The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Three Ways to Humanize Your Nonprofit’s Social Media Outreach

United Way example
(Credit: United Way, Source: Peter Panepento/The Chronicle of Philanthropy)

Social media is a fantastic tool to make your presence known online. But are you using it correctly? Many nonprofits are using it to promote themselves, but often in the wrong ways, said Peter Panepento, assistant managing editor at The Chronicle of Philanthropy, at the Washington, DC, edition of the Social Media for Nonprofits conference. He often sees nonprofits tweeting links to press releases or posting them on their Facebook page, trying to hijack their social media pages as an “official communication channel.”

“Don’t use social media to be bureaucratic,” Peter told the conference. Social media is the perfect tool for PR, but only when the emphasis is on personal. Nonprofits should put a human face on everything and use social media to humanize your organization.” “You don’t need a big budget or to be particularly photogenic,” Peter said, you just need to be human. Here are three rules we learned from Peter on how to humanize your social media and tell a great story:

1. Think like a reporter.

Use your social media accounts to feature someone in your community that your group engages with such as donors, beneficiaries of your work, and local businesses that support you. Seek out someone that can answer the question, “Who cares? Why should this matter to me?” Remember that stories are about people, so feature the people who matter to your cause.

2. Share your #fail.

In 2010, the organization charity: water posted on Facebook for its September Campaign Live Drill. From Central African Republic, they produced a live broadcast when they attempted to drill for clean water-and failed. Peter highlighted charity: water because instead of trying to hide that something went wrong, they made it public, even writing a blog post about it. For every success, there is failure. “Followers really responded to seeing things that don’t work, you seem more genuine to your followers.”

3. Give your supporters the megaphone.

Think about how your supporters can help tell your story over social media. Invite them to talk about your work just like the United Way did for their 160th anniversary (as seen above). You can even encourage volunteers to be reporters by rewarding them: retweet them, call them out, and thank them. If you bake it into the volunteer experience, Peter said, “you’ll get more genuine language from people than you could otherwise compose.”

For better social media engagement, follow these tips from Peter to humanize your organization. “If you can show the work that you’re doing and the people you’re serving, even if it’s not in a mud pit somewhere in Alaska but at your desk, that can be really helpful.”

The Social Media for Nonprofits conference is coming to Austin, TX on August 13, 2013. Check out the conference agenda, and follow SM4Nonprofits on Facebook for the latest updates. Heading to Austin? Use our “N4G” discount code to save $20.

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About This Blog
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Caryn Stein
Vice President, Communications and Content, Network for Good

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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