Seven Social-Media Pitfalls for Nonprofits

by Hannah Brazee Gregory

Nonprofits are flocking to social media as a way to communicate with stakeholders.

While that effort to engage donors and supports is laudable, it’s also fraught with challenges.

Be aware of these seven pitfalls when venturing out into the world of social media.

1. Setting up your nonprofit’s Facebook account as a person instead of a page.

This is of the most common mistakes made by nonprofits when they first begin using Facebook. Some do it on purpose for a variety of well-meaning reasons, while others simply don’t know any better.

A nonprofit should always create a page and categorize it properly as a nonprofit organization.

Ideally, nonprofits want to have thousands of supporters on Facebook, and personal accounts allow a maximum of 5,000 friends.

2. Not fully thinking through the name for your Facebook page.

Branding is always important, so of course it is important on your Facebook page.

At a basic level, there are two primary branding components on a Facebook page: Your organization’s name and your profile image.

While this seems simple, remember that once the Facebook page you created for your nonprofit has 100 fans, you can no longer change the page name (your image, on the other hand, can be changed as many times as you desire).

This Facebook rule has become a frustrating annoyance for many nonprofits, particularly if there have been mergers or name changes of any kind.

There are currently two options to get around this rule if necessary: Either create a new page and ask your supports to “like” you there instead; or stay with the original name.

Regardless, when you initially create your page, be sure to take the name into close consideration.

3. Creating a community page as your organization’s Facebook page.

“Community” pages are not intended to represent a single organization. Instead, they are intended as a place where people who have a shared interest can connect, get information and share ideas. “Cooking” or “Motherhood” would be examples of community pages.

Most importantly, it is important to know that Facebook maintains full ownership and control over all community pages. Facebook’s goal is to make the pages “the best collections of shared knowledge” on a particular topic.

Nonprofits may want to collaborate with other nonprofits that care about the same cause, and creating a community page for this purpose may be a good idea.

For example, a community page about “Finding a Cure for Huntington’s” or “Creating Safe Neighborhoods in Brooklyn” could be worthy topics that would find a following.

But the nonprofits that instigate the online community need to understand that they are not in control – Facebook is.

4. Creating a Facebook group instead of an organizational page.

There are two types of Facebook groups you can create: Private or public. There may be a variety of reasons for a nonprofit to have either type of group (perhaps they are a membership organization or they provide support groups).

But nonprofits should always begin with an organizational page, and then create groups needed to further their missions and provide services to stakeholders.

5. Creating a Facebook page, but not monitoring it properly.

There is a debate over whether or not nonprofits (or businesses for that matter) should delete Facebook posts or comments (which some equate to censorship).

At the very least, nonprofits should monitor their pages for posts and comments that are inappropriate or that are spam.

Don’t let anyone use your organization’s wall to promote their own products or agendas, and always monitor all comments for inappropriateness.

6. Signing up for Twitter when you really don’t have the time for Twitter.

Twitter can be a great marketing communications tool for a nonprofit, but only if it is able to invest time on a regular basis.

If your organization wants to get to know Twitter, I recommend you first simply join as an individual and use it as an information consumer.

It is a great time-saving tool for getting information from the organizations and causes that you care about.

Start there and determine if it makes sense for your organization to make it a priority. If you don’t have time to do something on Twitter on a regular basis, you are better off not creating a profile for your nonprofit.

7. Using a logo, rather than a graphic icon, as a profile photo.

Graphic icons in logos are making a very strong comeback as a response to the need for a strong social-media brand icon.

The best branded nonprofit Facebook and Twitter users typically don’t use their organizations’ entire logos as their profile photo. Instead, they use the graphic icon (think red ribbon for AIDS awareness) as the profile photo.

It is important to understand that most people will see your icon as a very small image, so make sure what you choose works.

Take the time to think about what will work best to meet your organization’s brand guidelines and strategic goals.

Hannah Brazee Gregory is a nonprofit marketing expert, workshop presenter and founder of Shoestring Creative Group, the nonprofit’s agency. She can be reached at or 1-888-835-6236. Follow her on Twitter at @NonprofitPRguru or read her blog at

Reprinted with permission of Philanthropy Journal.