On March 20th, the Practising Law Institute is presenting “Social Media for Non-Profit and Public Interest Organizations” at their San Francisco center. Appropriately enough, PLI is also live webcasting the free event on their website. The event will explain how to utilize social media to achieve common goals of public interest and non-profit organizations including raising issue visibility, brand promotion, fundraising, and more!

Liz Keith
Program Director Liz Keith

We are very excited that the panel will be chaired by Pro Bono Net’s Program Director, Liz Keith, and will also feature our LawHelp Program Coordinator, Xander Karsten. In preparation for the panel (and to show our own social media promotion skills!), I sat down with Liz and Xander to discuss social media best practices, tips, and stories.

Liz and Xander have an amazing wealth of social media knowledge, but if I had to distill it down to 10 characters, they would be: plan ahead.

Liz emphasized the three questions non-profits need to ask themselves when creating social media accounts:

  • What are their goals?
    • Engage supporters and stakeholders?
    • Raise issue visibility?
    • Promote the organization?
    • Connect with media?
    • Integrate with fundraising?
  • Who is the audience?
    • General public?
    • Volunteers?
    • Media?
    • Potential and/or existing funders?
  • Where is that audience and which tools reach them best?
    • Facebook?
    • Twitter?
    • LinkedIn?
    • Google Plus?
    • Blogs?

Answering these questions will help non-profits develop a comprehensive and cohesive plan for social media. Additionally, constantly referring back to them ensures that organizations will have a consistent voice over time and across mediums. For example, Liz recommends that organizations use the 80/20 as a guideline: 80% of your posts should highlight the community and others and 20% should be self-promotional.

Xander Karsten
LawHelp Program Coordinator Xander Karsten

Xander zeroed in on another critical element of planning ahead: developing a sound and clear social media policy. This policy should be in a single document and address the above questions, the voice of the organization, and what to do when (not if) something goes wrong. The last point is especially true for legal services organizations that receive legal help requests and must address whether their responses might create a duty between the agency and someone in the potential client population.

A good plan provides organizations with the understanding and tools to respond to potential social media crises with humanity and grace. Xander highlighted the Red Cross’ successful response to a mistweet, which is a paradigmatic example of Liz’s #1 social media tip: have fun and be genuine!

A successful social media plan sets boundaries while giving communications staffers the freedom to enjoy social media, be relatable, and display their sense of humor.

For more tips, stories, and strategies, make sure to attend the free panel or watch the webcast on PLI!

PS: Don’t forget to like Pro Bono Net on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!