10 Common Mistakes Made by Nonprofits on Social Media
Written for the June 2011 issue of Fundraising Success Magazine, where I am writing a quarterly column throughout 2011.
[tweetmeme] For the past six years I have spent 50 to 60 hours a week utilizing Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Foursquare to promote nonprofits. I’ve watched the early adopters of MySpace in 2005 propel themselves into the national and international spotlight using social media, and I’ve seen latecomers begin to dabble with Facebook and Twitter just this year. The range of nonprofits using social media and their subsequent levels of commitment vary widely — as do their expertise, implementation and, of course, return on investment.
That said, I have literally “liked,” “followed” and “friended” more than 100,000 nonprofits. The brutal but honest — and hopefully well-received — truth is that the majority of nonprofits are making mistakes on social-networking sites that directly undermine their ROI. It’s sad, really, that so many nonprofits are utilizing social media (with the best of intentions, of course) but not getting the proper training they need. If your nonprofit is making five or more of the 10 mistakes below, odds are that training and a re-examination of your social-media strategy are required.
1. Using a horizontal logo for your avatar
Your nonprofit’s avatar is your visual identity on social-networking sites, and with the exception of LinkedIn Groups, all social-networking sites require a square avatar. Unfortunately, many nonprofits upload horizontal logos to serve as their avatars, resulting in the obvious cropping of the images. Would your nonprofit ever put a cropped, completely wrecked logo in print materials or on its website? Absolutely not! Yet tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of nonprofits every day send messages to their communities on social-networking sites with completely wrecked logos. Craziness!
2. Posting more than one status update a day on Facebook
Everyone seemingly has a different and passionate opinion on this, but in my research and experience posting more than one status update a day on average on Facebook has a negative effect. People either start ignoring your updates because you’re always in their news feed, or they “hide” you altogether. I am a big believer that less is more on Facebook.
3. Not following on a 1:1 ratio on Twitter
If your nonprofit’s objective is to gain a lot of followers on Twitter, then you should follow on a 1:1 ratio. People are much more likely to follow you if they think you will follow them in return, and the more people you follow, the more your nonprofit’s avatar gets spread throughout the Twitterverse. Also, people can’t direct message you on Twitter if you don’t follow them. To many supporters and donors who are trying to direct message you, it’s a bit of a snub when they realize they can’t because you’re not following them in return.
If you don’t want to follow a lot of people on Twitter for fear that the volume of messages will become overwhelming, just organize those you do want to read regularly into Twitter Lists. There are so many benefits to following on a 1:1 ratio, and sadly less than 1 percent of nonprofits on Twitter do.
4. Not applying for YouTube’s Nonprofit Program
YouTube.com/nonprofits. Enough said.
5. Not creating Flickr slideshows to tell your nonprofit’s story
Quite often your nonprofit’s story can be much better told through images. On the Web where people are inundated all day long with lengthy text and messages, a visually compelling slideshow can be a welcome respite from information overload.
6. Not adding social-networking icons to your website
Your supporters and donors now expect your nonprofit at the very least to be on Facebook, and Twitter comes in a close second. If they visit your website and can’t easily find quick links to your social-networking communities, they become frustrated and some even will question your credibility. That said, get those icons on your homepage!
7. Ignoring LinkedIn ‘Company’ pages
LinkedIn recently surpassed 100 million users, and odds are your nonprofit has a Company Page on LinkedIn. Find it, claim it, set it up, and promote it!
8. Not claiming your ‘Places’ pages on Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla, etc.
If your nonprofit is location-based (zoos, museums, health clinics, food banks, etc.) and you haven’t yet claimed your Facebook Places Page, Foursquare Venue Page and/or Gowalla Spot Page, then your nonprofit is precariously and quickly falling behind. No doubt about it.
9. Posting only (boring) marketing content
Make a donation! Come to our annual gala! Sign our online petition! Make a donation! Like us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Oh yeah, PLEASE make a donation! Blah, blah, blah. Sorry, but it’s the truth. If all your nonprofit does on social-networking sites is marketing, then I guarantee no one is listening and your ROI is next to nil.
10. Not blogging
Blogging is the glue that holds your social-media strategy together. The social Web is driven by fresh content, and if your nonprofit doesn’t regularly publish new content to the Web, you’ll struggle with getting “shared” and “retweeted.” Nonprofits that don’t get shared or retweeted will not do well on the Social Web.
That said, publishing news articles to your website doesn’t have the same credibility or positive effect as blogging does because donors and supporters usually cannot comment or participate on those news stories — the content is static. Blogging is the original social media, and not blogging is one of the biggest mistakes a nonprofit can make today on the Social Web.
Finally, if strategically designed, your blog will grow your e-newsletter list and communities on social-networking sites faster than any other tool available today. Seriously. Blogging is the missing piece in most social-media campaigns.
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