Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook aren’t just for college keg stand contest pictures anymore. Nonprofits are joining social network sites to connect with people, strengthen cause awareness and hopefully cultivate donors.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) grew from an intern managing the organization’s social networks to its current two full-time employees working on Internet marketing, according to Carie Lewis, Internet marketing manager for HSUS. Lewis gives some tips for expanding your nonprofit’s social networking presence:

  • Bring in a veteran. Pokes and mini-feeds might be foreign to you, but find someone in your organization who uses social networking sites during their own time. Young volunteers or interns might have their own accounts on these sites and already know the features by heart. Use their knowledge to your advantage.
  • One comes before two. HSUS built a strong MySpace following before they launched a Facebook presence, and Lewis recommends using that model. Figure out what your goals for the sites and work out the kinks on one site before establishing yourself on another. Launching both at once could be stressful and time-consuming.
  • Take the good with the bad. Anyone can create Facebook “causes” — a page dedicated to a mission. Lewis said passionate activists dedicated to the organization’s cause created some pages in HSUS’s name. But nonprofits can use a Facebook flagging feature to report pages that use an organization’s name that isn’t aligned with the mission, which is rare according to Lewis. Use comment approval functions to vet out any profanity or unnecessary comments.
  • Connect the dots. Try to integrate your social networking pages with your overall campaign. Your message will be more effective if you reference events or news pertinent to your cause.
  • Social networking for a reason. One of the reasons why HSUS’s efforts are so successful is that they respond to every message, according to Lewis. “Open that line of communication,” said Lewis. It may be the difference between making a “friend” or a donor.

source: The NonProfit Times

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