In my opinion, too many nonprofit organizations have Facebook fan pages.
They were probably created because 1) everyone else was doing it 2) the technology was available or 3) someone with influence told them they needed to be on Facebook. The problem is they don’t know why they have a Facebook page.
At the American Red Cross of Greater Kansas City, we decided not to launch a Facebook page until we could tie it to our strategy. As marketing director, I did not want to naively launch a traditional 1.0 tactic using a new 2.0 tool. Though I’m a huge proponent of the social media revolution, I wanted to understand how a Facebook page would fit into the smorgasbord of all the communication tools available.
We had just redesigned our Web site (kcredcross.org) and I wanted our Facebook page to be complementary rather than redundant. Our Web site would continue to serve as a useful reference in the 1.0 world of broadcasting or pushing information, whereas our social media activities would hopefully spawn interaction, provoke conversation and ultimately engage members of our 2.0 community.
The strategy came into focus as I re-read Seth Godin’s book Tribes. The Red Cross Facebook page could become the place where our “tribe” would gather to share information and rally around a common cause.
Several weeks ago when we launched the Facebook page, I wanted our key stakeholders to understand our purpose for having a Facebook presence. So, within the “Notes” section of our fan page, I posted the following message:
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Some have asked why the Chapter now has a Facebook page. After all, we have a new Web site, some very impressive publications and great media relations. So why Facebook?
The truth is we’re not trying to replace any of the traditional media. There will always be a role for each vehicle in telling the Red Cross story. I’ll talk about that in a minute, but first I’ll give you the three most important reasons we created this page:
- To connect. We have so many people affiliated with us that we need a place where the “family” can come together. We need a place where DATs, CPR instructors, Ready When the Time Comes volunteers, Cause for Alarm volunteers, donors, staff and even board members can connect. Our Facebook page is a great no-cost way of doing that.
- To converse. Once we’ve connected, let’s talk. Facebook gives each of us an equal opportunity to join the conversation. Your voice, your participation is important.
- To engage. As we connect and converse here on Facebook, we will likely discover additional opportunities where we can make a difference. We’ll see more clearly how our unique talents and resources can contribute to the overall success of the team.
So, if that’s why we created this Facebook page, let me mention a couple of reasons that are not primary objectives.
- Fundraising. Sure, the Red Cross needs contributions now more than ever, but Facebook is not primarily for raising money. As we connect and converse, the Chapter’s needs will likely become evident and those with resources can step forward to contribute.
- Pushing information. The Web site, news releases, and publications are used to broadcast or push information out to the general public. Communication in those media is one-way, whereas here on Facebook, we thrive on interaction. Guess that’s why it’s called “social media.”
The primary audience of this page is our own family–volunteers, staff, donors, and others who have a stake in fulfilling the Chapter’s mission. The general public, news media and others are encouraged to look over our shoulders, but they are not the main focus.
It might help to think of this page as a camp fire around which we gather to exchange ideas, swap stories, share family pictures and enjoy each other’s company. No one (especially the marketing department) owns this camp fire. We all share in joint ownership. No one controls the messages. We all assume responsibility to contribute. If negativity or misperceptions surface, we can collectively steer the conversation in the right direction, and we can do so in real time.
So how can you best participate? Here are five suggestions:
- Post your ideas. This “Notes” section is open to your writing. This is not just a place reserved for Liz, Almitra and me. Write something and send it to one of us for posting. (We’d love to have you post it directly, but Facebook is set up so you need an administrator to post something in the Notes sections of a company’s page.)
- Comment. Be a good conversationalist and keep the dialogue going. Add a comment below or comment on the status updates on the main page. Comment on the comments of others. Just do something to keep the stream of communication flowing.
- Upload a photo. Others would be interested in seeing a “family photo” of someone doing Red Cross work. It is interesting to others when they see what you’re doing or what goes on behind the scenes here at the Chapter.
- Upload an entire photo album. Here’s your chance to become an iReporter from the field. Use your phone or laptop if you’re on disaster assignment and show your friends what the Red Cross is doing. Always remember, though, to protect the confidentiality of people we serve. You can upload a single photo to the page without using a page administrator, but posting an entire album requires Liz, Almitra, or me to help. A great option would be for you to create the album in your own personal Facebook profile and then post a link to it here on the Chapter’s page.
- Tell others. Link to this page or make a comment on your own personal Facebook profile. Tell others why you are involved and invite them to join the family and become a fan of this Facebook page.
Just so you’ll know, the three of us in the marketing department (Liz, Almitra and I) are the official administrators of the Chapter’s page. All that means is that someone has to tend to the housekeeping details. But we are not the owners. You don’t need our permission to post something or to upload a picture. We’re happy to assist, though. Contact us with any questions or ideas. Or just leave us a comment. Your Red Cross family is waiting to hear from you!