In the next few weeks I’ll be making recommendations of which tools and trends in technology nonprofits should prioritize in 2013, but for this year’s post on New Year’s resolutions I wanted to get back to basics. It’s so easy to get consumed with and exhausted by the intense volume of content and social media advice posted on the Social Web every day (every hour, every minute, every second) that we often neglect some of our basic needs that keep us mentally fresh and up to the challenge of trying to make the world a better place through social media, as well as some of the best practices that successful online communications are built upon. Thus, for 2013, please:
1) Ask for a raise.
Most people who work in the nonprofit sector do so out of a commitment to a cause or passion bigger than themselves or their desire for material things. It’s commendable, but after four years of recession and the likelihood that you generously added social media to your already packed job description without compensation, it’s not sustainable and being overworked and underpaid will only lead to burnout and resentment.
That said, 70 percent of nonprofit staff positions in the United States are held by females who many say aren’t so good at asking for raises. That helps contribute to the fact that on average women only make 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns. That’s not acceptable in the 21st Century. Even if it is only a small raise, this is the year that all nonprofit social media managers (female and male) should ask for a raise. Despite popular memes that social media is “Free!” we all know that is not the case. Your work is valuable and you should be compensated for it. That said, here’s a tool kit to help you ask for that raise and get it. Good luck.
2) Ask for a social media budget.
While we are on the subject of money, your going to need some to improve your social media campaigns in 2013. Blogger and LinkedIn both launched in 2003. We’re now 10 years into the Social Web. It is clearly not a fad, and yet the vast majority of nonprofits have zero budgets for social media. Ask for your raise first, and then ask for a budget for graphic design work (avatar, Twitter background, YouTube Channel background, Facebook banners, etc.), premium services (WordPress themes, Flickr Pro, Facebook custom Tab generators, etc.), and training (HTML, photo-editing, social and mobile media best practices). The era of winging it in social media is over. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. are now integral parts of our online communications and fundraising campaigns and like any tools of value, they requite a minimal level of financial investment.
3) Send hand-written thank you notes.
There will be times this year when a thank you email or tweet just isn’t enough to communicate your appreciation. Buy a box of fair trade stationary and when the occasion calls for it, write a hand-written thank you note. Your expression of gratitude will be duly noted and likely remembered.
Handwriting is quickly becoming a lost art form. Think of that when you are writing the notes. Watch closely as your words appear on the paper. Write neatly, slowly and mentally focus on the meaning of the words as they appear. Not only does a hand-written thank you note make a strong impression upon the receiver, but it also makes you a better social media manager because it’s a practice in creative arts – and as all we know, the best social media managers are creative artists.
4) Read more books.
One of the biggest downsides for me personally from being connected to the Social Web 50-70 hours a week is that my brain has a hard time reading for extended periods of time. My mind wanders after a couple of paragraphs even when reading New York Times Bestsellers. Before Myspace then Facebook and then Twitter, I was a voracious reader. Now I am lucky if I can get through a first chapter much less read an entire book in less than 6 months. In 2013, I am focused on changing that. I bought a reading lamp and three new books and make an effort to go to bed at least 30 minutes earlier to have time to read.
All that said, as social media managers, we need to read in order have moments when we are completely immersed in a story using our brains to process words, sentences, story structure, and plot lines – not just soundbites, headlines, tweets, and pins. So much of social media success is about how our brains process and prioritize messages and having a diverse thought process that sparks our imagination and creativity. Reading books does that. You are not going to be a very good storyteller if you don’t read stories.
5) Disconnect while on vacation.
This is a tough one for many people especially those in their twenties and younger. Unlike Gen X and older, they may not know what it’s like to be completely disconnected while on vacation. Posting status updates and photos while backpacking through Central America or from a cafe in Paris is their normal mode of travel. However, for social media managers in particular, disconnecting while traveling provides an absolutely necessary break from technology and the 24/7 news cycle. It helps you live in the moment free from distractions. As Shakespeare said: “All the world’s a stage,” but if you are constantly logging into Facebook or Twitter or checking-in on Foursquare, you going miss the show and the people around you sharing that stage. If you need to pop in to an Internet cafe to connect every other day or so, please do… but my advice to you as social media manager and a fellow traveler is to leave the gadgets at home.
6) Say “Please” and “Thank You.”
When engaging your fans, followers, and friends on social networking sites, on your blog, and in email, it’s amazing what a “Please” and “Thank You” can do. In 2013, keep these two words at the forefront of your mind. Most nonprofit social media managers are short on time and it’s easy to cut corners and drop the “Please” or “Thank You,” but they are still magic words that almost always produce positive results.
7) Always use a salutation and closing in email communications.
Nonprofit people are good people. They are friendly, courteous, and kind, but unfortunately bad email ettiquite is also becoming more commonplace in the nonprofit sector. Personally, I find nothing ruder online than an email with only online a body of text. Always include a salutation (Hello, Dear, etc.) and closing (Thanks, Cheers, Salud, etc.). Have you not noticed that some of the most successful people you know are also extremely good (and courteous) at email communications?
8) Do not use a Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail email address for your professional communications.
This is so old-school, so 20th Century that you just can’t do it anymore. Period. Now that setting up a .org email account can cost as little as $.50 a month there really is no excuse to be using .gmail.com, .yahoo.com, or .hotmail.com as your email handle when communicating with donors, supporters, volunteers, and the general public. You can have your .org email account routed through Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail through IMAP/POP if you prefer to use those services as your primary email client, but under no circumstances should you be emailing using an email handle not based on your website URL, i.e, firstname.lastname@example.org.
9) Browse pictures of baby animals regularly.
A recent study out of Hiroshima University called the “Power of Kawaii (Cute)” found that browsing pictures of adorable baby animals on a daily basis causes workers to slow down, relax and be more accurate in their work. Looking at cute baby animals online makes us smile, results in a feeling of goodness, and provides temporary mental relief from the strains of work. For nonprofit social media managers who have to be constantly be engaged in depressing story lines like poverty, war, environmental destruction, and violence against women, children, and animals, spending a minute two a day browsing baby animals on Pinterest is good for your mental health and your nonprofit.
10) Track the growth and ROI of your online communities.
Almost three years ago I wrote and published on this blog a simple system for tracking your Social Media ROI (Return on Investment). I am firm believer in the math of the social media – as your communities grow, so does your ROI. If your communities are not growing, then something is missing from your social media strategy (good content, right voice, e-newsletter, blogging, etc). So, for 2013, if you are not doing so already, you must first define your metrics and then plot and track their progress in a Social Media ROI Spreadsheet.