« How to Milk It: Integrating Social Media with Direct Response | Main | The Secret Ingredient to Winning Advocacy Campaigns »

Tips to Humanize Your Social Media

There has been a lot of great discussion over the past year about organizations striving to be more human. During the 3rd annual Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference this really resonated with me when Paull Young of charity: water said in his keynote, what if your online communications (website, social media, fundraising appeals) looked like how you talked. “You would be telling great stories,” said Young. And it got me thinking how so many organizations fighting for the environment, women’s rights, religious freedom in other countries, (insert your cause here), continue to use social media as a tool to just broadcast their blog posts, press releases, or action alerts. How uninspiring for a sector filled with passionate people who are trying to change the world and make it a better place to live. 

Humanizing your organization takes a lot of work and culture change within your organization and it won’t come over night. I highly recommend that you check out Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter's book Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World for some great analysis and strategies if you are interested in exploring this on a deeper level. But for now, your organization can start with some simple steps for building community on social media and making it feel more human and less like a bot posting an RSS feed to your Twitter or Facebook account.


Listen to your Community

Focus in on what your community says about your organization. Is it positive? Is it critical of your work? What campaigns do you run that resonate with them? What is not resonating with them? Now take a look more broadly. What does your community say about the issues your organization is working on? Do they feel inspired? Or do they feel burned out by too many competing players in the space who are telling them the same thing?


2. Respond to your Community

When someone takes the time to leave a comment on your blog, tweet you, or leave a comment on Facebook, respond back. Thank them for their comments, answer their questions, and respond to their criticisms even if you don’t agree with them. Openly responding to criticism is probably one of my favorite aspects of social media. It gets organizations to think about how they frame the issues and campaigns they work on. These are moments where we can learn from our community. For example, you may not have realized that a blog post or a campaign’s tone was actually alienating half of your base unintentionally.


3. Build Relationships with your Community

If you ever want to activate your community when you truly need them to take action, volunteer, or donate money, you must build a good relationship with them first, just like you do in your personal life. For instance, if you ever needed to borrow $100, would you just tap the person next to you in line at the coffee shop, and say “hey can I borrow a $100.” Of course not. You would ask someone you have a good relationship with like your best friend or a family member.

Building a relationship with your community takes an investment of time.

To get to know them better try:

  • Asking them questions and ask for their opinions.
  • Respond to their comments.
  • Celebrate milestones with them including personal ones. For example, did one of your constituents have a big birthday? Wish them a happy birthday on Twitter. charity: water does a great job of building relationships with their constituents including wishing their donors happy birthday. This is a great personal touch given all of the organizations work around asking people to raise money as part of their birthday fundraising campaigns.
  • Thank them for all of their support – even if they do something small like make a $10 donation.


4. Activate your Community

After you have listened to your community, responded to their feedback, and built relationships with them, now they are ready to be activated when you need them the most. For example, if you have started an urgent petition demanding Members of Congress to support critical legislation around one of your organization’s core issues, don’t by shy about using social media to ask your community to sign the petition. Need to raise the last $10K for a matching online fundraising campaign? Ask your community to pitch in. If you have properly cultivated them and haven't treated them like an ATM machine, they won’t mind being asked to donate money.


What are some of your favorite tips for humanizing social media?

Reader Comments (4)

Allyson - Great post!

I think it's interesting that Paul Young suggested that social media should look like how you talk. When you think about it, most social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus) are where people connect with each other as people (friends, colleagues, etc.). They are used to communicating one on one, as people have done for thousands of years. The more brands can come across as a trusted friend, the more likely people will respond.
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Haydon
I think there is terrific from the guy who proved social can be effective. For so many organizations the story is what sells. To your point about asking for $100 from a stranger, there is far stiffer competition from people saying, "give me $5 and I will make it $10."

Authenticity will help you attract folks who are like minded and that is the goal!
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZack Rosenberg
Hey John. Yea Paull made some excellent points at Nonprofit 2.0. Social media was intended to be social or as my friend Colin Delany likes to put it - one big cocktail party. :). Orgs should be spending more time talking with their constituents and building relationships not talking at people or giving directives all of the time like "donate money, sign this, read my blog." What's social about telling people what to do?
June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAllyson Kapin
The clue really is in the name, it is SOCIAL media, interact, get to now your audience... people buy from people and you need to be personable in order for people to feel connected. Great points all well made, thanks for sharing

June 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJules Thomas

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.