By Julie Fisher

“Donald Trump’s Dominatrix” was the glaring news headline in a recent tweet I read from a Jewish organization founded by a dear friend of mine. If this organization focused on politics or current events, that would be a fitting article to circulate, but my friend’s organization focuses on helping people engage in spiritual and educational learning and build meaningful communities. There was an obvious mismatch between the goals of her inspiring organization and the tweets that were going out in its name. To help organizations like hers succeed, I created this quick list of mistakes to avoid in order to improve social media outreach:

1. Using social media without a plan. Most small organizations jump into social media just to be a part of it, without any plan in mind. Before you begin your social media engagement, it is important to know what message you want to convey, which platforms you intend to use, and with what general frequency. Also, make sure it is very clear who has the responsibility for maintaining the social media platforms. It is often not clear exactly who inside the organization is in charge of this important task. When it is not clearly included in job descriptions and organizational flow charts, social media messaging can be inconsistent and ineffective.

2. Failing to align social media output and the organizations mission. Look at the mission and goals of your organization and see if they are in alignment with what types of posts are appearing on your social media platforms. If your organization focuses on spiritual matters, consider sticking to that genre as you continue to brand your organization.

3. Not reaching intended audience. Who is your intended audience? Some organizations have not considered this question before actively using social media. Are you looking to solidify current members of your group, encourage newcomers, diversify your outreach to potential community members? A clear sense of who you are trying to engage will help you clarify your approach. (NOTE: The audience may be different on different social media platforms.)

4. Using a onesizefitsall approach. To be effective in the realm of social media, it’s usually best to vary your approach. A healthy mix of video clips, articles both short and long, inspirational sayings, humorous offerings (when appropriate), quotes from members of the organization, information about your organization, statements in reaction to relevant current events, and more will help keep your audience growing and interested. A constant stream of any one type of post could become dull, repetitive, and may not be of interest to your audience.

5. Ignoring the research at your peril. We know a lot about social media and how it can be used most effectively to spread messages through telling a compelling story, strong branding, and consistent messaging. Let’s look at one topic: videos. Studies now clearly show that videos of 30 seconds or less are watched much more frequently than those of longer length. I recently watched a video of a new president of an educational institution that went on for well over 4 minutes. The president is a great person and will surely do a wonderful job, but the video introduction was ineffective. Research tells us that viewership declines steeply with longer videos, so err on the side of short and sweet and keep your messages concise and clear if you want people to watch them.

By avoiding these 5 common mistakes, your organization can use social media platforms more effectively, reaching a larger audience with a clear message.

Julie Fisher is an educational consultant and social media enthusiast, committed to using her skills to create and strengthen communities. She has served as the creator and administrator of many social media groups and has used her skills to help spread the message of the U.S. State Department in her service as a foreign service family member. She can be contacted at julierachelfisher@gmail.com

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