How Nonprofits Can Embrace Social Media to Attract and Engage the Next Generation

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A Guest Post from Richard McMunn, Founder how2become.com

“Although fundraising is the ultimate concern for most nonprofits and charities, the first step to fundraising is awareness and effective communication.”

Social media has pervaded the realm of interaction and communication in such a way, that words like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have become part of our everyday lives. We now live in a world where social media can enable revolutions, YouTube can turn people into global celebrities overnight, and everyone and their gran has a Facebook account.

Social media has changed the face of networking, communication and advertising and increasingly, non-profits and charities are beginning to use these tools to effectively engage people. Let’s look at some ways in which third sector organizations can use social media tools to appeal to a more media savvy generation that use social media as an intrinsic part of their social lives.  

Understanding the Nature of the Beast

Social media can help non-profits on a variety of levels. Firstly, social media tools are communications platforms, and very dynamic and interactive ones at that. The first way in which non-profits can leverage the power of social media is to communicate their cause and their work to a large audience. Although fundraising is the ultimate concern for most non-profits and charities, the first step to fundraising is awareness and effective communication.

Different social media sites have different strengths. To give you an example, YouTube is predominantly an audio visual platform, and could be used to promote such content, and engage people in that way. The content and presentation can be designed to suit a specific audience.

For instance, as a non-profit we can aim to engage with a younger audience by targeted communication through videos, and other media. Facebook can be used to build a campaign, connect to people and connect people with each other, and to spread a message quickly.

Investing in Existing Supporters

Many organizations simply look at social media as a platform for incessant advertising and marketing. But we live in the age of increasing information overload, and it is becoming more and more difficult to get people’s attention. The fact is that impersonal advertising messages are far less effective than endorsement from someone you know and trust.

The beauty of social media lies in the fact that it allows people the power of reach. People who already support a charity or a particular cause and believe in it, have the power to create more awareness and help gain more support. As such, existing supporters of non-profits can play a pivotal role in fundraising and networking in this environment dominated by social media. Social media allows them to share their convictions and views with their own networks and give the cause the kind of impetus that was near impossible before.

In order to leverage the real power of social media, nonprofits must recognize this potential and invest in their existing supporters by providing them with essential tools and material to communicate the right message.

 Keeping Up-to-date with Changing Trends

Younger people have grown up with the internet as an integral part of their lives. Statistical research on social media usage in 2012 shows that over 95% of 18 – 24’s in the UK have a Facebook account; over 89% of the same age group actively use YouTube, with other social media sites like Twitter and Foursquare in close tow. It is possible to find detailed statistics of different platforms, users and demographics. To use social media sites successfully, it is important to understand the audience, and to use the right platform for engagement.

 Statistics also show that non-profits have increasingly begun to use social media for communication and engagement. In fact, the last year saw many charities and nonprofit organizations, both large and small, use social media for communication and fundraising campaigns. As the volume of advertising and communication on social media sites increases, non-profits will need to stay up-to-date with evolving trends in communication in order to optimize the contemporary media tools at their disposal.

Editor’s note: Richard McMunn, is the founder and director of the UK’s leading career website how2become.com.

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