for extending these conversations beyond the events. But the E4E community found online platforms too public for frank conversations. E4E listened and refocused its social media approach to building event attendance and keeping members interested and involved between events. Read more in Tweeting for a Better World. Digital Manager Justin Lam helps the organization maintain an active presence on both Twitter and Facebook, with the primary goal of engaging current and potential E4E members. Lam selects blog posts and policy recommendations written by E4E teachers, as well as news articles and other content, to help inform teachers about key policy issues. E4E is continuing to experiment with ways to make communication a bridge to advocacy and action. Action-oriented posts have included voter guides on local school board elections, graphics distilling complex policy ideas, and petitions to the New York City mayor s office to support the district-wide development of positive school climates. At the end of the day, it shouldn t be about us being on social media for the sake of social media, Lam says. It should be about being on social media in order to amplify the voices of teachers who want to be leaders in improving education for their school communities and students. At the end of the day, it shouldn t be about us being on social media for the sake of social media. It should be about being on social media in order to amplify the voices of teachers who want to be leaders in improving education for their school communities and students. - Justin Lam, Digital Manager, Educators 4 Excellence!7 Back to Contents 3 Craft Your Story One of the most powerful ways to connect with your community is through the power of story. Who are the people you are helping? How are you making a difference? By crystallizing your stories and inviting your network to share theirs you can encourage personal connections that lead to impact. Use the template in this section to gather your organization's and community's stories. Research shows that most people become overwhelmed by issues such as world hunger or childhood poverty. They are simply too big or too far off for us to care about. When we focus on one individual s story, we can humanize the purpose of our cause, engage our audience s empathy and motivate them to get involved. By focusing your community s attention on one child, that you can engage people to care and act. Think beyond text: social media is an excellent platform for visual stories told through videos, photos or infographics. Show others how you are changing the world. Can you present before and after photos or videos that tell a compelling story? See Additional Resources for tools for collecting and presenting stories. Also consider opportunities for your leadership and staff members to share their stories and expertise as part of a social media approach that extends beyond your organization s official accounts. By building each individual s influence, you build the influence of the entire group. Photo Credit: DATAKIND Gathering Stories Top Three Most Popular Channels for Nonprofit Storytelling Social Media Newsletters Website 72% 68% 67% Source: The State of Storytelling in the Nonprofit Sector!8 Sharing the Stories behind the Data Case Study DataKind harnesses the power of data science in the service of humanity by bringing together teams of data science volunteers and social change organizations on projects that address tough humanitarian challenges, from homelessness and human rights to traffic and fire safety. Across the world, more than 10,000 individuals data scientists eager to volunteer their skills, social change makers eager to use data to advance their work, and supporters eager to keep the momentum going have signed up to get involved with us, explains DataKind Communications Specialist Miriam Young. With about 500 new people following us on Twitter every month, social media has been an important tool not only for strengthening our community, but growing it and engaging even more in the Data for Good movement. The primary goal of DataKind s social media efforts is to nurture and connect its global community of volunteers and potential volunteers. We are humbled by the thousands of people worldwide who have reached out to us wanting to use their skills to give back, Young says. Unfortunately, we don t have enough individual volunteer opportunities for everyone. But through Twitter, we engage people in other ways, providing them with interesting learning resources, connecting them to each other and spreading the word about volunteer opportunities from our peers. Twitter is an important channel for highlighting DataKind s blog posts particularly its Get Involved monthly roundups of volunteer opportunities, which include projects and events sponsored by DataKind and by other groups just one example of new content that DataKind created in response to feedback from its community. Young uses Bitly to track how many people click on social media links to blog posts, and also keeps tabs on the number of shares each post receives. Reporting on these metrics on a monthly basis has helped the DataKind team to evaluate which types of content resonate most through its network and are most effective at raising the organization s profile. Often, the most shared posts help connect people with ways to help, or illustrate novel ways of applying data science solutions to social challenges. One notably popular blog post, Mapping Youth Well-being Worldwide With Open Data, described how volunteers from DataKind s Chapter in Washington, D.C., developed a visualization tool that was repurposed by a DataKind U.K.-based team and later by a Code for America group in Kentucky. With very little promotion, more than 200 individuals shared this story after we featured it in our monthly newsletter, Young says. My theory is that our community is interested in stories about the community in action how individual efforts are building and connecting to have greater impact. This piece illustrated the power of open data, open code and a global community collaborating. A widely shared DataKind blog post tells the story of a data visualization project that went viral, spreading from a DataKind Washington, D.C., team to other groups worldwide tackling child poverty.!9 4 Plan for Engagement Social media offers nonprofits opportunities to engage with their constituents, donors and volunteers as well as other organizations with similar goals. Think of your social media platforms as a place for multidirectional dialogue rather than one-way broadcasts. Identify places where you can have a conversation one-on-one or in smaller groups. Be social! To spur engagement, consider hosting a live Facebook Q&A or Twitter chat, creating a contest, posting a survey or crowdsourcing ideas for your next program or event. Invite members of your community to guest blog or podcast an interview with a board member. Publicly thank volunteers; amplify the expertise within your community. The more you showcase their ideas, the more tied they will be to the efforts you have underway. It is also important to monitor conversations on social media channels. People are talking about you, your organization, your programs and the causes that you care about. How and when will you jump in? Use the templates in this section to think through how you can use social media for engagement and to develop a policy for responding to complaints or misinformation about your organization online. Engagement Strategies Online Policies and Procedures Photo Credit: Jeff Warren (CC BY-SA)!10 A Lively Network of Citizen Scientists Case Study The Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (Public Lab) develops opensource hardware and software tools and creates methods that allow citizen scientists to collect environmental data to add to or counter what s made available by government and industry. Using do-it-yourself measurement tools, residents are able to make informed decisions about local environmental risks. Just as Public Lab opens up the scientific process as a tool for people to positively influence their communities, the organization looks for ways that social media can provide value to its network as part of an integrated user experience of engagement, says Executive Director Shannon Dosemagen. Public Lab s Facebook and Twitter accounts are proving to be powerful tools for expanding its community and spreading resources, especially as people increasingly turn to social media feeds as their primary sources of news and information. The organization s website is itself an interactive wiki and publishing platform an open forum for community members to post stories, data and step-by-step instructions. The language of social media is built into Public Lab s pages as something people are familiar with: visitors can Follow, Like and comment on individual posts. for instance, a chapter in Spain supplemented its mailing list with a Twitter account to better serve its community. A Web Working Group, a team of five staff members and community organizers, compiles monthly reports on the growth of mailing list subscribers, usercontributed research notes and wiki pages. Ultimately, Dosemagen says, each of Public Lab s portals for online interaction needs to pass a key test: Is it leading to a more meaningful experience? You can tweet all you want, you can post Facebook content, but if it s not creating a stronger engagement in the lifecycle of data, what s the point? Understanding the ins and outs of engagement is not simple. Public Lab is partnering with science and environmental education specialists at the University of California, Davis School of Education, to more comprehensively assess the roles of social media and communications in deepening the engagement of citizen scientists. This research, which is supported by the Rita Allen Foundation, is intended to create a framework that can be used by other organizations. Public Lab s presence on social media evolves with its community. Messages that generate high numbers of shares and likes help shape posts going forward. Videos tend to be highly effective for reaching new audiences and sharing stories and how-to instructions. And new networks are branching off organically Ultimately, each of Public Lab s portals for online interaction needs to pass a key test: Is it leading to a more meaningful experience? You can tweet all you want, you can post Facebook content, but if it s not creating a stronger engagement in the lifecycle of data, what s the point? - Shannon Dosemagen, Executive Director, Public Lab!11 Back to Contents 5 Create a Content Strategy Social-sector organizations often find themselves pursuing important efforts with limited resources. Consider strategies for using social media efficiently, including repurposing your content when possible. Once you have written a blog post or newsletter, how can you highlight key ideas on your social media platforms to cultivate conversation, build and extend community, and harness the energy and passion around your nonprofit s mission? After a key presentation at an annual event or local conference, how might you highlight major points in a blog post or share the slides from your talk? How can you repurpose relevant images and infographics across your social media platforms? Use the template in this section to plan a quarterly calendar of your social media content. Consistency is more important than quantity of posts. Strive for a set schedule so people begin to look forward to your updates every Tuesday, for example. Once you ve created your strategy, it pays to revisit it often. Social media moves quickly and so does your audience. Regularly check in to be sure you re active on the platforms that matter to your community. Social Media Calendar This tweeted quote by Code for America Founder and Executive Director Jennifer Pahlka continued to generate engagement well beyond the organization s annual Summit.!12 Code, Video and Inspiration Case Study Code for America believes government can work for the people, by the people, in the 21st century, if we all lend a hand. In collaboration with communities, government staff and technologists, Code for America builds and encourages digital products and services that make government simpler, more effective and easier to use. Code for America uses social media to keep in touch with its broad network of government partners, current and former fellows, and local Brigade volunteers from around the world (more than 40,000 volunteers at last count). The Marketing and Communications team focuses the bulk of its efforts on Twitter, but also maintains a presence on YouTube, Facebook and Github. Code for America s strategy is to elevate the voices of its network and be a good partner by sharing information and inspiration that speak to its audience. The people who are connected to our netw
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