Social media can definitely make a huge difference to your organization. But for it to really work, someone has to spend some time on it, that’s for sure. It’s all about engaging with your fans and community, and that takes some time.
You really have two choices if you have decided not to do it yourself (and believe me, that is OKAY if you can’t/don’t want to do it yourself!): hire someone, or find a volunteer to do it.
If you find a volunteer, that person is ideally going to be interested in your organization, engaged in your activities and invested in your success. A volunteer is great to do this, too, because he or she will be aware of what you’re doing. Is there an adoption event this weekend? Do you need cat traps donated? Are you having a fundraiser for a special needs animal? Did you recently have a great adoption that you want to tell everyone about? These are things that a volunteer will (hopefully) be pretty tuned into, and can share via social media without you having to do much prompting.
On the downside, though, volunteers can sometimes get burned out. You can’t be TOO critical if they are slow, make mistakes, etc. because, after all, they’re volunteers. They can be moody and fickle. But they’re free!
If you hire someone, you get a level of professionalism that you don’t get with a volunteer. You have some control over the quality of their work, because you are paying them. If they don’t deliver a satisfactory performance, you can fire them! However, finding a person who is truly qualified can be difficult. Just about anybody will say “sure, I’ll do your social media for money!” I mean, what could be easier, right? Just play on Twitter and Facebook all day and get paid?! However, to have a good strategy and really do it effectively, it’s not as easy as it would seem to be.
The main problem with paying someone to do social media for you (besides the fact of having to pay them!) is that they may not be tuned in to what your organization is doing. They may not be in the same state or city as you are, and they may not be familiar at all with your organization. How, then, can they accurately and effectively represent you via social media, if their finger is not on the pulse of your organization?
Good social media firms make an effort to become familiar with your organization, and stay connected, so that they can accurately represent you via social media. For example, I do social media for several clients whose organizations I have never even visited. But I have spoken with them extensively, I’ve become very familiar with what they do, and I stay on top of it. I’m dialed in. My biggest challenge is making sure their staff remembers to keep me in the loop on stuff, so I can promote it! I have to be able to represent them in social media as if I AM them, as if I’m on the inside.
Most of us in the animal welfare world are conditioned to not pay for ANYTHING unless we absolutely have to. We try to get everything we can for free. And that makes sense because we don’t have very much money, usually! But sometimes, it’s true that you get what you pay for. The key is not to look at it like you are “losing” money, but that you’re spending $1 to make $10. And the key there is in HOW you pay your consultant or provider.
If you pay someone $500 or $5000 or $5 a month to do your social media, just a flat fee, then there’s really no accountability, is there? What I prefer to do, as a provider, is tie my performance into your profits. What I do is take an agreed-upon percentage of all donations that come through the web site. Therefore I know that if I do a really great job, and generate a lot of money for that shelter, then I can make more money, too. Everyone is happy! If I sit around and be lazy, and don’t actively campaign to raise money, however, then they don’t make any money…but neither do I. It’s kind of like being on a comission-only sales job. I only get paid for how smart I work and how good a job I do.
I also only take clients, in general, in fields that I’m familiar with—and usually that means animal shelters, because that’s the are where I’m most comfortable. I can talk about being in an animal shelter because I’ve spent a lot of time in animal shelters! If you were a biotechnology company, or a fashion magazine, I probably wouldn’t do a very good job at doing your social media, because I don’t know much about your business. Not even enough to fake it!
So, back to the original question: where would you find someone? If you’re looking for a good volunteer, make contact with your local community colleges or universities. Most marketing departments teach social media (or they should), and your nonprofit organization would make a great test project for a class. Often PR/marketing classes will divide into groups and each group will take an organization for the semester. This is a great way to get talented people for free, AND often they will stick around after the class is over and keep helping you, if it’s been a good experience. Colleges in general are a great place to find people. Sure, some college kids can be flakey. But this generation, called the Millenials (born after 1980), research is showing that they are extremely interested in volunteer work and “making a difference.” So don’t discount young people. Even if you get someone for a couple of months and then they quit, well, at least you have had someone for 2 months!
If you already have a Facebook page, twitter account, etc. then that’s a great place to find people. Advertise there! Tell your fans you’re looking for someone to maintain your social media presence. Chances are your most active fans live and breathe social media…and they’d be thrilled to do it on your behalf.
If you want to hire someone to do this, contact PR firms or agencies; they may have reduced rates for nonprofits. I also have availability for a few more clients and can give you some pricing information. I have a few other people I can recommend as well.
It also comes down to trusting someone. Many of us started our own rescue; it’s our “baby.” Let’s be honest: we have a hard time delegating and trusting anyone to do anything for us…because we only know it’s done right if WE do it ourselves, right? Well, sooner or later we have to accept that we CAN’T do everything ourselves. There are too many dogs to walk, too many litterboxes to clean, too many emails to answer, too many applications to check on.
So we think we CAN’T do something new like social media, even though it will help our organization so much in the long run. Help us to grow, get more donations, more volunteers….but do we really WANT that? It’s a valid question. As much as we always say we want volunteers, we want more help…if we had it, what would it mean? It would mean a loss of control, to a certain extent. We’d have to trust other people to do things that we currently struggle to get done ourselves.
I talk to so many people about this technology, and they say they wish it could go back to the way it used to be, to a simpler time. But things can’t go back to the way they used to be. This is the world we live in. These are the tools we have available to us, for good or ill.
So what are we going to do with the tools we’re given? And who will we enlist to help us?
Sometimes the hardest thing is just asking for help—but it can return the greatest rewards.
Have you found solutions for getting someone to do your social media? Share your success with us here! We’d love to hear your stories and ideas.