This blog will help you win loyal friends for your nonprofit organization. I'm Dennis Fischman, and I approved this message.

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5 Things Every Nonprofit Should Know about Social Media

social media conversation

Join your supporters for a chat!

Would you go to a party to meet people who support your cause? Probably.  You may already have been to a couple this month. Online, Facebook is that party.

Would you attend a conference to meet other people in your field?  Sure!  You may have conferences that you just wouldn’t miss. Online, LinkedIn is that conference.

When you ask yourself, “Why should I spend time on social media?”, think about these points that Stephanie Frasco makes.  She addresses small businesses, but her counsel pertains to small nonprofits too.

  1. You Have To Be Active Online (somewhere). Otherwise, in 2015 people won’t believe you really exist!
  2. Your Customers Are Active Online (somewhere).  Your donors, funders, and clients all spend time online.  You need to find out where they meet and show up there too.
  3. You Must Be Accessible.   Social media work both ways!  Besides sending out messages, listen to what your fans have to tell you.  Be open to both criticism and praise.  Respond promptly.
  4. You Need To Blog.   You have specialized knowledge, inspiring stories, memorable photos, an insider’s perspective on homelessness, or art, or the community where you live.  Share it.  Become your supporters’ go-to source for information–so that they seek out you.
  5. Social Media Should Be Social.  “That means starting conversations, replying, and engaging with your customers online,” Stephanie says.  “Just imagine you’re at a party.”

So You Want to Market to Nonprofits? How to Find Them

There are 1.8 million tax-exempt organizations in the United States alone, from Harvard University to your local homeless shelter.  This is a huge market that many businesses don’t know how to tap.

Do you want to sell your services or products to nonprofit organizations?  First you have to find them.  Here are a few tips on how.

  1. In your local community, find a few organizations doing work you admire. Reach out to them via social media by retweeting or sharing their content.  Attend their events.  For that matter, sponsor their events.  Ask for an informational interview with the Executive Director, and if you really want to build a long-lasting relationship, volunteer!
  2. Seek out organizations that serve the nonprofit community.  The Association of Fundraising Professionals is one. State associations like the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network are good too. Go to their conferences and meet their constituency: it could be the audience you’re trying to reach. Let them know where they can find you online. Share useful information written in a way that speaks their language.
  3. Read nonprofit journals, like The Nonprofit Quarterly or more specialized publications like the Chronicle of Philanthropy. See what their readers are interested in and make those a centerpiece of your social media presence.

I also recommend becoming active in LinkedIn groups such as Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations. You can learn a lot by listening to conversations in these groups and build your own presence by genuinely getting involved.

Nonprofits, what other advice would you give to vendors who want your business?

Find and Attract the Audience You Want

People like you on Facebook.  But you’re not the only one they care about.  Other people, organizations, interests, and places have also convinced your organization’s friends and followers to hit the “like” button.

That’s a treasure trove of information for you about the audience you’ve already reached. How can you use it?


Facebook Search is Prospect Research in a Click

The next time you open Facebook, try searching for “Pages liked by people who like [your organization].”

Jon Loomer did.  In fact, he narrowed it down to “Pages liked by Marketers from United States who are older than 25 and younger than 50 and like Jon Loomer Digital and Amy Porterfield and Mari Smith and Social Media Examiner“–just to show he could do it!  But you should start with the pages that any of your followers have liked.

Run that search and Facebook will tell you:

  • All the pages that your followers have liked, and who liked which page.
  • How many people, total, like that page.
  • Other pages that people who like a specific page also like.
  • Which of your own friends liked that page (if you are using Facebook as an individual)

What Can I Do with That Information?

All very interesting, you say, but so what?  I’m interested in who likes me.  Why should I care who else my audience likes on Facebook?

Here are seven ways you can use that priceless information.

  1. Find out more about your prospects and donors.  The next time you talk with Sarah Supporter, you might have a different conversation if you know she likes cooking than if she likes extreme sports.
  2. Signal what you have in common.  Use the like button yourself to give a better picture of your organization.  Jim Neighbor might like you better in real life if he knows you both care about the New England Patriots–or public radio–or craft fairs.
  3. Pick topics for your blog or social media.  Let’s say a lot of your followers like Downton Abbey, and you run a community health center.  Blog about “What Lady Sybil would say to our nurses.”  Watch your likes, comments, and shares climb–because you are talking about something that interests your followers.
  4. Find the venue for your next event.  If half your followers like a particular bookstore, won’t they be more likely to attend your event if you hold it there?  You may draw a different crowd than you would if you held it at a church, or at a restaurant.
  5. Attract new friends from the same circles.  Let’s say you build housing for the homeless.  Many who like you also like a “dress for success” program that gives business clothes to job seekers.  You can like that program, comment on its Facebook posts and share them occasionally.  People will notice.  Some will come check you out.
  6. Attract new friends from completely different circles.  You notice that your Facebook friends are all white middle-aged women who live in a certain town and like Republican candidates.  Is that really the only group that will support you?  Discuss strategies to reach out to other demographics.
  7. Make your content more appealing.  As much as Mark Zuckerberg would like it to be, Facebook is not your whole world.  Do you send out newsletters?  Update your website?  Email your supporters?  Ask them for money?  Knowing what your supporters like on Facebook, you can tailor all your communications–online and off, and face to face–to what interests them.  After all, you know their interests.  They told you, and you found out.

Give it a try!  Right now, open a new browser window, go to Facebook, and try searching for “Pages liked by people who like [your organization].” (Of course, you have to fill in the actual name of your organization!)

Then, please write a comment below.  Let us all know what you found out, and how you are going to use it.  I’ll bet there are at least seven more ways nonprofits can use Facebook search that I haven’t thought of.  Share yours here.