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Social media is both a mystery and a fascination for non-profits. How do we use it? How to make money from? Why do we need it? These questions and more have come up any time I’ve talked to non-profit professionals about social media.

The bottom line is that social media is supposed to be a place where conversation can be facilitated. But the way that most organization use social media can be summed up by this – a one-way communications megaphone. In this sense it becomes like our newsletters or emails, where it is far more challenging to have a conversation.

As I mentioned in January, I think one of the big opportunities non-profit have is to be storytelling facilitators and social media is a great place to make that happen. When both you and your followers are sharing and engaging with stories, community is built.

I’m not entirely sure anyone has determined “best practices” when it comes to social media. It’s a constantly moving target. That being said, in the title of this post I did promise to share a few best practices.

#1 Be Consistent
There is nothing stranger than to come across a non-profit’s social media account and find that it’s been collecting cobwebs for months or years on end. Commit to the social channels that you will actively use and close down the rest. Choose channels where your target audience spends most of their time. Create an editorial calendar to map out the themes of what your posts will be about to make content creation easier.

#2 Variety
I think Larissa from Catholic Volunteer Network said it best, “If content is king, then variety is queen.” If you want your audience to be engaged with your social channels, then you need to give them reasons to keep coming back. Part of this is consistency. If they know to expect something new from you every day, they’ll pop by. Tell success stories, tell stories about volunteers, tell stories about donors, tell stories about staff members, and ask your followers to share their stories.

#3 Show, Don’t Just Tell
One of the benefits of social media is that there is an opportunity to communicate through more interactive mediums like video or photos. Show your stories in action and give your followers another way to experience them.

#4 Be Authentic
If there really is a secret to making a post go viral, my money is on the content being authentic. It is not possible to connect with other humans if you are not acting human online. Authenticity and vulnerability are two of the big barriers that I think need to be broken in non-profit digital communications. Whenever you write a post read it out loud and see if what you’ve written sounds like something you would actually say. Authenticity should also influence how you respond to your community members’ comments.

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