Nonprofit Social Media Alert: If You Do This You’re Monkeying Around

Chimp does Hamlet

To thine own self, and thy users’ selves, be true.

Monkey see, monkey do is not a social media strategy.

It tends to lead to trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Huh?  Bear with me. We’ll get there. First… before embarking on a social media strategy, do you ask:

  • What keeps our constituents up at night? How can we help them sleep better?
  • What makes our constituents sad? How can we help them feel better?
  • What makes our constituents smile? How can we bring them joy?
  • And how can we do all these things without compromising our own well-being and authentic self?

If you don’t answer these questions first, you’re going to prescribe the wrong remedy. And when it comes to your social media message or medium, it’s folly to simply go to the medicine cabinet and grab whatever’s in there. It may be the wrong prescription.

And you do want to help your customers, don’t you?  If you only think about what they can do for you, they’re not likely to stay with you for long.  And this holds true for all your constituents: users of services, community influencers, volunteers and donors.

So… what does this have to do with your choice of social media? Plenty.

Forget about ‘monkey see; monkey do’ when it comes to social media. Just because everyone else is using Facebook, and all your board members tell you you’ve got to use it, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. I’m not dissing Facebook; the same holds true for any social medium you may be using or considering.  Only use it if that’s where your constituents hang out and engage.

Just because your favorite nonprofit sends snarky tweets that have you rolling in the aisles doesn’t mean your organization should take this tone. I’m not dissing snarkiness; the same holds true for any messaging persona you may decide to embrace. Only embrace it if you’ve first determined what your unique persona is. And if you also know this matches the persona of your audience [ for some help creating marketing personas, click here].

In a recent Mashable op-ed,  I’m 13 and None of My Friends Use Facebook, 13-year-old Ruby explains how picking the wrong message or medium truly can be poison. For her generation FB is no longer the medium of choice.  Why?  It doesn’t jive with her interests, needs or behaviors. She says:

  • It’s not trendy (it’s something parents have).
  • Her friends aren’t there (they’re obsessed with Instagram) and FB “is useless without friends”.
  • It’s too complicated and changes things up too frequently (e.g., the “Timeline was very all of a sudden.”).
  • It can get her in trouble because of how others use it (friends posting party photos; school bullying).

Ruby makes an interesting point when she says: “In the end, Facebook has been trying too hard. Teens hate it when people try too hard; it pushes them away. If you’re all up in their faces about the new features on Facebook, they’ll get annoyed and find a new social media..This is a comment you should take to heart and apply to all your messaging.

Stop trying to force things. Find your authentic voice. Match it to the authentic voices of your constituencies. Remember this is social media, not broadcast media. You’ve got to bring your constituents into the conversation. In Get Rid of ‘Failure to Communicate’ Once and For All: Music to My Ears I describe the importance of expressing yourself in a manner that gives true voice to your organization’s values and mission while simultaneously harmonizing your voice with your constituent yearnings and desires. Without this match, there’s a failure of communication.

You don’t want a marketing strategy that’s failing to communicate. You may feel you’re doing stuff, but you’re not doing anything worth doing.  It’s a lot of sound and fury, signifying zippo.

What do you think? How do you assure you’re doing what’s right for you and your constituents, rather than simply aping others?

For help with your nonprofit social media strategy, check out my Hop on Board Social Media Resource Guide and my new Pinterest “Hop on the Boards’ eBook and Pinteresting Resources Guide (especially useful if you have great photo opps – and IMHO all nonprofits do! The guide tells you where to find them). To your success!

Photo: Flickr, Rhys Davenport

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