About a decade ago, we were wondering exactly what social networks were.  A few years ago, we wondered if nonprofit organizations should be on social networks or not.  Now, the question is not "What are they" or "Should we be on them," but rather "What is the best way to use ours?"  Nothing beats posting top quality content, but here are also a few tricks I've picked up along the way...

1. Join the Conversation:  People are already talking about you on Twitter

That's right.  Right now, people might be saying good things about you, or they could be saying bad things about you.  I learned this while working for the Midwest Augustinians.  After searching for "Augustinian" on Twitter, I found supporters from across the world I might not have otherwise connected with.  I also found a handful of people saying awful things about the religious order.  Some were valid concerns, some were inaccurate, and some were just outright inappropriate.  But guess what.  If you're not a member of this "Twitterverse" you'll never know.  Moreover, you'll never be able to communicate back.  The best organizations are the one that find this good and bad publicity and communicate effectively respond!

2. Automatically Increase Your SEO with Google Plus

Okay, first:  what is SEO?  That stands for "search engine optimization."  It basically means posting enough relevant content on your website so that when people search online using sites like Google, Bing, and Yahoo, they come across your website.  That is your opportunity to connect.  There are books and books on how to increase your SEO and drive more traffic to your site.  But one trick to give you a slight bump on Google (the largest search engine), is to have your organization sign up for Google Plus (G+).  By signing up on G+, Google will reward you with increased search results!  Still use the network to offer great content to your supporters, but this is a handy trick.

3. Schedule Your Posts in Advance

How does it seem like organizations are ALWAYS posting on their sites?  Do they have a team of people that do nothing but tweet around the clock?  Some, yes.  But most of us are on a tight budget, can't afford extensive social networking staff, and still want to communicate on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.  How do you do it?  There are plenty of platforms to help you schedule ALL of your networks in advance, from one website, track their click-thru rates, and even suggest relevant content to you!  Hootsuite is a personal favorite that I'd recommend.  They even offer a host of social networking webinars and coursework to help you improve your own skills!

4. How Much Klout Do You Have?

A few years ago, an independent company known as "Klout" set forth an ambition to be able to track how much influence you might carry online, combining the effectiveness of all of your social networks.  The more social media presence you have - and the more your followers engage in your content - the higher your Klout score goes!  Everyone's social media presence can be measured, including even people like Barack Obama and Pope Francis!  You can calculate your own Klout score to see how you fare.  You can also search for related media in your field with high Klout scores to hope they'll pick up your content, thus giving you more exposure!

But Still...

Nothing is ever so simple and automated as posting at exactly the right times or saying the right buzz words.  The truth is that sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., are tools to help us strengthen relationships with our supporters.  They're not as personal as face-to-face relationships, for example, but they put your organization in front of your supporters more frequently.  In my own personal feed, here's some of what I remember this past week:

  • Feeling happy because I saw a picture of children in Ecuador like the one I'm supporting through a large organization
  • Feeling proud of the theater I volunteer at for receiving a rave review by a local paper
  • Feeling empowered by a legislative measure one advocacy group helped promote

Remember, that communicating with your followers - above all - is key.  "Wow!" them, as some might say.  Thank them through your posts that you are grateful for their support, whether if that is financial or not!