Social media enhances public engagement in good times and bad

It is undeniable, social media has taken the public by storm and opened up new channels of communication connecting organizations to individual donors in the digital environment. The structure of social media networks encourages the submission and distribution of ideas, products or conversations across a network of friends, family and colleagues. Sharing capabilities allow concepts to spread quickly online, requiring fewer resources to increase awareness and engage larger populations. Therefore, it is invaluable to nonprofit organizations to incorporate a social media component into their digital strategies, as a tie-in to Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter can greatly enhance the success of an online donation page.

Social campaigns
When designing a social media component, Business 2 Community recommended approaching the effort the way a business would entice a new customer to its ecommerce platform or physical store. Social campaigns not only drive awareness of an organization's mission, but also works to incentivize donors to participate either with contributions or volunteered time. In offering a digital perk for helping, nonprofits can engage more donors who will then share the promotion with friends and family via social media to increase the reach of the effort.

As most nonprofits do not offer a product or service to donors, creating a digital coupon would be impossible. Rather, consider other social media-based efforts that can boost participation without costing the charity significant time or money to produce. For example, many nonprofits aim to be experts in their specific fields, and will gather together industry leaders and innovative thinkers to discuss important topics or strategies in public forums. These panels can be videotaped and posted online via webinars, easily shared throughout social networks. When social campaigns effectively engage donors, they can produce a significant impact on donations by driving traffic to donation pages.

Livestrong relies on social media
After Lance Armstrong's use of illegal enhancement drugs surfaced, the professional athlete's nonprofit organization faced a public relations nightmare. The Livestrong Foundation became a target of criticism during the media storm, forcing the nonprofit's online community manager Brooke McMillan to find unique ways to revamp its public image.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy explained McMillan increased the amount of time spent on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter to study the public's perception of the Livestrong Foundation and respond to criticism directly in hopes of repairing the damaged reputation. By reinforcing the mission statement of the foundation and explaining the work being done to separate the nonprofit from Armstrong's crisis, McMillan was able to refocus the conversation surrounding the organization on the cause, not the scandal. Because social media networks create an open dialogue between organizations and donors, McMillan was able to answer questions and provide case studies to reinstate confidence in the organization's work.

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