Tips, tricks, and tools for using and managing your social networks wisely
Is your organization considering setting up a profile on a social networking site? Are you wondering what tasks are involved, how much time it will take, and how you might streamline your efforts? Maybe your organization has established a presence on MySpace and is now contemplating adding one to Facebook. Perhaps you are wondering how you can juggle multiple profiles and still have time left to do other work.
As more and more organizations jump on the social networking bandwagon, people are seeking ways to make the time spent on these tools as efficient and fruitful as possible. I had the chance to survey several nonprofit professionals and social networking mavens about their social networking habits. The tips below, taken from their responses, offer suggestions for effectively managing your profiles and contacts on social networking sites, finding people with relevant interests to your nonprofit or professional goals, working between multiple social networking sites, and getting the most out of social networking tools even if you’re not a Web designer or techie.
1. Invest time in your network
While most online social networks cost nothing for your organization to join, keep in mind that creating a strong online presence on one can require an investment of up to two hours a day, especially in the beginning when you are learning how to use the site, setting up your profile, and making friends. If you’re unprepared to make this commitment, you may want to reconsider using these tools at your organization.
If you don’t have someone on-staff who can help manage your social networks, you may want to seek outside help. Heather Mansfield, community manager at Change.org, suggests finding a social networking intern or an assistant who can spend a minimum of 10 hours per week managing your site or sites, noting that many organizations are seeking full-time staffers to do the job. “I am starting to see larger nonprofits creating full-time social networking positions for 40 hours a week,” she said.
Keep in mind that there is a fair amount of trial and error with using social networking sites, and your organization may not see results right away. “There is a learning curve; don’t expect immediate results for at least three months, whatever your objectives may be,” advised Alex De Carvalho, community manager of multimedia social networking site Scrapblog. “Take the time to build your profile correctly and learn the ropes of what works and what doesn’t.”
Nick Noakes, a director at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, stresses the value of this “no-guilt” exploration time. “It has brought me knowledge and contacts more than a lot of planned things I do,” he said.
Some nonprofit professionals, like Beth Dunn of the Cape Cod Arts Foundation, use their after-work hours and their individual (rather than organizational) profiles as a low-risk way to try out new tools. “Keep following what others are doing, and test,” said social media expert Chris Brogan. “If you want, use a dummy user account to make sure your experimenting doesn’t leave breadcrumbs that go nowhere for folks who legitimately want to engage with your organization.” He also suggests keeping track of your progress. “Don’t do random trial and error, which isn’t as effective as creating learning experiments that give you some information about how to improve your strategy.” Continue reading