Thursday, June 16, 2011

Going A Different Route With Your Small Nonprofit's Message

Via U of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Very recently, I wrote a post where I said that nearly every piece of social communication you create for your small nonprofit should relate to the key message you're trying to send. The important word in that sentence is nearly.

Don't Be a Slave to Your Marketing or Branding Strategy

This is where I tell you I don't take my own advice. Since I don't blog more than once a week, it's important that I try to stay on message. You can get Keepin' it Real in the Whole Foods Parking Lot from anyone, you don't need it from this blog, too.

But if you're engaging with your community a lot (or as often as you can), then it's okay to take your social media vehicle off-road once in a while.

Know Your Community

Even if you're just getting started with your social media gathering places, you probably have a sense of what the people in your community like. After all, they wouldn't have joined in the community unless they felt a connection with your mission, right? Chances are, a lot of the stuff you find interesting, they will find interesting. So you come across a piece that's not directly related to your work, but sheds some light on an aspect of it. Share it with your community along with why you find it worthwhile.

And if one of the folks in your community shares something that relates to your nonprofit at kind of a tangent, resist the temptation to remove it. If they're sharing, that's a big plus. Don't give them a reason to stop just because what they posted isn't directly to do with your small nonprofit.

Interaction is what you want - a place where your community feels safe exchanging views and information.

Off-Route is Fine, But Keep Your Map Handy

It probably doesn't need to be said, but I'm going to say it anyway: whatever you post has got to relate in some way to your mission or your community. This means that no matter how cute that video of a cat pretending to play the harp is, if your small nonprofit is not engaged in animal rescue or harp-playing, then resist posting it. Even supporting kids' music programs would be a bit of a stretch, here. Would the people viewing  it on your site or account end up scratching their heads about why it's there? Then don't post it.

Practice makes for better judgment. The more often you post and engage with your community, the better sense you'll have of what and what isn't appropriate material. Go the F*#k to Sleep is funny stuff to most people and many parents can relate, but it is obviously Not Safe For Work. Some things may not be as clearly unsuitable, but when in doubt, don't.

Refreshing the Ride

In California, Highway 5 runs inland down the state. It's the fastest way to get from the Bay Area to Southern California. But it is boring. Except for a few places, the scenery is monotonous. If one has the time, it can be refreshing to take one of the back roads for a while, gain a new perspective and a boost in energy. This is what I'm proposing for your social communications. Adding the occasional not-quite-directly-related post keeps you and your passengers from dozing off and can lead to greater understanding and interaction.


Tool of the Week: Lifehacker.com

They provide tips and tools for making life/work easier. I've found the information shared to be interesting and usable. If you didn't know about them, give them a look. Note: they have two looks to their site. I prefer to blog view, but that may just be me.

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