If your nonprofit or government agency is using social media to communicate — great! Consistency is the #1 ingredient for success.
Many features, especially Facebook Events and Groups, are beneficial for nonprofits. It’s tempting to want to eliminate the extra work and expense of a website and depend only on your organization’s social media accounts to carry your message. Although individuals have migrated away from personal websites and blogs in favor of social media, I don’t recommend this for businesses, nonprofits, or government agencies. Here’s why:
You don’t own your Facebook page — Facebook (Twitter, Instagram, etc.) does. Your content is hosted at their pleasure. There is no backup. I have set up social media archiving but it’s costly and therefore only used in specific industries such as government or law.
What can happen to your social media account?
- Technical glitches. Just take a few minutes to browse Facebook’s help center to see what can go wrong and how difficult it is to get help or answers.
- Losing your page for good due to running afoul of a policy, or falling victim to people repeatedly reporting your page.
- Platforms change often and without warning, breaking your favorite features or charging you for services that were free. If you have used Facebook for years, remember when posts from business pages used to show up on your fans’ timelines without paying for boosting or ads?
- Getting locked out of your page. Former or current administrators lose their own accounts and therefore lock out everyone else, or they delete or mess up your page. This is why you must be vigilant about reviewing and updating access to your accounts. Give people the least amount of access necessary to do their tasks. I have heard so many times: “A volunteer created our page and disappeared, and now Facebook/Twitter/Instagram won’t give us access to it/it’s gone/it goes to a Russian pharmacy site now.“
You own your website.
- Especially if it’s professionally managed and hosted:
- Your domain name (mywebsite.com) belongs to you — but secure the passwords at your domain registrar and keep your billing current. Problems with domains are rare and usually fixable, and reaching a human at your registrar is possible. ICANN regulates the domain registration process, but social media platforms are accountable to no one.
- If I manage your website, it is backed up daily both at the host and separately. My sites are locked down to the point where employees and volunteers can’t delete or break them, but even if the worst happened, your site could be restored quickly.
- You decide if you want public interaction such as comments on your website. Allowing people to contribute to or comment on your site may be right for some organizations, but I don’t recommend it unless you have the resources to monitor or approve posts from the public.
- Performance, speed, and search engine optimization are in your (or your webmaster’s hands) rather than a massive organization that doesn’t care about you.
How do I…
- Social media is best for displaying micro-amounts of information on current news and events.
- Social media is not intended to help people find answers to frequently asked questions or educate themselves about your issue. Social media sites don’t give you much control over where, how, or even if, visitors see information.
- I encourage you to recognize donors on social media, but a blurb pops up today and is pushed down tomorrow. Your website lists all of your donors in the manner they wish to be recognized. Seeing all of your big donors listed at once on a professional website encourages others to give.
- Use social media to encourage people to act, but close the deal on your website. Direct them to your site for transactions and rich content.
Example: Your animal shelter posts adoptable pets on social media daily, and news of your pets spreads quickly through likes and shares. Where are the adoption applications, forms, policies, procedures, and answers to frequently asked questions? While you are sharing about adoptions, how can people find out how to donate money and supplies, volunteer, etc.? On your website, of course. This can add up to a lot of content, so you want to be able to organize it well and have it all backed up. You may even want a search engine on your website to help people look up answers.
- If donations are the lifeblood of your organization, you need backups, security, reliability, and access to a person. Use social media for fundraisers, but retain control of how you accept online payments.
Can I make my social media posts show up on my website?
- Yes! Going back to the animal shelter example, your website can automatically display a feed of all your adoptable pets’ social media posts. Or, display the latest from the news feed, Twitter feed, photos from Facebook or Instagram, YouTube, photo albums, etc. We can even pull in live Facebook, Google, and Yelp reviews for your organization. The options are too numerous to list here.
- Not everyone has or wants a social media account. You do not want to exclude anyone from benefiting from or donating to your organization.
- People in some countries, such as China, are blocked from accessing U.S. social media sites. So if you are reaching an international audience, you will want to work with someone like me who has had experience in this area as there are firewall and speed issues to work with.
Use social media to spread the great news about everything you are doing today. A website provides answers to people seeking help or who want to help, keeps your content secure, and puts credibility with donors and volunteers in your hands.