How can nonprofits use social media for social good?

You know what social media is, and maybe you’ve even experimented with tools like Facebook and LinkedIn. But you’re still unsure how to tap into the power of social media to make it work for your mission. Where do you turn? Fortunately, there’s a growing trend among experts toward learning how to use social media effectively to meet the unique needs of the nonprofit sector.

Psychology, marketing and entrepreneurship experts, Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith, for example, have developed a framework to help nonprofits use social media to create positive impact. They call the result the Dragonfly Effect, symbolizing the integration of four “wings” synchronized to take flight. These “wings” represent a series of steps an organization can take to get results, and are a simple way to think about developing a social media campaign.

How to create the Dragonfly Effect:

Wing 1: Focus. Identify a single goal you want to achieve with your social media campaign and use it as your driving force. Make it realistic and measurable. Create an action plan around your goal.

Wing 2: Grab attention. Develop a “hook.” Make it original, memorable and authentic. Consider using visual imagery.

Wing 3: Engage. Tell a story and make it personal. Connect to your audience’s emotions.

Wing 4: Take action. Get your audience moving for your cause. Ask for time, donations or both, and make it easy for your audience to contribute.

Social media offers a ton of opportunities to connect with your audience and advance your organization. However, it’s important to remember that social media represents a platform for your organization’s voice. It can be a very high-profile communications vehicle (sometimes unintentionally so), so it’s essential that you carefully select the staff charged with running your social media effort. It’s tempting to simply assign it to an intern since young people are often savvy about new technology, but that can also be very risky.

Another important area to consider is the ability to serve as a resource and thought leader on your issue, through social media. It’s not simply a venue to tell people what you’re doing (although that’s important too). Instead, think about how you can use social media to engage people in a conversation about the broader issues of importance to your field and community. This keeps people involved and informed, and helps to position you as an expert.

The use of social platforms to encourage cause-related change simply makes sense for nonprofits with limited budgets and resources. With a little planning and a lot of enthusiasm, you can make it work for you.


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