Building awareness and encouraging involvement in a cause has never been an easy job for non-profits, and in this age of viral videos and online campaigns it has become even harder to energize an audience.
There's only so much funding to go around and, not to put too fine a point on it, only so much time and energy the public has to spare on charity. Goodwill is a finite resource, and if you want to reach the hearts, minds and (ideally) wallets of the man on the street you have to keep up with the latest social marketing techniques.
While this may sound complicated and stressful, the truth is that a compelling, motivating social marketing strategy can generate interest (and donations) far beyond what could be expected from a television or print advertising campaign, and all for a fraction of the cost. You only have to look at the Kony 2012 campaign from Invisible Children to know that a little savvy can go a long way.
As the most popular social networking site on the planet, Facebook is the obvious place to focus your social marketing efforts. But how do you succeed? How can you make your voice heard over the thousands of causes already shouting for attention?
Build a Presence
Of course the most important thing to do is build a solid presence on Facebook. You'll need to build a page for your cause, and make it as complete and compelling as possible.
Make sure to choose the option to build a page rather than a group. Pages are more suited to non-profits, and you'll gain the additional bonus of having access to Insights, Facebook's native reporting tool that offers valuable information about your visitors.
Go Beyond Your Page
All too many non-profits stop there, believing that it's enough to simply have a presence on Facebook. This 'If you build it, they will come' attitude may work on Field of Dreams, but on Facebook it's a recipe for an unheard voice.
Your first job once you've built your page is to get the word out. Naturally, if you have an existing website, newsletter or any other way of reaching your existing supporters you should let your users know, but you should also take part in discussions on Facebook itself. Contribute to groups, start conversations, and reply to as many messages and comments as possible.
Facebook users only truly connect with non-profits they feel are paying attention. If your activity on the site is limited to posting a status update once a week you'll be ignored.
Reach Out to the World
Once you've built a fan base and become a part of the conversation it's time to grow beyond your core supporters. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the job, but you need to think of a way to energize and interest Facebook users who would not usually be inclined to notice your cause.
Make a viral video, launch a contest, create an app or... well, do something nobody has ever tried before. You are limited only by your imagination, but if you have it in you to come up with an idea that will ignite the interest of the average Facebook user you'll soon discover the true power of the site.
Using Facebook to raise awareness of your non-profit isn't easy, but those few who manage to make themselves stand out from the crowd know that the power of 800 million voices united as one makes all the effort worth it.
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