The latest statistics on the growth of social media are noteworthy:

  • Facebook now has over one Billion users.
  • 543 Million of them access Facebook using mobile devices.
  • As of June, 2012, Twitter has 500 million followers.
  • Linked-In has over 100 million members in more than 200 countries.
  • People watch over 2 billion videos a day on YouTube.

 The nonprofit sector has also benefited from the growth of social media. A recent survey of nonprofits reported Facebook and Twitter communities grew 30 percent and 81 percent respectively, among the 3,500 respondent organizations.  Respondents accumulated an average of 8,317 members on Facebook, and 3,290 followers on Twitter. Nobody can have too many friends.

 In today’s technological world, change rapidly begets more change, which means in the next six months these growth statistics will look different. So how might nonprofits keep pace with social media? And what is its impact?

 The “New Normal” of Social Media

Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter, authors of the book Humanize, explain: “It’s not the ‘media’ that is important – it’s the ‘social’”. Individuals want “power to be closer to us and trust to be present in our relationships.” Social media provides individuals with a voice and consequently, we’ve seen online content explode. With so much content, there’s fierce competition to be heard and to retain followers.

 Social media has created radical shifts in marketing, the exchange of information between consumer/donor and the product/nonprofit. Nonprofits are not in control of the conversation. Further, individuals filter their “news” through friends and networks. No wonder newspapers are losing readers.

 Julien Smith and Chris Brogan, authors of Trust Agents suggest the key to success is to “be who you really are, connect with a community, learn how to take what you know and can do and make THAT serve you, connect people to each other, practice the art of being human, and band together to make your goals happen.” Let’s unpack that into some practical suggestions:

 Six Ways Your Nonprofit Should Participate in Social Media Now!

  1. First and foremost…Listen First! What are your constituents posting about?
  2. Then, Go To Them. Just having a social media presence doesn’t mean that you’ll have participation. Potential supporters are not looking for you! If you provide relevant and engaging content, you’ll have a better chance of attracting followers.
  3. Remember, Friends Share with Friends. Similar to fundraising, the referral will always remain central to increasing participation. Create crowdsourcing campaigns for garnering suggestions, raising money, and uncovering resources. Do you have a peer-to-peer platform? Develop a pipeline of supporters who will no longer remain anonymous or hard to reach.
  4. Identify Goals and Strategy for use of social media and, use your Social CRM metrics, to evaluate results and mine for new donors. For example, Avectra’s Social CRM integrates social media metrics with other donor data and paints a more complete picture of your constituents. Procuring a “like”, is only as good as, understanding who gave it!
  5. Stay Relevant, Newsy and Timely. According to the New York Times article, “Finding Political News Online, the Young Pass it On”, the younger generation feels that “if the news is that important, it will find me.” If your social media material is engaging, people will re-post, re-tweet, and e-mail links, thus spreading your nonprofit’s story.
  6. Mind Your Manners. Social media is about engaging in a conversation, not about the “Ask”. Take advantage of these platforms to recognize supporters, post photos or videos, and connect on a more emotional level.

Technology is rapidly evolving. The authors of Humanize define the constant change in social media more poignantly: “the system grows, multiplies, divides and expands organically…the revolution is alive.”

We’re all participants in the social media revolution, planning for outcomes we have yet to even imagine!

 Amy S. Quinn is a published author and freelance writer focused on innovation in the nonprofit sector.