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How to Make the Most of Social Media

One of our jobs at the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers is to help raise the public’s awareness of the role philanthropy plays – especially the work of our member foundations and corporate giving programs – to improve the quality of life in our region. In recent years, we’ve turned more and more to social media – notably Facebook and Twitter — to help us:

  • Tell the story of what philanthropy is accomplishing in our region and across the country.
  • Listen to what people are saying about issues we care about, and use this information to respond accordingly.
  • Participate in an ongoing conversation with others who are also blogging, Tweeting and sharing about philanthropy via social media.

Based on our experiences and what we’ve learned over the past several years, here are some recommendations we’ve developed for making the most of social media and that might be useful to you, too:

  • Start with a rationale for the use of social media, and make sure it is consistent with your overall communication strategy.

In order to enhance our ability to be the resource, network and voice of and for our funder members, we use social media, and in particular Facebook and Twitter for four specific reasons: To Communicate, Disseminate, Concentrate and Participate.

  •  Develop a social media policy for your organization.

Organizations that use social media as part of an overall communication strategy to achieve set goals should have a policy in place in order to have a consistent presence and to inform, guide and empower staff. Our policy is relatively simple, is a living document, and touches on our organizational goals, values, key audiences, staff roles, specific platforms, appropriate content, monitoring and evaluation goals, and personal/professional responsibility.

  • Map your social media distribution and participation opportunities in advance as much as you can– identify based on seasons, holidays, programs, events, trends, hot topics.

For example, we plan in advance to highlight the good work of our members through social media every two weeks when our “Adventures in Philanthropy” column in the Maryland Daily Record is published; or at the end of the year during the holidays we plan for the opportunity to highlight the employee giving programs of our member corporations.

  • Be clear about who you “friend” and “follow” and why in order to obtain the best and most relevant ongoing information.

We are bombarded with information 24/7 and find it helpful to connect with individuals and organizations that are most relevant to our work – that we wish to reach with information, and that provide us with information to inform our work – for example, our members, partners, other foundations, policymakers and local, regional and national media.

  • Find your organization’s unique and professional yet casual voice – it’s a new and different medium to engage in and with.

Our social media voice mimics our overall voice in all our communications, which is pretty straightforward, but there is a more casual, energetic and cheerful tone that we use in Facebook and Twitter that we hope encourages more dialogue and engagement than our traditional “voice” might.

  • Practice good social media etiquette – participate, reach out, comment, follow, friend and thank your core constituencies on an ongoing basis.

We like to give a “shout” about the good work of our members and partners on an ongoing basis, thank those who RT or MT our Tweets, and answer those who engage with us via Facebook in a timely manner because we believe it’s the right thing to do, but also because it promotes a good working social media relationship and connection with those we are trying to reach and engage.

  • Recognize that a sound social media plan requires an organizational commitment.

We built our social media plan as part of our overall communications plan – designed not to replace our traditional communication efforts, but to enhance them. As ABAG’s Communications

Director I manage our social media on a daily basis. An important part of our organizational commitment has been to engage our staff regularly regarding ideas and opportunities to incorporate their work into our social media, and to keep our board and members informed and engaged in our ongoing efforts. There is a time commitment throughout the day but I feel that it has significantly enhanced my ability to obtain and distribu

te information and has had a positive impact on overall communications.

  • Evaluate! Social media efforts should be monitored as part of your overall communications efforts.

We evaluate all our communications on a quarterly basis, including our Facebook and Twitter efforts. We are primarily looking right now at the basics – # of followers and fans, # of RTs, MTs, views, mentions, likes and comments, andwhat is of most interest to those who are connecting with us. In 2012 we plan to continue efforts to evaluate and understand the im

pact of our social media and how it relates to our overall goals.

  • Be thoughtful, strategic, fluid and flexible – have fun with it!

We are still learning daily about how to make the most of social media, but plan to continue our thoughtful approach while allowing for some experimentation and flexibility as we understand the opportunities and hone our skills in using social media to tell the story of the good work of philanthropy, listen, learn, and participate in the ongoing conversation every day.

That’s our list of “To Do’s.” What’s on yours?

Buffy Beaudoin-Schwartz can be reached at:


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