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Creating a Citizen Army: Social Media Training for Non-Profit Volunteers

Every organization, whether non-profit or for profit, has limited resources. You might have a sole individual in charge of your social media, or an entire team – yet still, the aggregate time spent on your organization’s social is going to have limits. The idea that non-profits can create a tidal wave of social activity through their volunteers is intriguing, and marries these two great facets of humanity: caring and being social.

volunteers for non-profits train social media

There are two major ways to use volunteers:

  1. As a citizen army that helps to spread social media messages
  2. As community managers

Community managers are going to be people that you trust in administrative roles on your social media accounts. If you don’t have a dedicated internal community manager, you might be able to draw from volunteer expertise. The following, though, is focused on the notion of building up a crew that can be your organizational ambassadors, and help spread the word.

Before you go calling that gathering, however, consider how your volunteer efforts can be maximized with a little preparation.

Send out a questionnaire

In any group of people, you’re apt to have a wide range of social media adoption. In the week prior to your volunteer training, send out a questionnaire to help you get a feeling for where people are. Ask who is using each of the major social media platforms, and how many connections (friends, followers, etc) they have on each platform. It’s also a good idea to ask your participants how comfortable they feel using social media.

Flesh out your organizational voice

It’s important to flesh out your organizational “voice.” Create a brand voice document that establishes the personality as well as the dos and the don’ts of your social media personality.

Here is a brand voice template example.

Coaching the social media citizens

Coaching volunteers can be a great opportunity to help people become more adept at social media.  I might start a session thinking I’m just going over Facebook posts, only to learn that the participants are really interested in Twitter or Pinterest.

Here are the other main topics I like to cover:

  • How to share – it doesn’t hurt to go over the very basics of sharing something. One of the challenges of these types of workshops is that there will inevitably be neophytes alongside more experience individuals.
  • Whether it’s OK to share more than once – it’s ok to share a Tweet a few times a day, while with a Facebook post, probably not.
  • Using Facebook lists – show users how to divide their friends up into different lists based on location or major interests, and tailor their shares to that audience.
  • Targeting individuals – you can “call-out” individuals in your shares, or even share (carefully) to the walls of others
  • Personalizing your shares – you never want to just retweet or share something without adding a bit of your own personality.
  • Include Calls to Action in your shares – ask you audience to also like the non-profit, or even share a particular piece of content.
  • Sharing across different platforms – you can share content across different social media platforms. As you do so, adjust it for the differences of each audience.

Create a community

Invite your participants to join in a Google Group or Google Plus Community in which you can share ongoing tips with the group.

Ongoing improvement

Over time, take screen captures of particularly good shares and share them with the community, and in your brand voice document. Check out other non-profits, particularly those that are successful in social media, and pay particular attention to the content that has been share the most. 

There are a lot of bits of social media advice out there that will tell you that certain types of posts perform the best, like “images, at 6 pm?” You very well may find that images get shared the most on Facebook. Often, though, a well-timed text post can have even greater engagement.

Whenever one of your social media citizens shares your content, your community manager should thank them.  It is a good idea, too, to find other opportunities to highlight those volunteers. Consider that when a volunteer shares your social media content, it’s not unlike them writing a letter to their friends on your behalf.

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