Social Media Best Practices: 12 Tips for Making the Best of Facebook, Twitter, Google + or Any Other Social Site

Posted on August 1st 2011

Social Media Best Practices: 12 Tips for Making the Best of Any Social SiteDo you know how many of your supporters use popular social networks like Google+, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube?

Twitter has more than 16 million users, and 42.3 percent of the entire American population is on Facebook. YouTube is the second most used search engine in the world. Google recently made a big social medial play by introducing Google+ which saw 20 million users within the first three weeks.

With usage stats like that it’s probably safe to assume that a large portion of your supporters, customers and/or prospects use at least one of these sites on a regular basis, right?

Which means you need to get laser focused on figuring out how to best utilize sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube.

But as with anything, it can be challenging to figure out where to start or how to ensure your efforts are going to be effective.

With that in mind, here are 12 tips that will help you succeed no matter what social-networking site you apply them to.

 

1. CLAIM YOUR LAND

As you get more and more involved in using social media, be sure to claim your land by creating your organization’s Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, LinkedIn profile, Google+ profile, etc.

Think about it like when the Internet became popular — you wanted to secure your domain even if you didn’t plan on using it right away so others wouldn’t register it.

2. FILL OUT YOUR PROFILE COMPLETELY

The social Web is essentially a place where relationships are built, maintained and enhanced in a digital space.

It’s really no different than real life in that people want to get to know who you are, what you stand for, how you’re changing the world and what they can get by connecting with you. So make sure to take advantage of all the profile space you have by adding a picture, putting up information about your organization, providing links back to your website and so on. This way others know you’re a real nonprofit doing real things.

3. SPEND SOME TIME OBSERVING (AKA LISTENING)

An easy way to understand this concept is to think about attending a party where you don’t know many people.

It’s doubtful that you’d go barging in to conversations or groups of people without first getting the lay of the land by observing the room, looking for others who you may know or know of, and thinking about what you could talk about with those attending. The social Web is no different. It requires that you learn the culture, people and way to interact on each specific site. Twitter is different than Facebook, and Facebook is different than LinkedIn.

Spend some time observing how others interact, speak, share and communicate before you dive in. Creating a social-media listening dashboard helps as you get started. You can get one up and running in 30 minutes or less for free.

4. LOCATE YOUR PEEPS

Once you’ve begun to get acclimated with the culture and overall way to interact on each social site, start to look for those who are talking about or interested in things you find interesting.

For example: If you’re a nonprofit that focuses on disaster-relief efforts in places like New Zealand, then you may want to connect with the Red Cross and begin building a relationship with it. Or you may want to find individuals who are talking about the events around the world where disaster relief is needed.

This allows you to engage with people who are interested in the things you do and who might become supporters of yours one day. You should also get familiar with using search features like Twitter Search to help you find the right people to engage with.

Here are 13 simple twitter search examples to get you started.

5. ENGAGE, BUT DON’T YELL (OR ASK FOR DONATIONS)

After you’ve been observing for a while and locating like-minded organizations and individuals, you want to begin building relationships with them.

The key point to remember here is that you should not start by selling your wares or promoting your programs or asking for donations. Even though Social Fundraising is a great way to empower your supporters it shouldn’t be the first thing you focus on. Start by getting to know the individuals who run the social-media accounts you interact with — offer your help, assistance and support to them. Be the initiator and giver.

Spend some time in chitchat-type conversations to build real connections and relationships with others — it will pay off in the long run.

6. BUILD YOUR FAN BASE (JUST LIKE BUILDING YOUR HOUSE FILE)

As you start to engage with the right individuals and organizations, you naturally begin to build your fan base — it’s the organic way of doing things on the social Web.

In addition to that, once you’ve developed a solid presence, part of your fan-, friend- and follower-growth strategy should include promoting your presence on social-media sites to your current supporter base. You can do this by putting social-media links on your main website and sending e-mail communications to your housefile, letting all your supporters know where to find you on the various social-networking sites you participate on.

This helps build your social-network fan base in two ways.

First, it gets all those who you have e-mails addresses for to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter and so on.

Second, it gives you exposure to your fans’ networks and provides the opportunity for many more to find out about you.

7. CREATE MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS

Now that you’re building a nice-sized following and engaging with the right crowd, you should focus on building relationships that are useful to others.

Sticking with the disaster-relief example, if you were engaged in helping those affected by a natural disaster in New Zealand, then you could help others by providing them up-to-the-minute news, pointing them to resources that would allow them to help or participate in the relief efforts, and creating conversations with others that help draw attention to the cause.

By being a resource to your community and helping others, you quickly build a great reputation online.

8. IDENTIFY AND INTERACT WITH INFLUENCERS

A key part of any social-media strategy involves identifying influencers — those who have nice-sized online networks can effectively spread your message and are able to activate others.

These individuals can help you reach more people because of the trusted relationships they’ve already built. As you build relationships with people online, look for the influencers and be thoughtful about how you engage and build relationships with them.

It’s very possible they can help amplify your message like you’ve never been able to do.

9. CONNECT THE DOTS

The social Web is very much a game of relationships and a place where those who are genuinely using the tools for good want to connect with other like-minded individuals.

As you build your network of fans, help them to get to know each other by connecting them. Make introductions on Facebook. Share something that one of your fans has done with another on Twitter. Help build a tight-knit network by being a connector who’s always looking for ways to build beneficial relationships between others.

10. PUMP OUT USEFUL INFO. AND CONTENT

Think of participating on the social Web like you think about your website.

Would people come back if you failed to update your website with useful information on a regular basis? Doubtful. The same holds true on the social Web, so make sure to consistently share great content that’s relevant and useful to your fan base. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be content that you wrote or created. It can be news stories, resources from other websites, information from a partner organization, etc.

The key is that you become valuable by sharing useful content.

11. ACTIVATE YOUR NETWORK

At the end of the day, doing the steps outlined above have a purpose.

That purpose is to build a community of people who are supporters of your organization and willing to take action in support of your cause.

Your online network will respond when you ask if you’ve built real relationships, engaged with people, proved to be a useful resource, connected others and had an overall positive impact on your online community.

12. SAY THANK YOU

Good manners apply in any social setting, and the Web is no different.

Make sure to continually show appreciation when you’re fans support you by donating, volunteering, sharing your content, retweeting a tweet, liking a Facebook status update, attending an event or any other action you’ve requested them to take. It shows that you’re paying attention and that you’re grateful for every bit of support.

And that keeps people coming back to support you every time you need them.

 

What one tip would you add? There’s plenty more out there that you’re doing a great job at, I’m sure!

 

Frank Barry blogs about social media for nonprofits at NetWits Think Tank and can be found on Twitter at @franswaa

franswaa

Frank Barry

At work I help nonprofits w/ technology, social media & online strategy. The rest of the time Im a family guy whos into learning, sports, food, friends & movies.
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Comments

An added note: It takes a time to see results and that is where people fall short or they try to take the easy path and as you put it "yelling". I first started on LinkedIn when I was looking or a job a year and half ago. I chose to network heavily to add to my searching strategy. I was annoyed a first at how long it took, but then I started receiving replies and actually got 4 interviews with solid companies. My current company found my profile and reached out to me in the middle of my search. I remember being very excited! I love my job in recruiting and I tell people I connect with that want advice to get on LinkedIn and if their on there then I give them tips on how to network better. This is the best article so far on how to use LinkedIn. I am going to save this article to send to future people! Thanks!

Thanks Casey. Awesome to hear  you got a great JOB using social media. Congrats :)

Hi Frank.

I suppose we are "claiming our land" or trying to at least!

I couldn't agree more about good manners on the internet. I was quite shocked to be part of a forum recently where a response to a question was really rude and crude - The problem is the comment stays there on that thread and everyone has to read it! Surely we all benefit from enjoying good manners on the web.

Regards

Catherine

Catherine ... don't you just wish everyone would be civil and have good manners ... all the time? :)

 

I'm with you. We all benifit if we treat people with respect & kindness.

Very good post. Good outline of the basics of social media marketing. However one important part is to show your personal side and use a display picture that is of yourself as opposed to a company logo 

Yep. Totally right there. Showing that you're a real human, interacting, and sincerity are all critical.

Hi Frank!

Really great best practices!! These all take a lot of work, but with a little effort and genuine desire to connect and engage with others, these 12 best practices will feel like a pirce of cake!

I feel like we keep reiterating these things over and over and people just aren't getting it. People have their own agendas and it's so unfortunate that they don't understand how truly easy it is to have fun on social networks, while also building your authority. 

We think that because we're all sitting behind a computer that we can do and say whatever we want without hurting anyone or effecting anyone else. But that's just not true. Online is no different than being in person.

Would you not say thank you to someone who helped you (in person)?

Would you not reply to someone if they asked you a direct question (in person)?

Would you not try to network (in person)? 

If anyone answers no to the above...then they've got some bigger issues to deal with. ;)

Manners are becoming harder to come by, but they can be easily integrated with a little forethought.

Great post!!

Well said Morgan. "would you not say thank you to someone who helped you in person?" ... 

 

I hope that's not the case with most of us :)

Very good post Frank.   I am glad to be sharing this with our clients! 

Thank you!! 

Thanks man. Appreciate you stopping by and taking a sec to leave an encouraging comment :)

Awesome post. All the basics in a simple to follow list. I wish I had written it :-)

Jamie ... i'll look for the post you write that expands on this one :) ... people are going to need the next 102 level course.

I completely agree with point #3.  I often tell people just starting out in SM to just listen for a while.  Observing is the best way to learn.  Just becaue you have claimed a twitter moniker doesn't mean you have to start spewing out 140 characters the first day.  Great post.

Thanks for stopping by!! ... I'm curious, have you found any tools to be useful for helping "listen" on the social web? I know there are a lot out there.

GREAT article! I will be attending a conference on Social Media this coming week and after reading your article, I have a feeling I just used unneccessary business funds to get a deeper insight on social media. None the less, I am also ventruing out in to volunteering with non-profits and help launch them into the social media realm to generate higher traffic for their causes. Thank you, this was a lot of help.

Hey Chris. Glad you found the article useful. :) ... and I love the fact that you're diggin' into the nonprofit space!! Rock on man. And feel free to connect on Twitter if you want to chat some time.

Is it just me, or have we evolved beyond the whole "thank you" convention seem overkill in an agency-to-agency Twitter world? If you tweet as an institution and you've once thanked a collegial institution for retweets, and they've thanked you, can't you just move on as obvious partners?

I can't imagine thanking for every follow into the thousands. Some are just self-serving. Some are intents to spam. Who has time to triage and make that call? It just seems a wee bit pathetic to always be "buttering up" others...

I totally agree with most of what you say in your tips, but wonder if it's time to move on from all the warm fuzzies when dealing with serious content. It's not a popularity contest....

Lewis. I TOTALLY hear ya.

I wouldn't (or didn't mean to) suggest that we literally say thank you to every single tweet or other social media mention. Rather, I suggest that people have an attitude of gratitude in general. Meaning we do thank people and show gratitude as a part of "being" engaged in the social space.

People pick up on that type of sincerity and reciprocate.