Melissa Harris and Suzi Craig
Crafting quality content can be one of the most intimidating barriers to successful social networking.
While corporations often struggle to engage audiences without sounding like an advertisement, nonprofits benefit from an arsenal of good works and information.
Contemplating being “out there” is the right time to bring together your communications and management teams to ask, “Why would anyone listen to what we have to say, and what value do we add to the world?”
Even if these questions seem obvious, spend time “workshopping” your purpose.
It will inform conversations about what you offer; the audiences who benefit the most from knowing you; and the voice you will adopt (cheeky, smart, informative, compassionate, etc.) to express your brand.
Doing this work gives your team focus and allows them to become invested in building the community.
Next, you must embrace the fact that your organization does not exist in isolation.
In the world of social media, recognizing, supporting and celebrating others is considered good karma. Collaboration creates a two-way dialogue instead of a one-way sales pitch.
Approach your content from this perspective and you are already ahead of the game.
To make your content relatable, don your “reporter hat” and examine your activities from an outside point of view.
How does your organization’s mission relate to local, national and international efforts or trends? What are the real stories of the people you serve? How do you affect their lives? How do you fit into the larger picture of your community?
Get colleagues involved in content creation by identifying their specialized knowledge sets.
Maybe they are service experts, or can talk about applications of their discipline (marketing, development, leadership, etc.) within the context of your organization’s efforts.
Positioning staff as experts will not only help elevate individuals, but also your organization.
Ask colleagues where they find their sources of information and inspiration. What are these people or groups saying? What can you add to their insights?
Being a resource through sharing and commentary are both positives in social networking.
Finally, create a list of things to talk about and divide them into these categories: timely, anytime and responsive.
Create an editorial calendar starting with the time-sensitive communications (events, seasonal conversations, fundraising efforts, etc.).
Intersperse those items with “anytime” topics – conversations your organization wants to start and be known for.
Responsive topics cannot be planned as they require a keen eye on current affairs, but you can list out the areas, communities and people that you need to watch.
You have a lot to say. While comments on Facebook or a Tweet may seem like idle chatter, understand that your words have impact.
Consider the old notion that words are action. What you say will motivate your audience to think, engage with and talk about you.
Keeping this frame of mind will help you and your team to stay focused on sparking the conversations and connections you want to see created.
Melissa Harris is director of communications and engagement for co:lab, a brand-strategy and design firm. Suzi Craig is director of marketing and engagement for Hartford-based creative and brand consultancy Fathom.