#InFocus: Driving Social Change with Social Media



Social media is widely seen as the perfect complement to nonprofit operations, and it is not hard to see why. The nature of the sector means that nonprofits might not have enough resources to reach out to key audiences. Social media, on the other hand, has been an affordable medium for many organisations to engage their audiences with—and may just help plug the resource gap faced by nonprofits.

No one has a clearer perspective on this than Beth Kanter, a nonprofit author, speaker, and trainer with 35 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. After graduating from music school, Beth decided to work with arts and culture nonprofits, eventually specialising in the nonprofit sector as an IT trainer. Subsequently, she adopted social media on a professional basis, and was even the first person to conduct fundraising activities on Twitter.

Beth is also the author of several books, including “The Networked Nonprofit” and “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit”. She shares her insights how nonprofits can use social media to further their causes, and her plans for the future.

[caption id="attachment_13911" align="aligncenter" width="401"]Beth showed her support for a nonprofit, which was using social media to generate awareness for endangered fishes. Beth showed her support for a nonprofit, which was using social media to generate awareness for endangered fishes.[/caption]


What challenges are nonprofits facing today when reaching out to their audiences?

In a hyperconnected world where attention is the new currency, it is difficult for nonprofits to reach their target audience on social media amidst the noise. As such, they need to tap into as many social networks as possible. This can be done when the executive director, board members, and staff engage the target audience as their organisation’s brand ambassadors on social media.

Brand ambassadors should first learn how to create an authentic persona that aligns with their organisation’s social media objectives. This includes overcoming the discomfort that comes with communicating online, and understanding the different ways to engage with stakeholders on social media channels.


What are some aspects of social media that nonprofits are not utilising?

Although brand ambassadors can help nonprofits reach out to their target audience, many nonprofits are not implementing this strategy. They are also not leveraging social media very much to measure the results of their marketing strategies, which is useful in improving the way they communicate to their audience.


How can nonprofits benefit from using social media to connect with their audiences?

Many employees are already sharing stories about their organisations within their own social networks, so encouraging them to become brand ambassadors on social media can improve employee engagement and sense of ownership in the company. As they are quite knowledgeable about the nonprofit they work for, they are less likely to miscommunicate information, which makes drumming up support and donations for the nonprofit’s cause much simpler.

Brand ambassadors also help the nonprofit get more mileage out of its social media plans, especially when it has limited resources to implement them. With multiple ambassadors, its social footprint and presence can be expanded far beyond what a lone communications director or marketing team is capable of. Plus, personal social media profiles also appear more trustworthy as compared to company profiles, and this is especially vital in this age of connectivity when audiences turn to the people they trust for recommendations, instead of looking to advertisements.


What advice do you have for nonprofits who are new to social media?

Nonprofits need to think strategically when implementing social media plans. This include thinking about their target audience and objectives, and the brand image they want to project.

To start, they should set up their social media accounts on one or two platforms, with a clearly defined target audience and well-articulated objectives. If they decide to set up more accounts eventually, defining these points should be a regular part of their social media planning.


What are some of your future plans for the nonprofit sector?

I've been working on my next book, The Happy Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact Without Burnout, with Aliza Sherman, a web and social media pioneer.

Many in the nonprofit sector are guilty of self-care, as if taking care of themselves is something they must avoid. However, in the face of the challenging work that nonprofits tackle daily, self-care is a necessary regime in order to cultivate a happier, healthier working environment. This book will provide tips and strategies on how the nonprofit staff can go from suffering from chronic stress to enjoying chronic self-care. Stay tuned for more updates on the book!