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The Most Common (Yet Completely Obvious) Mistake Made by Nonprofits on Social Media

February 17, 2011

[tweetmeme] Nonprofits have been utilizing social media for five years now (beginning with Myspace and YouTube in 2006), and while most at this point have invested the time and resources into designing a solid, visually distinct, social media-compatible avatar, many nonprofits still make the very common (yet completely obvious) mistake of using a cropped logo as their avatar in their social media campaigns.

Would you ever put a cropped logo on your website or in your e-newsletter? Or sign off on a proof for a print newsletter or funding appeal where your logo was cropped or shrunk so small it was made completely unreadable? No. Of course not! Yet everyday on Twitter and (especially) Facebook nonprofits are sending out hundreds of thousands of Tweets and Status Updates with completely wrecked avatars.

Twitter :: Needs Improvement

Twitter :: Examples of Excellence

Facebook :: Needs Improvement

Facebook :: Example of Excellence

I could understand making this mistake a year or two ago when everyone was still experimenting, but at this point its clear that social media is not a fad. It has forever changed how nonprofits communicate and connect with their supporters and donors online. The visual appeal of your social media avatar is very important to the success of building your online brand. In many cases, supporters will recognize your avatar on social media sites long before their brains even begin to register the name of your nonprofit. Please do not underestimate the power – or lack thereof – of your nonprofit’s avatar.

That said, it’s time for some nonprofits to ramp it up a notch or two. Call your designer and get a square version of your logo designed (350 pixels by 350 pixels). In some cases all your designer will need to do is increase the canvas size of your logo to create an avatar, or simply crop out a graphic within your logo that can be used as your avatar. Either way, that takes less than 10 minutes. Your nonprofit needs a square avatar for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, your blog, Foursquare, Gowalla, TwitPic, etc. and likely many more sites in the future. The sooner you start using an square avatar, the better.

Finally, if you are using a photo for your avatar, then you should have a “Twibbon” of your avatar on the photo. If you rotate photos often, always include the Twibbon. Otherwise, you are fragmenting your brand recognition online with each rotation of your avatar. There is a very good reason why the most successful nonprofits on social media rarely, if ever, change their avatars. 🙂

Related Links:
Social Media and Mobile Technology Webinars for Nonprofits

20 Comments leave one →
  1. marriageworksohio permalink
    February 17, 2011 6:36 am

    I just want to thank you for forever scarring me. I never noticed this before, now it bugs the heck out of me every time I see it. I also noticed that there is a good number of businesses that make this mistake. Terrible. Marriage Works! Ohio is on top of it!!

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      February 17, 2011 6:39 am

      Thanks. Yeah… if it makes nonprofits feel any better, businesses are actually much worse about it. 🙂

  2. February 17, 2011 7:13 am

    I’m a little confused – I made a square canvas for our logo, resized it to 350×350, and uploaded it to facebook. Still, it gets cut off… any suggestions? It’s seems facebook auto zooms on the logo slightly to cut it off.

    Thanks new favorite blog!

    • nonprofitorgs permalink
      February 17, 2011 7:16 am

      Looks like you have increased the image size, but not the canvas size. Increase the heights to center your logo. It doesn’t matter what it looks like on the home your page… most people just see your logo in the feed… see Greenpeace USA:

      • February 17, 2011 9:06 am

        Awesome, thanks a ton guys. I had to use our horizontal logo because our vertical kept getting cut off, but I’m happy with the result for now! Virtual high five!

  3. February 17, 2011 7:18 am

    I was under the impression that nonprofits might be taking full advantage of Twitter, Facebook, etc. I have seen lots of them very active too on social media. But I have never noticed anything about how they use their logos. However, thanks a lot for highlighting the improper usage of their avatars.

  4. February 17, 2011 10:09 am

    Great insight! Post more articles on this topic, I work for a consulting firm that helps environmental non-profits get their act together and this kind of advice is top notch. Thanks so much!

  5. February 18, 2011 3:44 pm

    Thanks for that – any other tips deeply appreciated.

  6. February 18, 2011 11:13 pm

    very well said! Critical message!

  7. marriageworksohio permalink
    February 21, 2011 6:24 am

    Here is a link to a presentation that has most of the dimensions for the major social media sites. This was extremely useful for us getting our branding down and making the most of our profile pics and backgrounds:

  8. February 21, 2011 8:27 am

    Moving to 350×350 allowed my org. to see how clean the logo is all on its own. Can’t make this mistake in 2011…Sacre Bleu!

  9. February 21, 2011 5:36 pm

    Thank you! As a not for profit for life person, i really appreciate the specific examples of how to tweet and post better. Will incorporate into my own NFP work!


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