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Getting Your Nonprofit or Association CEO on Social Media: Five Tips

By on Monday, August 19, 2013

Getting your nonprofit or association CEO and key leaders engaged in social media can be tougher than it looks. Some are leery of social media or don’t understand it. Others, want for social media to be something they can delegate to others. I even met a nonprofit CEO who didn’t like having his own social media feeds because he felt the nonprofit’s official feeds were more important and that people should pay attention to them, not what he might say.  A news article on how CEOs are embracing social media has drawn  interest in the nonprofit community recently, so how do you convince your nonprofit CEO to get on the social media bandwagon personally? Here are five tips to help.

Realize the power of personality. Nonprofit and association CEOs are often tireless advocates for their organizations and interests – that dynamism and passion should not be absent from social media. Your association or nonprofit’s leadership has a voice that it exercises on a regular basis – in media interviews, at public and internal events and meetings, and in countless ways within your organization. That leadership voice needs to be present in the social media space, because donors, volunteers and people who benefit from nonprofits are there. Social media users have relationships with people within organizations, not just with the organization itself.  An organization’s official Facebook community or Twitter feed – as insightful and moving as they can be in sharing about the organization and its work- are not individual people. The power of a passionate leader’s personality in social media is significant and adds to a fuller view of your nonprofit or association, and does not detract from it.

Choose the correct social media vehicle. I think one thing that scares CEOs is they worry that they need to be on many social media platforms at once. The platforms you select should be contingent on what works best for your organization’s communication goals and audiences, as well as your CEO’s comfort level. Blogging is a great tool for CEOs – but sometimes people feel like they need to write a lot, so it appears daunting to them (and something they then want to delegate to the communications staff). Facebook pages are a great place to promote a blog post or CEO Twitter feed. Twitter requires very minimal writing and is easy to update quickly via a smartphone. Even a busy CEO can find time for one tweet per day. LinkedIn has added the Twitter like update feature, which is helpful.  Don’t under-estimate the power of a one-time (well-advertised with plenty of advance notice) CEO chat on a Twitter hashtag or your Facebook page or website.

Accessibility and transparency matter today. Having a social media feed – whether it’s a blog post or a Twitter feed, sends the message that the leadership in the organization is listening and engaged within the social media sphere – where any ordinary person can set up a free account and talk to them. It also tells people that you operate transparently, can take questions (and criticism) and are reachable by ordinary people. Especially in a larger nonprofit or association, projecting this type of accessibility (and responding to questions and comments) can really help build audience perceptions of credibility and responsiveness.

It positions your organization’s leadership voices for other environments. The direct nature of social media allows you to communicate your message without filters. Many other people who matter to nonprofit and association CEOs are on social media too – donors, volunteers, stakeholders in the organization, bloggers, supporters, partners, and the media.  If your CEO has built a reputation for talking credibly on an issue in social media, he or she is more likely to be asked to comment by the media, to partner on a project by another organization, etc. If your CEO can tweet about a breaking news issue and say something intelligent – you are upping the likelihood of being asked for a media interview by reporters covering the story.

Offer to help. Often people are afraid of things they don’t know a lot about. It may take a little tutorial by the communications staff or some helpful writing prompts to get a CEO started in social media, but many find that they like the social media environment. Check in with your CEO after he or she starts using social media and see how it’s going. Offer to help. Some might need a little ghost-writing help, but it’s best if content comes directly from the CEO.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design work for publications and websites (portfolio). Ami blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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