Nonprofits learning to make social media work for them
Delmarva Council Boy Scouts serves more than 11,000 youth but, until November, it had no Twitter account.
The Ministry of Caring runs 28 programs in Wilmington, but, until recently, you couldn’t find it on Twitter or Facebook.
The segue to social media is happening as fast as you can tweet, directors of local nonprofits say. The Ministry already has 149 Facebook friends. The Delmarva Council Boy Scouts already has 830 “likes” on Facebook – and they include not only recent scout alumni but also former members now in their 40s, 50s and 60s.
Rashmi Rangan, the 51-year-old executive director of the Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council (DCRAC), put it this way: “Some of us are reluctant users of social media, but just look at the Middle East and you can see it is an amazing organizing tool.”
Nonprofit directors who use social media say it is less expensive and less time consuming than mailing brochures and organizing press conferences. “In this funding environment, all of us have to stretch our resources for the maximum impact,” said Rangan, who hired a social media manager six months ago.
Nonprofit employees listened intently Tuesday when Alan Rosenblatt, Associate Director for Online Advocacy at the Center for American Progress explained how Twitter applications such as Act.ly, TweetSuite and TweetDeck can help them manage their tweet universe and even nudge politicians to take action. Act.ly is an online petitioning site. TweetSuite and TweetDeck help users manage their Tweets.
Rosenblatt, who now has almost 13,000 followers on Twitter, delivered a tutorial on new media as part of an event co-sponsored by DCRAC, West End Neighborhood House, and YWCA Delaware at the Community Services Building in Wilmington. He explained how to get others to “retweet” what you write to maximize reach and how to attach coding tags called “hashtags” to garner greater readership.
“We used to live in a world where the producers of content determined the channels of distribution,” Rosenblatt said. “We now live in a world where the consumers of content determine the channels of distribution.”
Boy Scouts of America, the national organization, is an example of an early adopter of social media now reaping the dividends of its efforts through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Over 140,000 people “like” the national scouting organization on Facebook. One YouTube film shows two Boy Scouts helping an old lady ride a zip line across a ravine.
Dan Sullivan of Delmarva Council Boy Scouts says Facebook does double duty as a tool to get a message out but also as a way to obtain feedback and comments.
He said Facebook provides the council with analytics to show who is using the site and the council’s web administrator tracks how many of those who receive the organization’s e-newsletter open it and how many click through the stories.
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