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Setting Yourself Up for Social Media Success

Resource Center - Foundation

By Laura Howe

Howe is vice president of public relations for the American National Red Cross and oversees the organization’s social media program. Catch her Distinguished Speaker session live at the AFP TechKnow Conference, happening June 4 and 5.

(May 15, 2012) It seems like everyone is looking for the key to social media success and, consequently, the key to translating that into fundraising success.  Many of those keys lie in the ability to build a community that will work with you—and for you.

At the American Red Cross we have three pillars that guide our social media efforts and these have been the building blocks for our success on the social web.  Turning this into fundraising success is still a work in progress.  But, these three pillars can help you reap rewards in other areas and they lay the foundation for broader success on the social web.

Use Social Media to Deliver Your Organization’s Mission

Every organization has a mission that drives what it does. That mission usually involves some level of interacting with the public, which means you don’t just push information or services to your constituents. You also listen and respond to feedback and needs. The same idea works in the social space.

It’s tempting to treat social media channels as a mass marketing outgoing channel but in many cases, that brings diminishing returns.  The better option is to focus your efforts on providing mission critical information while listening to and engaging with your community. The goal is to embrace the idea of engagement rather than promotion.

Use Social to Grow Your Community of Engaged Supporters

When you provide information and content of value, people in the social community will value your organization in return. They’ll share your content and tell their friends about what you do—maybe on a regular basis.  Then, you’re on your way to building an engaged community.

When you can move those people to action on your behalf, you’ll start seeing social media move the needle on your organizational goals.  They will check in at your community event on Foursquare and post photos to Facebook. They’ll tweet when they donate. Better yet, they’ll ask others to donate. When they sign your online petition, they’ll share that on their social networks too. Now, you have brand ambassadors multiplying your message and driving their friends and followers toward your website, events and causes.

Make Social Media Part of Your Organization’s DNA

This may be the scariest part of social media because it means surrendering some control of your message.  At the Red Cross, we want as many staff members, volunteers and supporters as possible sharing their stories and experiences. We also want them interacting with others who ask questions, need information or express an opinion about our organization.  We encourage our local chapters to have their own social accounts and create their own content. We empower our employees and volunteers to share their experience and expertise on behalf of our organization.

To do this, we don’t give people rules and regulations. We give them guidance and training about how to operate in the social space on behalf of the Red Cross. Then, we let them be creative and real. It’s a decentralized model, but it means our community gets a diversity of opinion and variety of perspectives. That’s valuable to the social community. It keeps them coming back for more and it inspires people to action.

Laura Howe is the vice president of public relations for the American National Red Cross. She is one of three Distinguished Speakers who will present at the AFP TechKnow Conference. The advance registration rate is still available for this inaugural event happening June 4-5, 2012, in Orlando, Fla.!

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