March 3, 2014

How to entice your board into the social media waters

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Find inducements & show them the payoff

This is the second part of a two-part series on making the case for your social media plan and initiatives. Also see:
Getting your board on board with social media

Target audience: Nonprofits, cause organizations, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, social media managers.

Caroline AvakianGetting your board engaged and on board with social media can prove to be a challenging task at many nonprofits. But your board members want to make a difference and have a real-world impact, right? Otherwise, why are they there.

So we’ve assembled this short list of ways board members can help support your organizational goals via social media.

• It is important to start small with your social media requests and to frame their initial engagement with social media around organizational programs that they understand are important to support. For example, you might want to ask them to do three LinkedIn updates around your upcoming gala or benefit. It’s important to be very specific about the asks and have them understand what the end goals and deadlines are.

• Because their engagement will likely start off involving only specific programs or initiatives, it’s important to write messaging for them that they can easily share with their networks. Providing them with sample posts and engagement language is always a good idea and will increase the likelihood that it gets shared.

• You will want to encourage them to personalize the posts (you can write it out for them) by adding how excited they are about a particular program or event, and their personal thoughts about the content. This type of sharing is most effective because it goes beyond the reposting of organizational information but also includes the most important part: sharing their passion and enthusiasm with their influential network, which can be the hook their colleagues and friends need to learn more, donate, attend an event, or get involved somehow.

Opening the conversation about social media to your board

1Start with your social media plan and ensure that your CEO is clear on what you want and what you’ll be asking board members to do. Your CEO is the board’s default sounding board, so it’s important that s/he be clear and know what initiatives you’re proposing to them and how they can help.

2Before a board meeting, have a conversation with the board member you feel will be your greatest ambassador to the rest of the board. This person could be either the head of your board’s communications committee or, if there is none, just a person who you know is already a good messenger or advocate. Talk to this board member about your plans for board participation and ask them for feedback. This way you can anticipate concerns and questions early, and then you already have a de facto board advisor, which boards like since they generally appreciate being consulted with.

3At the board meeting, ask the board ambassador to sit with you and support you during the presentation, perhaps leading a part of the discussion that centers on how board members can take initiative. These types of conversations can have greater sticking power and impact when coming from a board peer instead of a staff person. Also, board members can apply peer pressure in a way that communications staff cannot.

4Discuss a first set of initiatives (perhaps for the upcoming quarter) and explain to them how and when you will be reaching out to them for support. Explain to them the benefits of their outreach and how you all plan to learn and benefit from these experiences.

5Follow up and send a thank you email. Then promptly follow up with something they can add support to. Use your board ambassador to send out a message and showcase their “share” with the other board members. Gentle peer pressure can be a useful tool.

6Let them know that you’ll be following up periodically to see how the outreach has been working. Explore ways they can evolve their outreach that matches their comfort level and advances your communications and social media goals.

Social media outlets for board members to focus on

LinkedIn. LinkedIn is one of the most promising social media outlets for use by board members. You’ll find that most board members have a LinkedIn account, with some board members using it with more frequency than others. Either way, it’s an outlet that most are familiar with and it has a great ability to immediately reach their network.

Facebook. Facebook can be a great personal tool since you’ll find many board members using Facebook to connect with colleagues, friends and family. Many nonprofit leaders also use Facebook in their professional capacity. So encourage them to post via Facebook as a way to connect their networks of friends and colleagues to your organization. It’s important to be selective on which items you ask them to post, but encourage them to personalize, personalize, personalize. They’ll get a higher degree of engagement and responsiveness.

Twitter. Twitter is a great tool to connect with other organizations, potential partners, journalists, thought leaders, and influencers. It will be helpful to find out which of your board members can retweet for you and tag other thought leaders or influencers in their networks who would benefit from the post.

Blogging. A great goal around blogging is to encourage board members to write at least one blog post per year. The post could be tied to initiatives you are trying to support or could be a way to generate new supporters. The title of the post could simply be along
the lines of, “Why I got involved in XYZ organization and why you should, too.” It’s a powerful way for you and them to recruit new supporters and even take that first step in helping them outline ways they can start a conversation with potential new board members or donors.

• Email marketing. Do your board members already do outreach to their networks via your fundraising team? If they do, they should be including your organization’s social networks at the bottom of their emails.

Engaging board members in social media can be a bit of a hot topic. Have you asked your board members to engage in your organization’s social media efforts? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!

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Caroline Avakian, Socialbrite’s Managing Partner, is a global development communications strategist in the New York City area with a focus on strategic communications, innovation, PR, and content marketing. Caroline is also the founder of SourceRise, a digital platform connecting journalists to international NGO sources. Contact Caroline by email, see her profile page, visit her website, follow her on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment.

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  • Very informative and well organized post on social media issue. Thank you.

  • Adam Weinger

    Hi Caroline,
    Such a well-rounded list of advice! #2 and #3 stood out to me as one of those subtle low-effort, high-impact actions one can take to ensure a greater chance of success. It may not be obvious at first, but upon reading this list, one thinks, “Of course I should do that!”
    Thanks,
    Adam


    Adam Weinger
    President, Double the Donation