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5 reasons nonprofits have an advantage when it comes to social media

This post originally appeared on Mizz Information.

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If you read [Mizz Information], you already know I have a tendency to skew kind of negative on things. Lol. Ok, so yes, maybe I’m stating that a bit more mildly than is precisely accurate but whatever…my point is that, people often accuse me of being too negative. I personally just call it being a realist, but that’s me.

Regardless, imagine my surprise when I read this post about the 12 not-so-great realities about nonprofits and social media and my immediate thought was “Ok, yes, some of these are true, but there are a lot of great things about nonprofits and social media.” Who am I now, an optimist? Apparently. Because while, yes, there are some real truths in that post and managing social media and/or online communities for nonprofits absolutely has its challenges, there are also some real upsides. While I don’t have time to go point-for-point with the 12 in that post because I only have a few minutes […] but here are five reasons I think that nonprofits have the edge when it comes to social media and online communities:

  1. Nonprofits have great content to share. The second point in the post I’m referencing is that nonprofit social media managers are bombarded with depressing content. I personally think it’s just the opposite. Granted, your experience may vary, but in my time as social media manager for various associations I had the privilege of sharing really great, powerful content that really resonated with people–videos of babies hearing their mom’s voice for the first time (I defy you not to tear up watching that), great blog posts, breaking news that has the potential to save people’s lives, etc. Compare that with the content brands get to share–pictures of their products! Expensive professional videos that nobody cares about!–and I’ll take nonprofit content…and, frankly, so will most audiences.
  2. Nonprofit social media managers get to deal with people who are passionate about their cause.  Yes, every social media manager ever has to deal with her share of trolls and nasty people, but I’ve also had some really uplifting experiences managing social media for nonprofits. People who truly appreciate the hard, often thankless work of what is a 24/7 job that is mostly under-appreciated, under-funded (or not funded at all) and misunderstood within the org. How many brand social media managers have stuff like this to show for their work?
  3. Going viral is BS anyway, so don’t worry about it. Yes, we’re all happy that the ALS Association went viral with their Ice Bucket Challenge a few years ago. And, despite my personal beef with the whole thing–mainly that people were blindly doing the challenge without giving so much as a thought to the what or the why–it raised a ton of money that went on to fuel great things. But, as the post I’m referencing points out in point #12, going viral hardly ever happens. The upside of that is WHO CARES? Not going viral isn’t as glamorous or headline-inducing, but you can still do a ton of good with slow and steady.
  4. Online communities and nonprofits are made for each other. Granted, that article didn’t mention online communities, only social media, but I’m just adding it here because, as much as social media does have its challenges when it comes to nonprofits and brands have an advantage at least in terms of resources, online communities are one area where nonprofits–especially associations–have a distinct advantage over brands. Rather than reinvent the wheel writing about why here, I’ll just send you down the rabbit hole of my previous posts about associations and online communities. Many brands launch online communities then struggle to get people to find a reason to want to participate, but associations already encompass one of the key elements of online community success: people who want to interact and share content around a shared interest. They have already opted in to the org by joining–the same can’t be said for customers who have merely bought a product from a brand or maybe feel passionate about a particular product or service. Sure, I love Diet Pepsi, Dunkin’ Donuts and many other things, but do I want to participate in an online community around those things? No. But community management, association communications and other topics that interest me professionally–do I want to participate in communities with peers in those spaces? And do I find great value in the private communities of organizations I belong to around those topics? Absolutely, and there’s value for both me, the member and the org because of that.
  5. There are lots of free or cheap tools and resources to do social media. Yes, managing social media for an organization with no budget for social media management, measurement or listening tools is a challenge. However, the good news is that there are lots of free or cheap tools available so, while maybe less than ideal, at least you can cobble together workable systems with little or no budget. Here are some posts I’ve written about free and cheap tools, social media measurement, and other resources that nonprofit social media managers can use:

Just to clarify–I’m not bashing Nonprofit Tech for Good’s post at all–there’s a lot of truth there. However, setting aside things that money can buy–social media advertising, expensive social media management platforms, graphic design and video production–the disadvantages specific to nonprofits with regard to social media end there, IMO. Well, unless you want to touch on the silo thing, the culture thing, the pay thing, etc…but I’ll digress and let you think I’ve turned into Sally Sunshine. 🙂

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