Social media. It’s hard to escape those two words nowadays. Everywhere you go, someone is talking about social media. Whether it’s about the latest vacation photos your friend posted on their Facebook page, the newest YouTube hit or some celebrity’s nonstop Twitter habits, it is indeed everywhere.
As a nonprofit, of course, there is a lot of talk as to why social media is important for your organization and its mission. Many nonprofits, particularly smaller organizations, don’t know where to start and/or feel that embracing social media will cut into their work fulfilling their missions.
Leaving aside the question of where to start, which is whole topic onto itself, let’s focus on the worry that embracing social media means sacrificing your mission. I would like to argue that embracing social media actually means providing accountability that an organization is working to fulfill its mission. For most organizations, accountability means spending funds wisely to carry out your work, filing your taxes and sharing that information on Charity Navigator and/or with the Better Business Bureau. While this is certainly incredibly important, social media can serve to flesh out the picture that your financial information and the “About Us” section of your website paints about your effectiveness as an organization.
Social media gives nonprofits the opportunity to have a conversation about the work they are doing. Sure your organization provided 100,000 meals to homebound seniors during the last fiscal year but what did that really mean for any one of those seniors? What did helping the student who will be the first person in their family go to college feel like for the volunteer that mentored them through four years of high school? What was the scene like when your organization set up the first fresh water well for the rural village in some faraway land?
Number and statistics are important but they are easily forgotten. Let’s face it, most people respond to stories and a recent study by the Stanford University Center for Social Innovation proves this. Utilizing social media allows us to share stories of real people and real events through blogs, photos and videos. Best of all, most of us already have the tools at our disposal already and social media platforms, like YouTube and Twitter, are free!
Lest you think having this information on your website is enough, it isn’t. With more people using social media, it is in your organization’s best interest to be where the masses are. Your Facebook page is like your online billboard in one of the most heavily trafficked areas of the web. Your YouTube video is your commercial that people chose to watch instead of click through. Your Twitter posts are your radio ads on the station people turn to for the latest news and trends.
All it really requires to make social media work for your organization and its mission is a commitment of your time. And isn’t it worth making a little bit of extra time to fulfill your mission?