For Non-Profits: Questions to Get Started in Social Media

A quandary facing many, many animal rescue groups and nonprofits is how to get STARTED using social media, and how to convince the “powers that be” that it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

And then, if they are “convinced,” what is the action plan? Your organization might already have a PR person, but most likely not. And if that person is already overwhelmed, or doesn’t have the skills, what then?

What I’ve found is that convincing is the first step. Once you get your administration to the place where they are saying “Yes, okay, let’s invest some personnel resources into this, or at least find a good volunteer we can trust to do it,” then what is the next actionable step? How do you go from “let’s do it” to actually DOING it?

Someone needs to learn the skills, and create a plan. Even having the skills isn’t enough unless you have a plan.

Maybe you’ve said that you’re going to post on Twitter and Facebook three times a week, and write one blog post a week. Great! But you have to define it a little better. What are you posting about? Will you post about current events in the area? Dog training tips? Behavior info? Split weeks among dogs and cats? What about legislation? Obviously you know what your shelter focuses on more than I do, but there are TONS of subjects, so it’s good to plan it out. You might want to focus on topics that correspond with national initiatives, such as adopt a shelter cat month, adopt a senior pet month, etc.

I think it’s a good idea to make a spreadsheet of dates you are going to post, and what you’re going to write about. Of course, if something earth-shattering comes up that is current news, you can deviate from your plan, but this makes it SO much less stressful than having to lie awake at night wondering what your next blog post will be about. This way you can schedule different people in your organization to write guest posts (so one person doesn’t have to do it all), and you can get them scheduled out, so you can take a vacation (don’t laugh, it might happen someday! 🙂 and still make a scheduled post.

This is also a good plan in case something happens to the person in charge.

Death, firing, resignation, illness…these things invariably happen, and if one person is the only one possessing certain knowledge, your organization can be up a creek. Making a spreadsheet (and including all relevant login/password information for social media sites) for your social media marketing plan is a great idea to keep your message going during times of crisis or change in your organization.

And before you create this plan/schedule, it’s good to come up with your goals! What are your goals for social media? What do you want it to accomplish for your organization? Be specific. This will inform your entire plan, and if you can always go back to these goals, it will keep you from getting off track and distracted.

If you’re investing money in your social media campaign or tools, it’s even more important. Think of your web site, your Twitter posts, your Facebook page, as an employee. You pay for an employee, and you hold that person accountable for certain tasks and duties. The same should be true for your web site. Its job is to perform certain functions. What are those? How does it accomplish those goals? What do you do if it doesn’t?

I suppose all these questions could seem a little daunting, but it really is going to save you SO much time in the long run if you take some time up front to plan before you jump into social media, even if you are already very proficient with the tools (and even more so if you’re not). Have a giant brainstorming session with your whole team, and you could define your marketing and social media goals and outline for the whole year! Then all you have to do is execute, and keep everyone posted on the progress.

Of course, TheSocialAnimal is available for consulting to work with your staff to establish these goals, define your strategy and outline your plan.

Any ideas? What have you tried? Any recommendations for other groups who are just getting started? All of us would love to hear from you—since you’re the ones actually in the trenches doing the work every day. What has worked for you? Please post comments, ideas and questions here!

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I'm available via most social media, so drop me a line! I'll answer your questions and I really look forward to hearing from you and helping if I can!

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