Relationships take time, even via social media

Stop looking for the magic social media management tool, the one that allows you to send one message to “all” the social media platforms and magically get lots of likes and followers. The one that keeps you from ever having to actually log in to Twitter, Facebook, Instragram, etc.

Stop it NOW.

That approach to social media is like walking into a room full of people, making an announcement, even a powerpoint presentation, never taking questions or looking to see if anyone is listening, walking out when you’re done, and then wondering why no one gave your nonprofit money, came to your next event, provided input on your programs, joined as a volunteer, etc. – and using that same experience to say, “Well, I guess everyone likes us or they don’t care, because no one said anything to me!”

Timo Lüge blogs at Social Media for Good and in a recent blog: says this:

“Social media is about building and sustaining relationships. It is not a one-time interaction. In other words: you need to stop thinking about how you can get people to ‘like’ a post and instead develop a long-term strategy for how you want to interact with the community. You and your management need to accept that that will take time. Focus on the quality of the interactions instead of the quantity.”

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use a social media management tool to schedule tweets or Facebook status updates or anything else in advance, or to create analytics – I use Hootsuite to schedule my daily tweets in the morning and afternoons, as well as bi-weekly posts to Googleplus and, sometimes, to Facebook. But I still take the time log into each of those platforms, individually, and to read messages by people and organizations I follow, like those messages, comment on them, share posts by others, reply to comments that have been made to me, etc. I also make sure I tag people and organizations related to what I’m posting on social media, so they know they are being talked about, and might be encouraged to reply. In other words, I spend time with the audience, just like I would in a room full of people, to hear their feedback, to hear what they are doing and thinking, to acknowledge their points of view and to get a sense as to whether or not I’m really connecting with people. That’s what building and sustaining relationships look like, online or off. And that’s what it takes to make social media worthwhile for any nonprofit (or for-profit, for that matter).

vvbooklittleFor more about building relationships online, see The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, by Susan J. Ellis and myself. The community engagement principles offered here work with the very latest digital engagement initiatives and “hot” new technologies meant to help people volunteer, advocate for causes they care about, connect with communities and make a difference. Tools come and go – but certain community engagement fundamentals never change.

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