How My Nonprofit Plans To Use Social Media

getting_startedThanks to everyone who commented on my post Help Me Convince My Boss To Use Social Media. Not only did you offer some great support and tips, but the 24 comments I got were real evidence that social media really does work! I owe you all a Starbucks, which I'm happy to buy you when you come to visit me at my home store on 627 Tremont Street, Boston. See you there. After giving my pitch on social media at the directors retreat my boss encouraged me to create a social media task force to help coordinate our efforts. We agreed that thanks to your great comments we were pretty clear on the platforms we wanted to use, but we still needed to coordinate the actual work.  In short, a better name for the task force would have been forced tasks because they would be the ones doing the work.

Fortunately, the people I asked to be on the task force didn't see it that way at all (being the silver-tongue devil I am helps) and I've quickly pulled together an energetic group of six people. I chose people from the office that I knew enjoyed social media and wanted to learn more.

Our goal with social media in the short-term is to apply some of the things we've learned to our signature fall event, Halloween Town. I think it will be a good test area as we connect with mommy-bloggers and twitterers to drive traffic to the event. The long-term goal is to integrate social media in to the hospital's overall development and communication strategy.

Here are some specifics on our strategy.

Blogging. The hospital web site and development home page are in the midst of a major overhaul. One of the additions I'm pushing for on the new development web site is a blog. After talking to a number of people I really believe that blogging is a key strategy for nonprofits. (Which is interesting because there are really NO good nonprofits blogs out there.) A blog is a great way to keep people informed, it's timely, can be supercharged for SEO and can be well supported by other forms of social media.

But a blog is also a lot of fricken work too. Enough said.

Flickr and Youtube. Two key platforms, especially video. One thing I've learned this week is not every nonprofit can get that snappy-looking page on Youtube like Share Our Strength and others have. You have to apply to get your own channel. And it sounds like unless you have good number of videos already on Youtube and some traffic going to them, you ain't getting one. No matter. Video can be added to anything--but I do like the Youtube channel idea.

Facebook. We'll create a page here, but I'm unsure what it will accomplish. Many have described Facebook as a great "bulletin board" but that's about it. Nevertheless, 200 million Americans can't be wrong so I think we need to be there. One thing I need to explore is having the hospital listed on a "person" page as opposed to a "fan" page. Seems like the former is better, no? But I'm not sure how I do a "person" page for a nonprofit. It just seems like fan pages have been getting a lot of criticism lately. It sticks in my mind that social media savant @chrisbrogan a little while back deleted his fan page in disgust. How do you think we should represent ourselves on Facebook?

Twitter. It's no surprise that since I feel most comfortable with Twitter (and blogging) it's the place I want to focus on most. Just about everyone on my team will be twittering now @holtmurray @ashleyzolenski @jessicaorndorff @joannamacdonald @kaylarogers. We've also created a handle for Halloween Town @HalloweenTown09.

My larger goal is to get more people on the development team twittering. But let's face it: it's not for everyone. Some people just don't enjoy it. But with a little instruction and gentle prodding we could have more people building their own follower base and, when needed or inclined, tweeting about the hospital.

I'd also like to get other departments within the hospital tweeting and, of course, our donors. Twittering is powerful. Move over Zappos.

One idea I have with Twitter is to use the handle @Boston_ER to update followers on Boston's busiest emergency room. Whether it's injuries from a multi-car accident on Route 93, a spike in flu visits or a boating accident patient being medflighted from Nantucket, we would cover it.

There is precedent for this is, as both @Boston_Police and @BostonFire are both on Twitter. I think there is great interest out there among people who want to "follow the action" and see inside what I now bemoan as "Fortress BMC."

Armed with social media, we hope to tear those walls down so people can see firsthand the incredible--and sometimes exciting and fascinating--work we do.