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My Foundation is on Facebook. Now What?
February 7, 2011

(Tina Arnoldi is the director of information management for the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina.)

Tina Arnoldi

You've taken that first step. You heard a lot about Facebook and now understand that it's not just for kids. You may even know the majority of users are over 40. After talking about it for so long, someone in your office has finally set up your foundation's Facebook page. It's official. However, there's nothing on there yet. You have no "likes," no activity, and you're wondering what to do next. Allow me to share a few tips we picked up here at the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina, as we embarked on our own Facebook journey.

First, the basics: is the information on your page filled out completely? We used the space available to briefly explain the mission of our foundation and then provided multiple ways for people to contact us, including our web site and Twitter accounts. We also uploaded a crisp, high-resolution image of our logo.  

When we set up our page, we realized the importance of having more than one page administrator, who has rights to delete spam and add content on behalf of the foundation. Not only was it more manageable to have multiple people adding content and responding to fans, it also ensured that we would be able to maintain our page without interruption in the event that a staff member left our foundation.

Before we told people about the page, we made sure to add some content so we weren't driving traffic to an empty "shell." Our updates include information about what's going on at the foundation and general philanthropic news in our community. For a while, we imported our blog content as well as our CEO's Twitter feed (@GeorgeStevens). Since then, we've also added more conversational posts, such as, "What type of causes do you support?" and, "Are there any fundraisers coming up this week?" We definitely see an increase in the number of people who "like" our page when we share good news. Plus, not having automated content shows people we're engaged and really do spend time on our page.

At our foundation, we also quickly learned that a steady stream of fresh content is important, but not an outreach strategy in and of itself. Think of the ways you currently communicate with your constituents. Do you send e-mail? Add a Facebook link to your signature. Have a printed newsletter? Include a write-up about your new Facebook page. These are all ways we let people know about our page. We also asked foundation staff to share our page with their Facebook contacts. In a short time, we had the minimum number of fans required for a custom Fan Page URL.

Facebook has worked well for us with public events. Not only does it save postage (although we still do paper mailings), it reaches an audience that isn't in our current database. By making events public, we ensure anyone on Facebook can find them and can also invite their friends by sharing the event link. It's a great way for new audiences to learn about our work, and provides an opportunity for visitors to become fans so they're aware of future events. 

Skeptical that your Facebook page can give you results? I recently gave a presentation on social media at one of our library branches. Undeterred by warnings that this branch often sees a very low turnout at events, I posted the event on Facebook under the foundation's page and also shared it with some Facebook friends. I ended up with a very good turnout for that branch. As much as I would like to think it was all me, I know it was the power and ease of sharing information on Facebook that really helped get people in the door.

If you already have a page for your foundation, what are some tips that worked for you?  Did you find your fan base growing quickly around a certain event? What kind of status updates do your fans respond to? I'd love to hear your feedback. This is a great opportunity to learn from each other.

— Tina Arnoldi

Comments

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I use my FB Page as a giant focus group. Posting discussion topics and conversation starters has prompted great conversations that help understand how nonprofits are using social media. The FB page has generated tons of insights and also ideas for blog posts!

Bradford - Thanks so much for mentioning our Facebook page. We're glad to see our fan base growing.

Jereme - We definitely agree about automating content. We did that for a while when getting started. However, as I was looking at other pages and saw a feed from Twitter or Hootsuite, I didn't see it as engaging. And yes, tagging is very cool. I was excited when I figured that out!

These are great tips for launching a Facebook page. I think the most important thing that you shared here is that you can't automate your content feed on Facebook. Many organizations tie their Facebook pages directly to their blogs or their Twitter feeds to make posting easier and to show people they're on both Facebook and Twitter. But social media doesn't work that way. All the end-user sees is an information tsunami that neither informs, nor engages them. Once you start spending the time to add compelling posts, links and comments, users will start to engage you and engagement is one of the most important factors in utilizing social media in your outreach plan.

Also, a great way to pull new eyeballs to your page is to link your content to other Facebook pages. For example, if you're hosting an event at a local community center, tag them in an update on your wall and then visitors to the community center's page will have the opportunity to jump back to your page.

Great post, thanks for sharing your experience!

First of all, congratulations to the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina for having a Director of Information Management. This is a really useful blog post with practical information about how to set up a Facebook presence and the measurable results it can yield in terms of reaching out to a wider public. Check out the link to Coastal Community's Facebook page--660 friends and growing!

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