Winning the Internet

Who wants to hang out with a mission statement?

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

Let’s face it: mechanically posting articles to your organization’s Facebook or Twitter profile is easy. Many of us do it because we feel we need to post something, and posting something dry and descriptive is quick. The problem is these social media posts often read more like mission statements than fun updates. And we all know mission statements can be boring.

While they’re integral to defining your organization’s goals and strategy, they’re not usually written in a tone that’s engaging and approachable. Yet with social media, many nonprofits post in “mission statement” style, with minimal commentary and little to no interaction.

Because they’re just reproducing company jargon or pasting in press releases, they’re acting more as a broadcaster than an engager—and missing out on the power of social media. (On a side note, there’s a time and a place for broadcasting. Sending out press releases or emails are great ways to get your message out in this way. But, they’re not the same thing as effective online engagement.)

Think about what kinds of things you tend to click on when you’re on Facebook or Twitter. Which one of these statements would you click on if it preceded a link to an article?

Statement 1: “Last Thursday Jane Doe took an important step toward toward making clean energy a larger part of America’s energy future. Read this important article to learn more.”

Statement 2: “This is an amazing accomplishment! We knew Jane could do it!”

The first is okay, but the second is more engaging. It makes you feel like you know the person mentioned in the article.

In addition to being engaging and approachable, social media posts should reflect the tone of your organization. Is your organization more playful? Edgy? How can you take that tone and integrate it into your posts?

PETA does a great job of doing this well. Their mission statement alone is kind of boring:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights organization in the world, with more than 3 million members and supporters.

But their posts aren’t boring or dry at all; they’re racy, edgy and attention-grabbing, like the one shown above. Even their request to Like PETA on Facebook is interesting.

The true power of social media is in creating and building relationships. If you can make your followers feel like they’re part of a movement and not just a bystander watching you do your work, you’re more likely to engage them in meaningful ways.

And that’s real power.

About Mary Rickles

Communications Director for Netroots Nation/Netroots Foundation

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