So, last week I was stuck in my apartment for a good three days. As fellow VM blogger Lauren pointed out, this forced vacation wasn’t so bad: I exercised every day (lots of snow shoveling), met my neighbors (finally!), and had ample time to catch up on Facebook. Being trapped inside my apartment, as so many others were, I really came to appreciate the connection that Facebook brought to my life- I was able to keep tabs on what my friends were doing, catch up with old friends I hadn’t talked to in a while, and share my experiences with them. To be honest, I think I learned more about the power of Facebook last week than I had in the last 5 years, for one simple reason… I was engaged.
No, I don’t mean in the marriage way 😉 I was really putting the effort in- posting on people’s walls, updating my status, sharing links that I liked and thought maybe other people would like too… I have had a Facebook profile since Facebook started back in 2004, but until this point hadn’t used it very much to tell people how or what I was doing. I put pictures up, and would go on to check out other people’s pictures (yes I’ll admit it, I occasionally Facebook stalk) but I never really posted all that much on people’s walls, or updated my status to tell friends what I was up to.
It turns out that people actually care! You just have to give them something to care about. On Facebook, just like in real life, people are much more likely to react to a comment or idea than spontaneously communicate one of their own (or spontaneously write on your Facebook wall) for no reason.
Now, I’m probably saying things that a lot of people already know, but for me, this was revolutionary. This capacity to determine how people interact with you, how they see you, and to draw them back for more is what makes social media so powerful for nonprofits. It’s what makes Facebook one of the top 5 social media tools. And it makes it possible for your organization to really become transparent, interesting, and engaged.
Creating a Facebook page is easy for nonprofits, but it’s important to think it through before you just start putting stuff up willy-nilly. There are a few simple things that you can do ahead of time in order to make your Facebook experience as productive as possible:
- Use your personal Facebook account as a guinea pig – Rather than put your organization’s name out there before you are ready, make a personal profile to try stuff out. Use that to play around with the different things you can do (join groups, create events, post photos, decide who can see what). Get comfortable with the features.
- Listen– Check out organizations that are similar to yours and see what they are doing. Identify (and write down) what you like and don’t like about other organizations’ pages, and the way they interact with people. This way, you can plan out a strategy before you even put your name out there, which will help you feel more confident, comfortable, and more likely to engage.
- Plan– Decide why you want to make a Facebook page for your organization. Will you make a page for just one program, or for the whole organization? Will you use it to speak with people or just to post events? Can anyone join or will they have to be invited? The more you plan ahead of time, the more you will be ready for when things don’t go as planned.
- Let go– Social media is all about engaging with clients, consumers, participants, and people just interested in your organization. You are not going to be able to control everything that they do, nor do you want to, so you have to be able to go with the flow when you start a Facebook page.
The more people see you responding to their suggestions and input, the more they are going to want to engage with you. And that, in the end, is what it’s all about 🙂