April Fools SMIT: 7 Tips to Stop Social Media from Peeing on your Nonprofit’s Floor

Puppy chewing slipper

Take care of me, please.

This month’s SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you) is that if you don’t take care of your social media it’s going to pee on your floor, tear up your furniture and chew up your shoes.  No fooling.

Social media is like a puppy. Everyone wants to play with the cute, cuddly puppy.  But then it grows up.  It needs to be walked. It needs to be fed. If you’re gonna get one, you gotta care for it or it’s gonna die.    It takes time, attention and dedication. And just because you have one or two (perhaps named Twitter and Facebook) that doesn’t mean that adding a few more (named Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn) and caring for them is going to be a piece of cake.

Full credit: I’m nowhere near the first to make this analogy (see e.g.,  Is Your Social Network a Puppy or a Dog? by Jay Bear; Free Puppies by David Bowman; Social Media is Like a Puppy, and Surviving social media marketing: A puppy owner’s guide).

Puppy litter in red wagon

Don’t you want us all? We dare you!

What’s your current status vis a vis puppies? Will you get one? Everyone else seems to have one, no?  Your board members say you should get one, yes?  Maybe even a whole litter!  Or do you have a couple of puppies tucked in the corner, but for whom no one has claimed responsibility? Some days they get played with, fed and walked; other days, not so much?

Two puppies driving white toy car

Are you driving social media or is it driving you?

If you don’t have time, resources and inclination to take care of a puppy right now, then do what you need to get ready. If you can’t nurture the puppies you’ve got, don’t adopt new ones.  If your puppies aren’t thriving, then consider whether to give them over to someone else (hire or outsource) or seek a trainer (consultant). Social media, like puppies, can be extremely rewarding.  Social media, like puppies, can become your best friend. But rewards and friendship have their costs as well as benefits.

Puppies and social media are decidedly not free; just like friends, they require care and feeding. [See infographic on How Much do Small Businesses Spend on Social Media?] A puppy is a living, breathing animal; not a toy. Similarly, social media is a living, breathing two-way communications channel; not just a shiny plaything. If you just toy with it, it may bite back!

Time to stop fooling around with social media. 

7 Tips to Take Social Media Seriously

1. Embrace social media as the essential communications medium that it is today. Today it’s one of the principle ways folks find out about and interact with brands. Get yourself and your entire household (aka organization) excited about the prospect of truly bringing something new into your lives.

2. Clarify your different social channels, understanding that different people use different networks for different purposes. (see Guy Kawasaki’s top ten social media tips for nonprofits). Figure out the places that make the most sense for your constituents; then go there first. It’s a much better strategy then simply adopting the same puppy your neighbor owns.  If you’re not a poodle organization, get yourself a Labrador retriever or a Chihuahua. Spend a bit of time figuring out your personality and that of your constituents before you leap in. You wouldn’t go to the pet store blindfolded and just ask the clerk to give you any old dog.  Don’t do that with social media.  All channels are not created equal.

3. Get, and keep, everyone involved.  Don’t make social media the province of just one or two departments.  It’s not just for I.T. Or marketing. Or development. Involve program staff. Involve the C-Suite. Involve your volunteers. Everyone must be on board if you’re to become a truly connected, relevant social business for the 21st century.

4. Really play the game. Don’t just buy a board game and keep it in a box. Participate enthusiastically and strategically.  When folks comment, respond.  When folks retweet your posts or ‘like’ you, thank them.  Engage. Remember the ‘social’ in social media.  Make a relationship. [See 6 Ways Your Nonprofit Wins the Game of Social Media].Make a best friend. 

5. Take the village to heart.  Remember the adage “it takes a village?” Trust in the power of crowdsourcing. You absolutely have to share.  Make every piece of content shareable.  Think about linking from one piece of content to another; from one channel to the next.  Don’t think about anything in isolation. [I’m reminded of being in college. My roommates and I used to keep the NYT crossword puzzle on the kitchen table all day; as we came in and out of classes, we’d each add a little bit. When we’d come back later in the day, there’d be something new added that helped us figure out something that had previously eluded us.  By the end of the day, working together, we’d have the puzzle figured out].

6. Test things. It’s a version of trial and error. If you throw a ball and your dog doesn’t chase it, then try a new game.  Do the same with social media.  Don’t just give up and decide your dog/constituent doesn’t like to play. Find what motivates your particular audience. You may learn that posting a video raises more money than a photo, or vice-versa. You may find that a 7 word subject line does better than a 3 word subject line, or vice-versa.  What works for everyone else may not work for you.  Pay attention; then tweak your system.

7. Track and report on what you’re doing. This will keep you focused on your ROI and also keep everyone in the organization involved and informed.  How’s your social media impacting your fundraising, volunteering, advocacy, public relations? Is this what you wanted to happen?  If not, how can you refocus?

When you bring a puppy into your life it makes demands on you.  Be prepared.  Also embrace how much meaning and joy social media can bring to you and your village.  After all, you’re all in this together.

Philanthropy is fundamentally social. I encourage you to check out the SPECIAL GUIDE:  7 CLAIRIFICATION KEYS TO UNLOCK YOUR NONPROFIT’S FUNDRAISING POTENTIAL. It includes easy-to-follow worksheets and exercises to prepare you to become an effective social media adopter and philanthropy facilitator in the 21st century.

Photos via Flickr: BuzzFarmers; Jacob and Kiki Hantla

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  1. bill martin says:

    I’m starting a micro-brewery in my home town. I’ve been engaging my friends in the progress for about 5 months, through fb & community activities, even though we didn’t buy the property until 2 weeks ago. It was a salvage project for a historic property in our historic district, and we sort of “saved the day” because nobody wanted the city to tear it down. So in a small town where I grew up, and given the circumstances of the project, the good will of the community has been storybook.

    At any rate, I will soon move from my personal fb account to a company page, or perhaps use both to stay in touch. I think, so far, the daily updates have continued to engage my friends and I sense a phenomenal response. I’m wondering how to advance the social momentum created so far, and reach a wider audience.

    I really enjoyed your post, and found the resources in your post most helpful.


    • Glad you found some of the resources helpful Bill. It sounds like you have a wonderful project. My best tip would be to find the influencers among your constituents. Who has a lot of followers? Who do people listen to? Are there some natural affinities, like folks who blog about beer, wine, food, etc.? Social media, after all, is online word of mouth. So you need to find the “connectors” and the “mavens”. Take a look at Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point if you’re unfamiliar with these concepts. They apply in spades to social media. Best of luck!

  2. I’ve been getting some comments in LinkedIn groups to the effect that social media is too time consuming, and we shouldn’t ignore our other “pets” like face-to-face meetings. While I agree that the personal meetings rule, I hope we don’t use this as an excuse to ignore what we must do in today’s environment.

    Here’s the thing: We’re in a digital era. We can’t avoid it or ignore it. It’s almost as if we’ve all been mandated to adopt a puppy. There’s no choice. Because pretty much everyone in the world is becoming a puppy person. So if we want to connect to all these dog owners, we have to share their values.

    So… we’ve got to commit to the time it takes to nurture a puppy so that it thrives. That means putting in place resources and plans to assure that we DO build meaningful relationships using social media; then figure out a way to translate those relationships into lasting ones that translate into the support needed to further our missions.

    Yes, it means we must work harder than ever. Because we’ve got to be everywhere; not just in one channel. We can’t kick the old strategies that still work to the curb. Neither can we ignore the new strategies that are beginning to overtake the old ones.

    How to balance all of this is my biggest concern. Would value any thoughts folks have.
    claire Axelrad recently posted…Why a Good Nonprofit Fundraiser is hard to Keep: Money – Part IMy Profile

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