This month, as a continuation of our ‘Guest Blogger’ Series focused on getting the insights from experts in the field of technology, security, social media, and non-profits, we talked with Beth Kanter, of Beth’s Blog - How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media to share some of her insights on social media, technology and best practices for the nonprofit and .ORG Community.
We thought her insight on this subject would be particularly helpful to our community, as so many .ORG’s are already participating in social media in a number of ways to continue to pursue their missions, causes, or ideas. From a technology perspective, collaborative technologies enabled by Web 2.0., such as blogs, wikis and video, have become a perfect match with the .ORG domain and community sites. Beth points out that today’s .ORG social media stars– organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, The Humane Society of the US, Greenpeace, The National Wildlife Federation, and The Red Cross–are a few really brilliant and well done adopters of these practices. Beth explains, “Activist organizations and public advocacy groups are ahead in adopting social media because they have to communicate quickly with their audiences. They are viewing social media as tools for change.”
Beth’s Blog is a well-known resource for nonprofit professionals looking for guidance on fundraising, social media, technology and marketing. A nonprofit professional with more than 25 years of expertise in serving nonprofits, Beth is an engaging personality active on numerous social media channels such as Twitter and through her own live chats. As she puts it, she’s been around long enough to remember when people called the web “the world wide what?” She’s bringing her tried-and-true insights and experiences over the years to work for us and for our community of .ORG’s, to help bring answers to our most important questions.
So what should Nonprofits be doing?
When first exploring your nonprofit’s social media options, Beth recommends you learn about what your audience is doing online. Beth suggests running small experiments with new social media technologies to see what is most effective, and then putting together a plan that outlines important parameters such as the resources a new blogging or social media initiative will require of your nonprofit.
“I would hope every nonprofit would have a decent web presence,” says Beth. “They should have a well designed site that’s well maintained with good content and the basic principles of SEO. I’d hope they’ve mastered email outreach and they have the right CRM infrastructure in place to capture and manage their names. Beth also advises every nonprofit to know how to set up a Google alert, Technorati search, Twitter search, RSS feed, and monitor what people are saying about them and their issues.
Beth counsels the same measured approach when it comes to evaluating the amazing array of Web 2.0 tools out there now.
“Adoption should not be tool-driven,” notes Beth. “It has to be connected to the organization’s mission.” A good example of this, she notes is what Ben Bergman has done with a blood donation site, http://takesalltypes.org, which enables potential donor’s blood types to be registered online. In the event of an urgent need for blood, the organization can reach out only to those donors who have the needed blood type. Ben has made proactive use of the wealth of social media tools available to raise visibility as well as boost participation for his organization and it’s cause – to encourage individuals to donate blood through the creation of a Facebook application that raises engagement and education among current and potential donors. Facebook as a tool has continued to help Ben grow interest and visibility for Takes All Type’s goals.
Additional examples given by Beth of the pervasive use of social media tools by .ORG’s can be seen in Lil Green Patch, who Beth notes on her list of ‘Facebook Apps for Good,’ and LOLSeals, driven by The Humane Society. Lil Green Patch has utilized Facebook applications, created widgets, and built a variety of Social Games that include virtual gardening activities, to boost interest and visibility as well as foster the online communal spirit around the Green cause. Additionally, any revenues generated from the application, widgets, or games are put directly back into Lil Green Patch’s cause to continue to help it grow. Lil Green Patch is noted as the 3rd highest performing nonprofit on Facebook with donations of $79,800 and more than 1 million people using the application. LOLSeals is an initiative driven by The Humane Society where social media tools played a key role in the basic success and ‘cool’ factor of the cause and community around it. A take-off in name from the very successful LOLCats.com, the purpose is to elevate visibility for saving seals worldwide. Through this channel, The Humane Society paired with Flickr and led a very successful photo contest that encouraged visitors to the site to post captions to their favorite pictures of seals, and post their comments on Flickr for the community to see and interact with. LOLSeals is a great example of innovative ways .ORG’s are using social media to engage with their community and advance their missions while continuing to raise awareness for their causes.
We also took the opportunity to ask Beth how online service providers such as domain name providers, web hosting providers, and website building providers can better serve nonprofits in the .ORG community. Beth explained that it is a huge help for nonprofits to have a community or outlet that can provide technical expertise as well as support of their overall mission. “The community will be there for you,” and will continue to be there to help them through the jungle of social media.
Did you find Beth’s insights helpful? Leave a comment and share!
To keep up with Beth, you can follow her on Twitter and at twitter/bethkanter (for stream feeds). And you can learn more about Beth at her own .ORG site, http://bethkanter.org and blog: http://beth.typepad.com.