Tag: community management

Nonprofit staff members managing social media are often in a unique position to be the first line of communication for supporters or community members with questions or concerns.

Think of your social media channels as a “uniform” that visually represents your team and your mission. Here are some tips to ensure your followers, friends, fans, and supporters feel valued by your organization.

Be personable

Ever notice an organization repeatedly copying and pasting the same response on a thread of comments? Yes, it’s difficult to uniquely respond to every comment. You can, however make small adjustments—like using their name within the comment—to let them know it’s a human being considering their needs and feedback.

Pro tip: the most frequently asked question is going to be the top comment, and most people will take notice.

View every comment as a new way to build a relationship. This person is either an existing supporter or they’re a potential one. Take this chance to increase retention rates or solidify a new donor. Don’t be afraid to convey real emotion. Your audience wants to know there are real people behind the social media channels instead of the usual robotic responses.

Respond promptly

Social media can start many a conversation. Your responses show donors and followers that your organization cares.

This is where following through is important. Once you create your social media pages, be committed to providing consistent quality customer service to your community. The Internet has created a world of instant gratification. When your supporters send a direct message or comment, they’re expecting a timely response. Monitor your inbox and watch for notifications, and don’t allow your response rate to become less than desirable—or even worse, non-existent.

You might not be able to answer their question, but you can pass it along to someone that can help. Ideally, your team will receive questions or concerns that can easily be resolved through a simple response. If not, pass it along to the appropriate department and surprise the messenger with a phone call. By reaching out promptly to resolve an issue, you satisfy their need and show that you value their insights.

Addressing sensitive topics on social media

With customer service also comes a form of public relations control. Social media is a known outlet for complaints, however, each negative comment offers a way to publicly make it right. It’s not easy to handle confrontation, especially on such public platforms.

Pro tip: take all sensitive issues to a personal message. Don’t ignore the initial comment, though. Let them know that you’ll be personally reaching out to resolve their concern. If you don’t acknowledge the comment, this gives the impression to followers that your organization ignores conflict. You won’t be able to please everyone, but if you position yourself as responsive and caring, you can avoid a PR blunder.

The key takeaway: Gone are the days of waiting for responses to phone calls and emails for customer support. Social media is the modern day first line of customer service. By providing a human perspective to your social channels, you can delight your followers and keep them engaged with your mission.

Working in nonprofits, we all know that it takes a lot to get our work done. Sometimes, it is a herculean effort just to keep the lights on.

Today, we pay tribute to 11 people who have gone above and beyond in their commitment to our sector, driving our community forward and tirelessly working for excellence. From fields as diverse as community management, digital inclusion, and web design, our NTENny Award recipients embody NTEN’s values and push our sector forward.

Please join us in celebrating our 2018 NTENny Award recipients:

  • Tricia Maddrey Baker
  • Corey Brown
  • Melissa Chavez
  • Stacy Clinton
  • Necole Durham
  • Charlotte Field
  • Monica Flores
  • Sheryle Gillihan
  • Kami Griffiths
  • Sandee Jackson
  • Ashleigh Turner

Thank you for your service to this community.

Here at NTEN, we are always looking for ways to make our programs, services, and spaces more accessible and welcoming to our communities.

As part of our continuing efforts to improve the 2019 Nonprofit Technology Conference, we need your help! We are creating an Accessibility Committee, that will identify ways for us to make the 19NTC more welcoming – both online and onsite.

It’s vital that we get good community representation in this committee, so they can guide us as we strive to be better.

See our accessibility page for some of the elements the committee will address, and read about our specific needs and sign up at our commitment page.

We will be accepting applications until September 28.

The rise of social media has created an increased demand for community managers, also known as the people who run your social channels to engage your supporters. As your nonprofit’s online community grows, it’s important you have the right person in place to manage it.

Social media can help you tell stories to reach a new audience—but it’s not enough to simply have a presence. It’s also important to spend time on your channels to grow and engage new and returning supporters. More nonprofits are realizing that social media management goes beyond the scheduling of your weekly posts, and a community manager can ensure that your social presence is genuinely social.

So what makes a good nonprofit community manager? Whether you’re looking for a new job opportunity, want to improve your own skills, or are looking to hire a new community manager, here are the skills to focus on.

1. Be flexible & reactive

A good community manager has to be flexible enough to react to any important events that require a change of schedule. Whether it’s a breaking story, an unexpected event, or a social media crisis that affects your organization, there are plenty of reasons to be agile.

A community manager has to spend time on the social platforms on a daily basis to listen to your supporters and join their conversations. It’s the best way to learn more about your audience, how they think, and how they can be continually engaged and learn more about your cause.

Live tweeting can also be part of your job, whether for an upcoming event or a regular chat with your supporters. This is a great opportunity to show your social side while allowing time to listen to feedback and ideas.

Moreover, a closer look at the latest trends of each social platform can be helpful when planning your next campaign to make sure that you’re both relevant and creative.

2. Know your audienceHannah Donald quote

A great skill for a community manager is the ability to understand your target audience. It isn’t enough to have an understanding of the social platforms if you’re not able to speak to your supporters’ language.

One of the first steps for a new community manager is to spend time monitoring conversations that you supporters are having. This way you are able to learn more about them and how you can approach them when needed.

The tone of voice can also help your organization be consistent with messaging. A community manager needs to collaborate with the wider team to understand the brand positioning and how you should be approaching the social tone of voice.

For example, is your organization’s tone of voice more formal or casual? Are you able to add a humorous element or would this sound flippant? All these decisions need to be discussed to ensure that your nonprofit’s voice is consistent.

3. Be organized

Planning ahead will not only save you time, but will keep your messaging succinct and ensure you don’t miss any key dates. Make sure you’re using a content scheduling tool, and have a calendar with important dates relevant to your cause.

Often the nature of working for a nonprofit means that time and resources can be limited, so it’s also a good idea to have a ready-to-go bank of evergreen content for those moments when you’re short of time. Evergreen content doesn’t date, and can be adapted and used time-and-time again. You can also use tools like Canva, which has a free version for nonprofits, to create branded images and graphics ahead of time.

4. Follow the rule of thirds

A good skill for a community manager is to be strategic. Think of your daily work as part of the bigger strategy of creating an engaging social presence and plan your time accordingly.

A useful way to be strategic with your content is to apply the rule of thirds. It’s a quick formula to split your time into three equal parts:

  • Promote: This is the content that refers to your campaigns, your next actions, or your fundraising asks. You are seeking increased awareness and traffic to the site and possibly an appeal to new donors.
  • Share: This is the content that you’re sharing from others. It refers to the content that’s relevant to your cause and your supporters. The choice to curate content from other sources can help you build relationships and start a conversation, and also show that you’re not simply interested in promoting your own work. In the same category you can also include user-generated content, which can derive directly from your supporters.
  • Engage: This is the social part—you’re actually engaging with the community. It’s the opportunity to listen to them and join a conversation with the ultimate goal of maintaining an active community around your cause.

5. Be equal parts creative & analytical

Whilst it’s important to inform your content by using analytics, you also need to be creative and unafraid to try out new ideas. Analytics can help shape your creativity by letting you check what’s worked and what hasn’t through A/B testing, and then your creativity should help you to continually refine your content based on its performance.

For example, what images do your supporters respond to the most? Do videos get more reactions than images? What about questions vs. statements? This feeds nicely into the rule of thirds, allowing you to be strategic while also letting those creative juices flow.

 

Social media is fast paced, ever changing, constantly growing, and exciting. Nonprofits have inspiring stories to tell, so it’s important to make sure that the person managing your channels is equipped with the skills necessary to really champion your cause. Being a community manager effectively makes you the online voice of an organization, and it’s essential to be passionate and well equipped to take on such an indispensable and rewarding role.

We’re recruiting members to join our network of fabulous volunteers who support NTEN’s online community groups!

Volunteers help facilitate discussion and knowledge-sharing. Successful volunteers are friendly, enjoy helping people feel welcome, and have a genuine curiosity about the group topic. Subject matter expertise is not necessary.

Basic responsibilities include welcoming new group members, making sure posts get responded to in a timely manner, and seeding discussion posts.

Read more about the role and join me and several current volunteers on December 14 to learn more about getting involved!

A version of this article first appeared on Chicago Community Trust and is reprinted here with permission.

For nonprofit organizations today, Facebook is a vital marketing and community engagement vehicle. The platform’s Pages and Groups are tools that help build awareness and engagement at no cost. Advertising is available too, if your budget allows.

In Facebook’s early days, organizations had to utilize personal profiles or fan pages to have a presence. Eventually pages were updated to accommodate businesses: still not a perfect fit for nonprofits, but more useful than anything that had come before.

Since then, Facebook has made improvements to empower nonprofits, launching Social Good and Nonprofit arms that develop new tools designed specifically for organizations.

But by the time Facebook introduced its nonprofit-specific tools, many organizations had created a trail of personal profiles and old pages along the way. These redundant profiles can disperse your audience, and dilute results.

Does your organization need a quick Facebook cleanup? These steps will consolidate any stray profiles, pages and groups without losing any of your audience or content.

Convert a profile to a page

If your organization has a profile, it should be converted into a page. Pages offer functional benefits—and in addition, it is against Facebook’s policy to maintain a profile that is not a person. (Don’t worry: if your organization already has a page, you can combine the two later.)

How to do it

  • Log into Facebook as the profile you need to convert.
  • Go to this link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/create/migrate.
  • Follow the instructions, and choose the option to have the profile’s friends automatically “like” the new page.
  • Copy any photos or other necessary content to transfer from the profile to the new page.
  • On the new page click “Settings,” then “Page Roles.”
  • Add the Facebook profile of your digital manager as a page administrator, or “admin.” This profile should already be the “admin” for any preexisting organization page.
  • Once the new page is created, go ahead and deactivate the profile. Your content is preserved on the newly created page.

Merge two pages

Did you just convert a profile to a page, and end up with two pages for the same organization? Or does your organization have multiple pages for any reason at all? Merge the pages into one unified page.

How to do it

  • Log in to Facebook as the profile that is the administrator of both pages.
  • Go to this link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/merge/.
  • Follow the instructions to merge the pages. Both audiences will automatically be combined on the new page.
  • Repeat this steps as many times as necessary if more than two pages exist for your organization.

Use Groups to engage people around a Page

If your organization is using Groups, or would like to begin, you’ll use your organization’s Page to administer them.

How to do it

  • Log in to Facebook as an administrator of your organization’s page.
  • Go to your page, and click the “Groups” tab on the left side of the page.
  • If you are already the administrator of a Group that should be linked to the page: Click on that Group, then click “Link Your Group.”
  • If you would like to establish a new group, click “Create Group” and follow the instructions.

Don’t see the “Groups” tab? You’ll need to enable Groups on your page:

  • Click “Settings” on your organization’s page, then “Edit Page.” A list of “Tabs” will display.
  • Click “Settings” next to “Groups” (If you do not see a “Groups” option, click “Add a Tab” at the bottom of the page, then choose “Groups”).
  • Ensure that the “Show Groups Tab” option is switched to “On.”
  • Click “Save.” You may then follow the list of steps above to link Groups to your Page.

Finished! Following these processes as needed will result in one page for your organization, which consolidates all audiences, content and groups. From there your organization can build community and market itself most effectively.

Facebook is an ever-evolving entity, always phasing in and out different features and tools. To maintain effectiveness on this platform, nonprofits will need to build the habit of updating their Facebook presence regularly to best utilize the tools at hand.

To the incredible and dynamic NTEN community and nonprofit sector,

We hear you.

We hear so many people from the community expressing fear, anticipation, anxiety, and even hope. Little of the emotions of today has to do with the man who is our next president. Instead, those feelings being posted on social media, email, and in private text messages are rooted in a reality that we cannot ignore now: We live in a deeply, troublingly divided country.

As we listen to so many of you today, we ask that each of us take time to intentionally listen to those around us – our friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors – regardless of the candidate they voted for. We do not address our divisions by hunkering down, talking only to those we know already share our beliefs, and planning for a future time of action. We address our divisions and create stronger ties by listening first, finding shared ground, and recommitting ourselves every day to the belief that we all do want a better America and to create it we all must take action every, single day.

We see you.

We see so many people in the nonprofit sector, in our local communities, in our service networks responding to the election result with the impulse to withdraw, to hide – some out of fear of what others will say to them because they support the elected candidate, some for fear of what could happen when campaign rhetoric turns into policies. We cannot offer solace but we can say that we see you, we appreciate you, we believe that we all want a better America and we commit to working with you to make it.

As we witness your reactions, we do not expect you all to stand bravely because for many in our communities there is still too much risk. Instead, we ask that for those of us who do not fear the impacts of the election on our own personal lives, for those of us with access to power and privilege, that we take a stand for the rest of our fellow Americans. Using your power to hold our elected officials, our communities, and ourselves accountable to the policies and principles that support a better America for every member of our community.

In times of celebration, in times of challenge, and in times of decision-making we turn to our values. As always, they offer both reminders and guideposts to direct our actions today and into the future:

We are practical dreamers. We are the community of nonprofit technology professionals. We are a stage and platform for you. We are accountable to you. We strive to be authentic and honest. We embrace change. We walk the talk. We believe that laughter, irreverence, fun, and a deep joy about what is possible are essential to our work.

We were a community yesterday. We are a community today. We will be a community tomorrow.

In your service and strength,

Amy Sample Ward and the team at NTEN

 

Sitting beside my 11-week-old son’s hospital bed in the cardiac intensive care unit after his open heart surgery, listening to the doctors and nurses talk above me, I desperately wanted someone who understood. I was alone and frightened.

Consider the scariest time in your life, and think about the people who supported you through that. Most likely they are friends or family who were there for you, holding your hand, listening, understanding, and relating to you. But what if you were alone? With no one to really understand. Now, with the ever-changing landscape of technology this kind of support can happen virtually.

The ability to be everywhere (like bedside in intensive care with a scared mom) is important for the success of an organization whose core mission is to support and educate others. Yet, for organizations who serve patients and families it is vital to find a balance between cyber world and personal connection. Being anonymous is not appealing when you’re trying to build personal connections but, when the subject matter is personal experiences, medical journeys, and intensely private topics, users want to feel comfortable and safe.

Our job, as community managers, is to find that balance between safe and secure and personal connection and then create that. While designing a community for our members, I have continued to ask the questions: What makes you feel safe? What makes you want to engage? Different communities will expect different levels of safety or security, so first and foremost find out what your members need and want. So where is the balance I’ve found?

Establish Community Ambassadors

Providing a secure area that is staff moderated and safe is important. It is also important to build an expectation of trust within that community so that users are not only told they are safe, they feel safe when talking. Each community should have an established ambassador who can lead and moderate as a peer. This is an important part of providing a safe and open place to talk.

For example, a group of teenagers who are looking to connect with each other will feel more comfortable with a young adult as the ambassador/moderator versus an “outsider” who may be present. These outsiders tend to stifle conversation and reduce the bonds that can occur naturally. Any group who feels “watched” will certainly not be open and honest. Providing this peer support and guidance from the inside will also build trust in the safety of the community. Knowing that the community ambassadors are present and engaging is comforting to users.

Reduce Anonymity and Discourage Lurking

Another major trust factor to address is user profiles and user names. Some people may believe that it is “safer” to be anonymous, when it may not actually be. Would you feel more comforted from a grayed-out face with the name anon1234, or from a warm (real person) picture with the name GrandmaAnn?

Knowing who you are talking to can help to create a personal relationship and that builds trust. It is also much easier to cyber bully when you are hiding behind an anonymous profile. Somehow the idea that people “see” your face and know who you are deters some people from being mean. Trust leads to security and more openness from all parties.

The moderator of the community will be able to monitor each person’s contributions and the discussions. Reduction of lurkers is vital as well. Having the ability to hear from everyone in the community will give members a better sense of who is there and reading what they write.

Show Previews

The next challenge is to allow visitors to see portions of conversations so that they want to be involved and feel drawn to the conversations. A scared mom like me, or a patient, wouldn’t feel drawn to a community that they couldn’t, at the very least, see part of. Completely closing communities is not a great option. How can new users, who potentially need help, find you if they don’t see information that they relate to? Having the ability to show the community and the titles of the posts, along with a small amount of the post is a great way to draw people into the conversation.

To balance the security and openness that needs to be created, the ability to read the full posts, responses, and to engage should be closed to the public. You want to draw people into the conversation without providing the general public all of the information that your members may feel needs to be kept secure.

 

Providing online support in a meaningful and safe way can be difficult, but it is achievable with close monitoring, supervision, and technology. The ability to reach people when they need you, where they are, at any time, to offer that vital support is mission critical.

 

Photo source: jessicahtam

I was given the awesome privilege to present a session at the 2016 Sektor 3.0 Conference in Warsaw, Poland. I wrote this article to help me prepare for my presentation.

Cats? Herds? What? I often see the phrase “cat herding” or “herding cats” used with regards to community management. For those who haven’t heard it before, let me explain: Herding cats is an idiom which refers to the futile attempt to control or organize uncontrollable entities. In this context: Community managers have their work cut out for them. (NTEN’s new Digital Inclusion Manager, Drew Pizzolato, helped me craft this title. I was grateful for the support as well as the excuse to talk about cats. After all, “Bethany lubi koty.”) So, here we go: Cat Herding 101!

This article will focus on the basics for creating an engaged and effective online community by welcoming our community members, helping them connect and find value in the community, and appreciating them. (And by offering lots of kibble!) Many of the examples come from NTEN’s various online affinity groups (a.k.a. Communities of Practice) and cohort-based educational programs (Nonprofit Tech Readiness Program and the new Nonprofit Technology Professional Certificate) which make use of our branded online community platform: community.nten.org. The practices illustrated, however, are applicable to any closed online community groups, such as Facebook or LinkedIn groups, Meetup, Slack, and so on.

Welcome

Entering a new online space can sometimes feel like you’re the new kid at a party. Community members who aren’t given a proper welcome and introduction to their new surroundings may become alienated and leave before they’re able to see all the great things your community can offer. But, you remember what it’s like to be new (and awkward with your giant glasses and unruly hair and pathetic understanding of current pop culture references) or how intimidating it sometimes felt to reach out in a new space, don’t you? (Okay, maybe some of that only applies to me…) Regardless, you know that you don’t want your new community members to feel like outsiders.

As the party host, it’s your job to give your new members a hearty “hello!” and show them around the community space. It’s up to you to reiterate what the community is for, explain any features, and illustrate what is and is not acceptable within the community. Get out there and welcome!

Automated email drip campaigns where members get a message every week or so about community features or updating notification settings are dreamy, but not necessarily a reality for a lot of communities. Perhaps your community doesn’t live in a forum-based platform and you don’t have the ability to do something so advanced. Don’t let your tech stand in the way of an introduction message. No matter what platform you’re using–Meetup, Facebook or LinkedIn groups, Slack, etc.–try to set aside some time each week to copy and paste a welcome message to your new members. Welcome them to the party and open up that line of communication. (Check out NTEN Nonprofit Tech Club organizer Eli van der Giessen’s text expansion tricks to make repetitive tasks like this a snap.)

Any sort of online group should have a set of community guidelines. The CMX Hub Facebook group has a short and simple list of shoulds, should-nots, and the consequences for violations. CMX’s rules focus is on maintaining the value of the community by keeping it discuss-based. NTEN Connect contributor Melissa Chavez recommends that community managers go farther and develop a code of conduct. She states, “The default mindset should be to think about the people involved in your community who are the most vulnerable and to be sure that they, too, will feel welcome, comfortable sharing, and valued for their voice and contributions.” Ultimately, you want to develop clear, enforceable rules that protect both your community members and the value your community provides. Make these guidelines easily accessible. Don’t forget to include direct contact information in case a member needs to report a violation. Remind members about the guidelines at least once a year.

Now that your members know the rules, help them engage with each other. Introduction threads are a great way to get new members to interact with community tools and meet others. They also give community managers the opportunity to connect respondents to resources based on their messages. Pin the thread to the top of your forum, include the thread link in your welcome messages, and embed it in the group description. Make it easy for a new member to make that first contribution.

NTEN’s various cohort-based education programs have done well with introduction threads that ask participants to respond with where they’re located, details about their organization and their role, goals for the course, a recent win, and their favorite animated gif. The addition of the animated gif prompt has been a real treat. Participants have often gone above and beyond and included pictures of their families or pets or hobbies. This level of sharing seems to quickly help lessen the distance between us.

The volunteer organizers of NTEN’s online Nonprofits & Data Community of Practice, Janice Chan and Judy Freed, crafted their forum’s introduction thread to include prompts for a community member’s walk-up song and their Facebook relationship status with data (“married, in a relationship, it’s complicated, we are NOT friends…”). This addition does such a great job of setting the tone for the group and reaching a friendly hand out in welcome.

In a recent Connect article, Emily Garcia made the case for personally welcoming your newbies. Emily’s organization, World Pulse, recruits seasoned online community members to serve as Community Welcomer volunteers and to greet newcomers. This practice not only gives newbies the chance to engage with other members right away, it opens up opportunities to level-up the involvement of existing members. Wow! I joined the World Pulse community to check it out for myself. Sure enough the welcome messages starting pouring in. In addition to the delightful personal welcome, the messages included information about community’s various features and norms. Bonus!

Connect

Back to the metaphorical party: You’ve welcomed your guests. They know where the snacks are (very important), where to find the coat room, and how to behave. Now what? Since you’re not going to spend the whole party talking about yourself (right?!), you need to find ways to help your guests connect and receive value from their attendance. Ideally once the party hosts have helped make the connections, guests will start conversations on their own.

Question prompts are a great way to generate engagement and help community members connect. Craft open-ended, specific questions. Stay away from “what do you think about X”-type questions which tend to be too broad, as well as a bit too vulnerable-making. Create a posting schedule that is predictable and sustainable. Be ready to do targeted outreach to staff and community members should you need help getting the conversation going.

NTEN’s online WordPress Community of Practice has had great success with a Question of the Month-style discussion prompt. Lead organizer Cindy Leonard posts a new question at the beginning of the month and the responses and discussion flood in. The Nonprofit Digital Communications Community of Practice won big with a Win of the Week prompt. It only took less than a month before community members started the posts on the community organizers’ behalf. Amazing! (Note, however, that this series of win-sharing prompts was short-lived. The weekly posting schedule wasn’t sustainable, even with the community helping to drive it. Start small.) The Tech Decision Makers Community of Practice has had a hilarious, persistent thread which simply asks community members to respond with five words about tech.

Live community events, such as Twitter chats or conference calls, are another great way to help community members connect. Several of NTEN’s Communities of Practice hold monthly hour-long conference calls. These calls are purposefully casual–much more group discussion than polished webinar. During Tech Decision Makers community calls, volunteer organizer Alex Speaks directs the group to first spend time sharing recent successes and then later share problems. These prompts typically lead to rich, organic discussions. Drupal Community of Practice calls focus on more a collaborative Q&A format but includes time for event reports from the various camps and conferences Drupalists often go to. The Women in Nonprofit Tech Community of Practice have held numerous interviews with experts and just recently experimented with a book club-type conference call.

I get the pleasure of sitting in on most of these community calls and have learned so much from our organizers. Big tips: Don’t be afraid of silence. Be curious, and be prepared to ask a lot of questions to help get the conversation started. Don’t forget to bounce questions back to your attendees–you don’t have to be the expert.

Appreciate

Huzzah! Your party was a success. The snacks were both salty and sweet, the discussions were engaging, and most importantly–your guests were smart and generous and genuinely delightful. Make sure you appreciate them! Your community’s health and growth can hinge on your member appreciation and stewardship.

Connect author Susan J. Ellis reminds us that we should give thanks both publicly and privately. Quick thank you emails are simple and, when personalized, can go along way. Short is fine and, as far as I’m concerned, animated gifs are a most excellent way to help convey enthusiasm and thanks. Perhaps break through the virtual wall every now and then to send snail mail. Postcards are great for handwritten notes and don’t carry the pressure of needing to fill up a lot of space. Small notecards have the bonus of being able to hold a branded sticker or two. (I know, I know–using email and postal mail for appreciation is hardly news, but it works.)

As for public acknowledgment, help your community members see that their contributions matter by shining a brighter light on their work. Think about inviting particularly engaged community members to serve in a community organizer or welcomer role similar to those in NTEN’s Community of Practice program or World Pulse’s online community. Perhaps try out a member spotlight or member of the week/month series. Put together regular round-ups of the most popular posts (why not also round-up posts that need attention while you’re at it). Link to them in your onboarding materials. Turn great posts into official resources or ask contributors to expand their posts into articles for larger distribution.

I hope these tips are useful to you. I learn so much from the fabulous NTEN Community!

Photo credits: Heart emojis and cat herders