Social media is everywhere these days. You can’t escape it. You really shouldn’t want to escape it. When used properly, social media can be a nonprofit’s best friend. It offers free advertising, easy promotion, and once you’ve given it a little TLC, it gives you a built in audience. The problems arise when Nonprofitss get serious enough to establish a presence online and then neglect it. Just because you forget about your online world doesn’t mean everyone else will.
The good, the bad, the ugly – it all ends up online. And if your NPO isn’t hitting the airwaves quickly to respond to it, you can bet someone else is doing it for you. That’s the case with the debacle that unraveled in late January with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. The news that the Foundation was stopping future funding to Planned Parenthood broke fast and spread like wildfire online. Everyone had an opinion and was tweeting, posting and blogging about it. Well, almost everyone. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation was silent on the topic for what seemed like an eternity in online time – three days.
In times past, three days may not have seemed like a long time to wait to respond to a situation, but in the current technological world we live, three days is forever. And in those three days, Komen gave everyone with an opinion the opportunity to speculate, criticize, mock and wonder just what was going on inside their walls. We all know that sometimes silence speaks louder than words and in the world of social media, this couldn’t be truer. To read more insight about the Komen story, hop over to Michael Rosen’s blog site and read “Does Komen Have a Communications or Integrity Problem?”
NPOs of all sizes can learn a couple things from the Komen example. First, be proactive. Whether we are talking social media or otherwise, be proactive. Get ahead of your organization’s news – both good and bad. Be ready to respond and have a plan to do so quickly. Second, don’t ignore the online conversations taking place. Social media isn’t the playground. Ignoring the gossip won’t make it go away. As an organization that is taking donations from the public to use for specific causes (whatever your mission may be), you have an obligation to answer people’s questions. And ignoring it will just create a PR nightmare you really don’t need.
We all know that not all online talk is credible. We all know that some people will jump at any opening to take the cheap shots. I’m not for one minute suggesting that you address those particular people. I am, however, saying that you can’t just ignore the negative talk that’s taking place online about your organization. Mashable has a good article about identifying different types of negative feedback online and how to deal with it. Read “HOW TO: Deal with Negative Feedback in Social Media” for more information.
Social media is growing and quickly becoming the easiest, cheapest, fastest way for NPOs to communicate with their donors, potential donors and the general public. Getting involved in the online conversation will soon be a must for all Nonprofits. Staying in the conversation is already a must for those who have already established themselves online. Whether you just have a website or are playing with blogs, Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, etc. make sure you’re getting your message out consistently and in a timely manner. It will save you some major headaches in the long run.