Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Social Media News Alerts - a Tool for Your Small Nonprofit

summer on a solitary beach
Image by ro_buk [I'm not there] via Flickr

With a very small nonprofit, any staff may be forced into wearing so many hats they may be tempted to open a shop on Etsy. These are the folks most likely to worry if they should stick a toe into the social media ocean. With little to no social media swimming skills, a fear of drowning can keep one firmly on the sand and under an umbrella.

If this is you, don’t put away the suntan lotion just yet.

Monitoring the Traffic
Even if you don’t feel you have time for the give and take required for making the best of social media you can still take advantage of it.
By using a tool to monitor social media traffic, you can learn:
  • What people are saying about your nonprofit in particular
  • What people are talking about with respect to the mission your small nonprofit serves
  • You can identify people in social media who regularly speak to the areas of your concern

With the above information, you can:
  • Choose whether or not to interact with people directly or through their blog or website
  • Make plans to deal with potential misunderstandings or public relations problem
  • Make professional connections with other people involved in the same mission or those serving similar missions
  • Track and accumulate data that may be useful to your nonprofit and its board in making future plans

And you can have the information delivered to you daily or less often into your own email box.

Google Alerts
The tool I use is called Google Alerts – learn about it here.

One of the things I get alerts for is “small nonprofits.” I get news results, blogs on the subject and even video. You might choose to get alerts when the specific name of your nonprofit is used online and alerts for keywords related to your mission like “underprivileged” or “homeless”.  Be aware that after you’ve received your first few alerts, you’ll likely want to tweak the search parameters to make sure you get as close to your targets as you can.  The more specific you are, the fewer results you’re likely to get, but they may be more on-target than leaving the search terms fairly general – example: homeless, Detroit rather than simply homeless. Experiment until you get the mix that returns the most useful information.

Once you’ve got the alerts working for you, you may find that it’s easier to support or discount ideas, find support within your peer group or community, make some plans with less uncertainty, and even experience a great feeling of connectedness and all without having to wade so far out in the social media ocean that you can no longer feel the sand under your toes.

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