Like sailboat captains trying to turn ocean liners, certain nonprofit board members aim to drive innovation while boards themselves tend to move more slowly. To that point, any board still debating the importance of social media in its nonprofit has missed the boat. In almost no time, social media swiftly infiltrated not only communications and marketing strategies, but also fundraising (last summer’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was SO successful, it’s about to resume), program development, and even governance activities.
Yes, the board has a critical role to play. Carolyn Appleton, a nonprofit executive, advises clients to add the role of “online ambassador” to the job description for nonprofit board members. Supported by a 2012 consumer behavior study by The Nielsen Company which found that “92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising – an increase of 18% since 2007,” she suggests sharing positive experiences online could be a powerful tool for encouraging colleagues to support their favorite nonprofits.
Among a board member’s key roles is to serve as an ambassador and advocate for the nonprofit organization. As the expert points out, sharing positive commentary via social media can amplify the nonprofit’s online presence, helping to attract more attention and increase credibility of its mission. Furthermore, board members’ online activity can support planned communications campaigns around events and also diffuse any negative attention that might develop around the organization.
So how to get your board on board? As Caroline Avakian, a nonprofit social media strategist, suggests in her article Getting Your Board on Board with Social Media, frame the discussion around reaching programmatic goals — with social media as a means, not an end – in a world where stakeholders expect to find an online presence. Start board members with small steps, based on wherever they fall on the spectrum of social media use. Signing up for Google Alerts and TweetBeep (email alerts for Twitter mentions) can show leaders their nonprofit already is mentioned online and encourage them to join – and help to shape – the conversation.
As the expert further explains, it’s important to track social media success as specifically as possible. She suggests, for example, reporting an increase in website hits or a 50% increase in Facebook traffic rather than simply referencing an increase in online activity to help keep it real for board members. They can be an organization’s “greatest messengers,” connected to potential influencers, donors, and expanded networks. Implementing a social media strategy needs to be a shared – not delegated – effort.
And there are no excuses. Another social media champion reminds us that certain assumptions about our stakeholders – and even board members – might be mistaken. She points out that the fastest-growing population to use mobile technology doesn’t necessarily have computers at home and the oldest known user of Facebook, who was over 100 years old, claimed to like it because “it’s easy”.
Of course, Facebook isn’t the only easy tool. Many board members already use LinkedIn, where they can connect directly and indirectly with countless acquaintances and business contacts without defining them as “friends”. In fact, LinkedIn has positioned itself as an appealing networking tool for nonprofit board members and, effective immediately, board members who use BoardEffect can connect to LinkedIn with their BoardEffect profiles!
To promote this social media must, LinkedIn offers the following tips for board members:
- Add a profile photo – makes you 7x more likely to be viewed.
- Add skills and expertise related to board service.
- Update your summary to reflect your passion for your organization.
- Add pictures, videos, presentations from the nonprofit to Experience section.
- Add your nonprofit to Volunteer Experience & Causes section.
- Follow your nonprofit on LinkedIn.
- Connect with each other and staff members.
- Share Status Updates about your organization.
- Follow Social Impact Channel to find content.
- Follow Influencers to get insights.
Clearly, we’re all riding the wave toward smooth sailing in social media.
Need more info on nonprofit board management best practices? Read our report, US Laws Governing Nonprofit Boards and Electronic Voting!