Tip # 1 Claim Your Name

Secure your name or your organization’s name – even if you don’t plan to engage with the network right away.  Yes, there are thousands of social networks to join.  My recommendation is begin with the top networks first: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google +.

Tip #2 Complete Your Profiles Completely

Your profile is a virtual introduction. Make it authentic, descriptive and unique. And, please don’t be faceless egg. Include a photo or at least an avatar. You will receive more friends, follows and likes that way. The same is true for your organization’s profile. Include a visual element and an abbreviated mission statement with a link to the website or any social media sites in which your organization is active.

Tip # 3 Listen Before You Start

Every social network has its own unique dialogue.  By listening to the conversations first, you can learn the “language”.  Consider Twitter, tweets are 140 characters or less, can B full of #hashtags and include lots of abbrvs IMO.  Check out http://www.twittonary.com to begin learning.

Tip # 4 Old Etiquette Rules Apply

Social networking online is not so different from face-to-face communications.  Be a part of the conversation versus constantly talking about yourself, sending promotional or fundraising messages non-stop.

Tip # 5 Know Who You Are

Spend some time thinking about your voice, tone, unique point of view and what it is you want to put online.  How do you want your intended audience to perceive you or your organization? Do you want to be approachable, friendly, authoritative, or funny?

Tip # 6 Say Something Interesting

Closely related to tip #5, identify a few core topics or subjects to “talk” about.  Develop messages around your expertise, your mission, the people you serve….  What do you have to say that’s new, helpful, interesting, fun or – yes, interesting?

Tip # 7 Connect & Engage

Follow, “Like” and reach out to your audience in the various social platforms.  Share real messages that are thoughtful and relevant to your audience.  See tip #10.

Tip # 8 Build “Relationships”

Ask and answer questions, respond in as close to real-time as you can.  Acknowledge your social media followers and friends. Share stories.

Tip # 9 Organize

Use a social media management tool to listen, organize, and manage your communications.  A few free tools that are available include Hootsuite and Tweetdeck .

Tip # 10 GREAT Content

Social networks need content. Sharing links to what others produce is a good way to participate. However, creating unique content that speaks to your intended audience is even better! How do I define GREAT content?  Well, it depends on your audience.  Are you producing content that’s relevant to them? Does it solve a problem, share a resource, tell a story, motivate or inspire … make your followers and friends smarter, better, richer….

Realize this is a back to basics post.  Actually it’s from a webcast I presented last year, you can see the slides here. However, I think the core concepts are essential for new users to social media and good reminders for those who are currently engaged on various platforms.  What essential social media tips did I miss? Share in the comments. 

Patricia Tynan
Social Media & Community Manager
Sage Nonprofit