Tag Archives: interaction

schedule social media posts? use with caution

I’ve been using social media before it was called social media: I was a heavy user of USENET newsgroups back in the 1990s, and moderated the soc.org.nonprofit group for a few years. USENET was all about interaction with others and networking – but in text-based formats. As a result of that experience, I learned early so, so much about using the Internet both for promotions and for engagement: it gave me terrific grounding for using modern social media tools (and least I think so). As a one-person shop with no permanent agency affiliation, no best selling book and no big media splash, I’ve done pretty well at attracting followers on both Twitter and Facebook.

I use tools like Hootsuite to pre-program tweets to Twitter and status updates to Facebook and GooglePlus, but I don’t overly-rely on those tools: I still take at least a couple of hours every week to scroll through those I follow on Twitter and to read updates, to retweet things, to reply to posts, etc. I also pick one of my Twitter lists every week to read through and do the same. I wish it was as easy to do that on Facebook, but that’s another blog…

That said, I do use Hootsuite to pre-program tweets and Facebook page posts. I do this days, weeks, even months in advance. And I’ve been doing something in the last several weeks that seems to attract a lot more likes, followers and interactions for me: choosing my own social media theme for a day, and programming posts, especially tweets, once an hour around that theme, for 4-5 hours on that one day.

Creating tweets and other social media messages around a theme for the day doesn’t require me to create new information: I choose themes based on pages on my web site and posts on my blog that I would love for people to visit or revisit. Some days, I tweet about the same web page or blog post four times, but always with different keywords and a different description.

Some of the day-long themes I’ve tweeted around:

  • ethics in international volunteering
  • how to get a job in or experience for a job in humanitarian aid and development
  • controversies regarding not paying interns
  • using Twitter
  • ethics in communications
  • safety in volunteer programs
  • resources regarding volunteer firefighters
  • virtual volunteering
  • competing online with breaking news
  • welcoming volunteers (and how you might be making them unwelcome)
  • digital/IT-related volunteering
  • conflict, free speech, reconciliation
  • social cohesion, building understanding

Your nonprofit, non-governmental organization, school, government agency or other mission-based initiative can do the same: look through your web pages that are focused on educating people about your cause or mission or reaching clients and potential clients in particular. Do you see themes emerging? What about UN international days that relate to the mission of your initiative – could you build a day-of-social-media-messaging around that theme?

On a related note, if you have an event, or an approaching program deadline, or some other time-sensitive information or announcement, don’t rely on just one tweet or one Facebook post to get the word out. You need to come up with reasons to post multiple times on Twitter, even in just one day, about a key event: each post could feature a different photo, a different keyword, and slightly different wording.

Oh, but doesn’t that mean followers keep reading the same message over and over? No. That’s because most people aren’t sitting and looking at one Facebook page or one Twitter feed all day long. I’m very lucky if one of my followers just happens to be looking at Twitter when I post – it’s very likely most WON’T be. For my followers to see a message, they either have to be staring at the screen the moment I post, to go specifically to my Facebook page or Twitter feed to read only my social media posts, to see the message when it’s reposted by someone else, or when it uses a keyword tag that they follow.

The only way scheduling messages for later posting to social media works, however, is if it’s coupled with live, in-the-moment interactions on social media: liking other people and agency’s content, responding to that content, asking questions regarding other people’s posts, etc. If I don’t show interest in the social media posts of others, why should they show interests in mind?

And whatever you do, do NOT use Twitter only as a gateway for your Facebook posts. No one is going to click on that truncated message on Twitter to read the rest of it on Facebook. It shows a profound laziness on your part.

Why I won’t follow you on Twitter

A few organizations and individuals have told me they aren’t happy that I don’t follow them on Twitter and Facebook and Google+, and, in addition, that I don’t also subscribe to their email newsletters and subscribe to their blogs.

Here’s the deal: you have to earn my follow on Twitter.

I follow you on Twitter if most of your posts are:

  • conversation starters
  • provocative (make me think)
  • elicit feedback
  • directly, immediately relate to my work

If, by contrast, I really like your organization, but your tweets are mostly positive, benign PR pieces like

  • “We have a new catalog”
  • “Our volunteers are hugable”
  • “Our Executive Director is at such-and-such conference”
  • “Our shop hours are changing for winter”

I’m probably going to follow you on Facebook rather than Twitter (if at all).

In addition, if you post to Facebook and you gateway those posts to Twitter, I’m probably going to just follow you on Facebook as well, and not at all on Twitter, because it’s doubtful your message is something I need to read ASAP, and it’s probably too long for Twitter anyway (I really hate truncated Tweats that end with a link to a Facebook status).

I check Twitter at least twice a day. To me, it’s a place for information exchange and debate, and for breaking news, for you need to look at this NOW messages. I’ve noticed that organizations, institutions and consultants that use Twitter with this in mind aren’t surprised when they get comments or questions via Twitter – they even seem to delight at such. By contrast, organizations that use it primarily as an announcement tool get immediately defensive when someone tries to engage them on Twitter – and it’s why I prefer to follow those organizations on Facebook.

Same if most of your posts are “I’m at the airport” or “I’m at such-and-such conference.” It’s nice to know that, but it’s not that much of a priority, so I’ll follow you on Facebook instead.

I check my professional account on Facebook about once a day. I scroll through the updates to get a general idea of what organizations are up to. Not much in term of exchanges or debates are going on over on Facebook among the organizations and institutions I follow – it’s more of a “hey, look how fabulous we are” or “hey, we need money!” place. That’s a shame – it could be so much more – but that’s how it’s shaking down among the organizations I follow on Facebook (and GooglePlus, for that matter). So I pour myself a second cup of coffee and slog through your Facebook status updates, rarely finding anything that makes me go “Wow.” Exceptions? There are a few – and I’ll highlight those on next week’s blogs.

And I may choose to read your email newsletter instead of following you on Facebook or Google Plus or Twitter. Don’t be hurt. I like email newsletters. I like that long moment of single focus and well-written narrative that gives me a more detailed picture about your work than any Tweet or Facebook status update could allow. I do my best to make time to read all that I subscribe to. And as I still have more subscribers for my own email newsletter, Tech4Impact than Twitter or Facebook followers, I appreciate the value of email newsletters.

So, how should you follow me online?

  • Follow me on Twitter if you want lots of short updates from me regarding nonprofits / NGOs, volunteers / volunteering, humanitarian / development / aid, communications, tech4good, and empowering women & girls (updates regarding national and state parks, and tourism as a development tool, are also showing up as well). Or if you want to engage, today, right now, about any of those topics, in a very public way.
  • Follow me on  Facebook or Google+ if you want just 1-3 short updates from me a day, mostly only about what I’m doing: a new web page, a new blog, a conference where I’ll be speaking, etc. And, FYI, there’s nothing I post at Facebook or Google+ that I don’t also post on Twitter; I repeat probably only 25% of what I post to Twitter on Facebook and Google+. And, yes, I post exactly the same things to Facebook and Google+ – I’ve yet to see any reason to use them differently.
  • Subscribe to my email newsletter if you want to hear from me just once a month, or you want a once-a-month tech tip, in detail, especially for nonprofits, then subscribe to Tech4Impact. You will also get a list of all the blogs I’ve published in the last four weeks or so. I get the impression that each of my email subscribers also follow me on Facebook OR Google+ OR Twitter, but not all three.

That’s not how everyone uses social networking. But that’s how I’ve decided to use it. And it could change. In fact, it’s guaranteed that it WILL change, as social media changes.

I would never expect anyone to follow me on on Twitter and Facebook and Google+, and to subscribe to my email newsletter. Unless you were some freaky stalker. Please don’t be a freaky stalker. You probably don’t need to hear about a web page I’ve just updated four times in one morning.

What about LinkedIn? Those connections are for my professional colleagues, PERIOD. Keeping it as a professional networking space has what kept it so valuable to me.

Also see:


Benefitting from Internet Use Requires a Change in Mindset

Ever since reading the Cluetrain Manefesto back in the 1990s, I’ve known that embracing the Internet as an interactive tool – not an online brochure or a press release distribution system – takes a changed mindset. Same for online volunteering – the key to success is a changed mindset that thinks about volunteers very differently than free labor that comes in, does things no one else wants to do and leaves.

On that note is this excellent blog about “strategic digital communication” – it’s tips are of value for all nonprofits, NGOs, government agencies and other community-focused organization, not just arts organizations.

So if you think you might be ready to re-build your website, stop. Think about digitally engaging your constituents instead. And if you’ve hired a website redesign shop or a technology shop, put them on hold: you need to work with a digital communications firm instead.

Or, if not a digital communications firm – which many of the nonprofits I work with could never possibly afford – start bringing together volunteers and clients and asking them how they use the Internet for fun, for their work, and regarding subjects that are essential to them. And thinking about what activities online outreach should inspire/launch/grow.

Who IS that person in charge of your social media?

There is a large international organization I follow on Facebook and Twitter, and I’m sorry to say that its been making major missteps via these social media tools.

In the last four weeks, whomever is in charge of social media at this organization has posted a message that, in my opinion, was completely inappropriate and put the organization in a very bad light, as well as repeatedly posting inaccurate information relating to the mission of this organization and not responding to most online questions and criticisms. But no one seems to be noticing at the organization – the mistakes keep happening, and when I made inquiries to two people who work for the organization, they had no idea what was going on online (in fact, they weren’t sure who was in charge of social media activities). 

It’s painfully obvious that there is no strategy regarding this organization’s use of social media. Perhaps the job has been handed over to an intern or two – after all, if you are in your 20s, you are just automatically an online social media expert, right? It’s also obvious that no one in senior management is following the accounts regularly – because if they were, these very public missteps wouldn’t have gone on this long.

It brings to mind a long, long time ago, way back in the 1990, when a lot of marketing directors at nonprofit organizations handed over web site development and management to the person in charge of IT – the person who kept the computers running. These marketing managers saw the Web as technology, rather than as outreach. Web sites for these organizations often were packed with flashy web features, but light on information, and answers to basic questions that someone goes to a web site for – where the organization is located, the nearest free parking, the nearest mass transit stop, hours of operation, upcoming event information, how to volunteer, etc. – were oh-so-hard to find. Many marketing directors were oblivious to the web site’s shortcomings – they never looked at the site beyond a unveiling of such (at which pizza and soda was served in the break room and a good time had by all).

Back in 90s, I worked at an organization where I was the internal communications manager – but ended up in charge of all Internet outreach. The marketing director (to whom I did not report) thought the Internet was a fad and said he wasn’t interested in it, so I was in charge of building the organization’s web site, and in undertaking all online outreach via email and online discussion groups. He never had any idea what I was doing, and was never interested in sitting down and learning. After several months, he realized his mistake, as what was happening online was being talked about by people and organizations we were trying tor reach much more than our print materials.

I said it back in the 1990s, I’ll say it again now: everyone has a role in an organization’s outreach, online and offline. The receptionist needs to see the organization’s main brochure before it goes to print, or the web site before it’s launched – she or he knows the primary reasons why people call the organization, and she or he can make sure these publications include this information. The people that deliver the organization’s programs or interact most with the public, as well as senior managers, including the head of marketing, need to follow the organization’s social media profiles, and their feedback about such needs to be listened to. Everyone at the organization needs to have copies of print publications and, if they have a comment about the usability of an online tool or how the public is responding to the organization online, senior management needs to listen to them.

Just as importantly, your organization needs a fully integrated social media strategy, a plan that puts a reason behind every Facebook status update and every Tweet, one that answers the questions What are we going to accomplish today with our social media use? What are we going to accomplish this week with our social media use? Three months from now, how are we going to measure social media success? Does the head of marketing have a written outreach plan, and are online tools fully-integrated into such – not just mentioned? Does the head of programming have a fully-integrated plan for using online tools, including social media, in his or her written strategy for the coming year?

And, finally, make sure whomever is posting those messages to Facebook or Twitter or GooglePlus or whatever on your organization’s behalf is fully supervised. That person needs to be sitting in on every marketing meeting and every public event. That person needs to be presenting a briefing on what’s happened in the last week – and not just number of tweets, number of Facebook status updates, number of “likes”, number of “friends”, etc., because numbers really mean nothing. And senior management needs to be following what this person is doing online in real time.

Delegating social media tasks doesn’t mean senior management stops participating online. Too many nonprofit organizations, international aid agencies and other mission-based organizations forget that.