How Social Media (Almost) Became My Enemy

My organization recently participated in a city-wide day of giving. While “engagement” was up (we had more shares, likes, comments, rewets, and interaction than ever before), actual giving was down. After the event, loads of people emailed our CEO to tell him how “clever” or “adorable” our marketing materials were; but how effective was our marketing if it persuaded people to shoot an email rather than donate?

I’m a millennial. I use my iphone like I have an addiction, and during my tenure my nonprofit went from 300 facebook followers and no other social media engagement to more than 1,100 facebook followers, 2,500 twitter followers, a strong presence on LinkedIn and Instagram, and we even dabble in flickr and pinterest for fun (you know, when we’re not busy raising $1mm). I should be excited that people are embracing philanthropy and nonprofit engagement through these new outlets, but I’m not enthusiastic about it.

A strong part of me feels that “liking” is the new way of showing support. You can “like” something and you feel like you’ve done your part, shown your allegiance, and engaged with the organization. But you haven’t. “Liking” doesn’t do anything. I “like” vacations and moscato, but I’m still sitting here in my office with a latte.

Social Media has created a false sense of engagement.

I’m not saying by any stretch that I am going to stop the 10 facebook posts we have scheduled for the rest of the week, but I think that a lot of nonprofits need to rethink how we use these mediums. For me, I think of social media as an information board rather than a fundraising platform. Use it to promote your events, your programs, client anecdotes, photos, etc. Don’t expect it to bring in the big bucks.

Understand your Audience. Understand your medium.

People aren’t on social media because they want to donate. They’re on facebook because it lets them see photos from the girl who sat behind them in 10th grade English, they can stalk ex-boyfriends, and they can easily post sonogram images to 600 people at once rather than send hundreds of emails. They’re on facebook to play CandyCrush or Farmville or whatever the latest game is.

Use facebook to get them to your website. Then ask them to donate.

I think perhaps my biggest mistake was thinking that we could put a call to action on facebook and get something beyond a “like” or the occasional comment.

Make it conversational.

Our second big mistake from the event was to post, post, post. Had we encouraged people to upload photos or share their thoughts or comments we might have had better material.

Level your Expectations.

Marketing and fundraising are two different functions for a reason. They aren’t the same thing. There is still a need to promote the great work we do, but expecting it to work like an annual campaign is straight up foolish. Also, remember that facebook is a new concept for older generations, and getting people to fully embrace social will take time. 

A Very Qui Experience

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