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PHILANTHROPY IN ALASKA: Using Social Media to Flourish

Capturing supporters with Facebook’s Causes

From blogs to social networks, businesses large and small are using a number of social media platforms to increase their visibility and connect to their audiences today. For that reason, social media was the point of discussion at a recent Key4Women forum hosted by KeyBank in Anchorage in September, when nearly 300 guests gathered for useful insights served up by social media experts Dr. Debra Jasper and Betsy Hubbard of Mindset Digital.

 

Making Connections

Hard numbers illustrate how pervasive social media really is, considering that Americans spend 25 percent of their time online using social networks and only 8 percent of their time online using email. LinkedIn, the popular business social media site, has 161 million members worldwide.

Jasper and Hubbard say today the challenge isn’t getting your message out—it’s getting your message in.

It’s tougher than ever to get busy clients and customers to tune in to what you have to say. “That’s why this space truly is about connections, not commercials,” Hubbard says. Customers and clients want information to be presented in an engaging, conversational way. And if you’re listening, the interactive nature of social media will let you learn a great deal about what your audience wants and how they view your brand.

Suzi Pearson and Melissa Emmal of Abused Women's Aid in Crisis in Anchorage started using social media tools a few years ago to get the word out about their services and fundraise for their nonprofit.

 

Go-To Tool

Their go-to social media tool? The Causes application for Facebook. The world’s largest online platform for activism, Causes enables users to create grassroots groups to take action on issues or fundraise. It is one of the largest applications on Facebook, with 90 million users.

“When we decided we needed to jump into social media, we started using Causes,” says Melissa Emmal, AWAIC deputy director. “With it we captured the attention of more than 2,000 supporters. It was a great way to tell people about our services and reach potential donors and volunteers.”

In 2010, Emmal says, AWAIC was required to create a traditional Facebook page in order to qualify for a grant from Toyota. “We found it was really easy to move our supporters from our Causes page to our traditional Facebook page.”

Converting Causes followers to Facebook likes proved to be easy and AWAIC won the grant money. Shortly thereafter, the nonprofit also won another contest by driving members to vote on a short video they created online.

“Without Facebook, we wouldn’t have the sustained group of supporters and we would not have been able to enter and win those two contests,” Emmal says.

 

Efficient Communication

AWAIC has also used the networking site to communicate with its community of supporters and members more efficiently. Since 2010, the page has grown to almost 1,000 fans reaching more than 5,000 through connections generated by the social platform.

Once the Facebook page was set up, program staff could answer questions about specific services in real time. “We’ve had a lot of recent Facebook conversations about the services we provide for men in the community. As a result we’ve seen more men come in and use our services.”

The organization has also taken advantage of the platform’s privacy settings to connect anonymously with those seeking services.

The interactive nature of social media allows users to learn what their audience wants and how their brand is viewed. When asked for a response, users receive real-time feedback.

Another benefit AWAIC sees is the ability to track a quick and impactful response. “When we put out a call for snow boots or warm jackets, donors show up on our doors the next day. In the past, we would have to rely on our newsletter or phone calls,” says Emmal. AWAIC’s traditional newsletter is now online and linked to social media applications.

 

Affordable & Measurable

Social media is both affordable and measurable. Like, fan, friend—all of those action words have become tools used to monitor response and reaction. Users of these tools can also track comments, retweets and link sharing.

AWAIC Executive Director Suzi Pearson notes that analytics provided through Facebook also have given the organization additional insight to tailor its content. For example, the analytics showed that Facebook users respond well to posts that include images, so AWAIC now posts more photos and images to its page.

Key4Women forum speakers Jasper and Hubbard and AWAIC’s Pearson and Emmal all agree that social media offers something for every business and organization. Even thought the array of social media opportunities and tools is vast and can sometimes seem overwhelming, the experts advise starting small and doing something. AWAIC did that and you can too.

Social media is all about building and strengthening relationships with customers and clients, and Facebook’s Causes is a proven method to help nonprofits flourish.

 

Amanda Clayton is Assistant Vice President, SBA Relationship Manager for KeyBank in Anchorage and a Key4Women ambassador. Key4Women is a complimentary service for women in business, providing them with access to capital, customized solutions, ongoing education and networking opportunities that help them succeed.

 

This article is a web exclusive to the December 2012 edition of Alaska Business Monthly.

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