While dropping off my son at kindergarten today, I ran into the school’s marketing director Dennis. Although there are only has two people in the marketing department, Dennis and his team have put this small, private Christian academy on the map. When reading the local newspapers I always see his bright, beautiful, compelling ads.

Without fail he hosts weekly group information sessions where members of the community can come in, check out the school and learn about how they can financially partner with us. Endless amount of creative fundraisers are run throughout the year and families continue to get excitedly involved month after month. If you were to drop his name to someone also in the Christian education community, they would not only know him but hold him in the highest regard as well.

Empty ChairAfter arriving home, I logged into my LinkedIn account thinking that I would write him up a long overdue recommendation for all the amazing work he does to raise money for my son’s school. After searching my name, company and industry I couldn’t find anything remotely related to him or the school. “How could this be?” I asked myself. Dennis was a savvy marketer; surely he would understand the need to maintain a strong online personal presence wouldn’t he? Here was an incredible nonprofit leader that anyone would be happy to get to know but he was nowhere to be found. I had to admit that I was surprised and admittedly disappointed.

I got to thinking about all the leaders I have worked with through Next Level Nonprofits and realized that this situation with Dennis unfortunately is more the norm than not. It is commonplace now for nonprofit organizations to maintain a website but it is still rare to find someone at the executive level who personally embraces online marketing platforms to share their message and advance their organization’s cause. I couldn’t help but ask how many vital connections he was NOT making because of not being online.

If you’re a nonprofit leader who like Dennis is not yet using social media, here are six simple tips to take all the stress out of get started:

  1. When choosing WHICH platform to use, consider your personality style. Each platform has its own culture so if you’re not sure which to choose, do a bit of research to find out which one makes the most sense to you considering your personality and start there (you can always change your mind later.) For example LinkedIn is definitely about all business all the time while Facebook is more informal and suited to someone who communicates in friendly, colloquial way.
  2. After your research, pick ONE platform. I think so many people avoid social media because they think that they’ll have to go all in and learn Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+ right away all at the same time. Let me put that to rest and tell you that all you need to do is choose ONE platform (if you want to branch out later that’s fine but definitely not recommended for now.)
  3. When setting up your profile, use your own picture and not your organization’s logo. When setting up the social media marketing for your organization’s, using its logo is fine but when setting up a profile for yourself personally, use your own picture. Be sure to use a high quality headshot, not some cropped-out image of you at a family barbeque. Don’t forget to smile!
  4. Completely fill out your profile. By filling in all the requested information about yourself, you make it a lot easier for those looking for you to find you. When your profile is looking sharp, it makes you look sharp and that you’re someone who can be trusted. Don’t be afraid to use links, images, videos etc. The more visually appealing the better. Have fun with it, add some spice!
  5. Set up a routine you can easily follow. So much social media burnout comes from trying to do too much too fast. When getting started with social media develop a posting routine that you can stick to without a lot of effort. For example: post once/day to LinkedIn, send out 3 tweets/day to Twitter etc. Spend no more than 15 minutes/day getting used to your new platform and see where it goes.
  6. Learn how to use your platform effectively. We’ve all heard people complain that social media doesn’t work and to that I always add “maybe it’s the way you’re doing it that doesn’t work”.  Like anything, learning online marketing takes time and a commitment to incremental improvement. Even if it’s only once/month, read something about how to maximize your chosen platform and then implement the recommended changes. Get out a book form the library, read some blogs, check out your platform’s “help” section…free tips are everywhere.

Like Dennis, it is most likely that you’re the public face of your organization and the also very likely that people want to hear from you and want to get to know you better. We have all heard the expression that people buy from (and donate to) the people they know, like and trust and through a powerful, professional social media presence, you will be able to meaningfully connect with more people more quickly than you ever could face to face. If you’re still in doubt about whether social media is a good use of your time, give these six tips a try for three months and then decide – I think you’ll be surprised how simple and rewarding online marketing can be.

Have you been putting off getting started online? Why?

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Natasha Golinsky
Natasha Golinsky is the founder of Next Level Nonprofits; an online training company dedicated to helping new nonprofit Executive Directors develop high-impact leadership skills.