Yesterday was the 2012 New York Cares Leadership Conference, and I had the distinct pleasure of presenting a session to volunteer leaders and inspiring community members. The session focused on using core social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to raise awareness and inspire others as a volunteer. For many organizations, we provide guidance or goals for using social channels to our staff, but this session was for the volunteers who want to make a difference from outside of the organization.

Creating Great Content

When it comes to creating great content, there are four important elements, especially with social media, as you can see in the image at the top of this post. You’ll notice that the goal is in the middle of all three because it is always the core of your success and the first step in any decision. The people you want to talk to are closely connected to the goal and if one changes, the other may react. Your tools are defined both by the goal of what you want to do, but also by the people – are they tools that that audience uses and likes? And the content – is that a platform or application that supports that kind of content? Similarly, the content is defined by the goal, but also by the tools at your disposal and the people who will consume it

So, what is the content you want to share? Do you want to be sharing what you know and learn with other volunteers? Inspiring and recruiting your friends to volunteer with you? Or are you trying to promote the organization? Maybe even using these tools to document and share back with the organization all that you’re doing. What you want to be doing with your voice and story via social media will shape the tools and content. Anyone in here want to share what you are now or want to start doing? Start with the goal, and then complete the circle identifying the people, the tools, and the content.

Creating Buzz

On Twitter, look up hashtags that your community uses and follow them to track conversations. Be sure to use relevant (but not spammy!) hashtags in your posts to connect them into related topics. Consider participating or even starting a Twitter chat – the Association Chat is a great example of a weekly chat with an online archive. Be sure to use @ replies to bring people into your conversation directly or thank them for engaging with you. Here are some Twitter-specific tools:

  • Twitalyzer
  • 14blocks
  • Storify
  •,,, TinyURL,,
  • Tweetdeck, Hootsuite
On Facebook, as a volunteer you will need to consider the options of using your personal profile, creating a page, or starting a group. Which direction you go is tied to the goal of why you are using Facebook to begin with as we talked about above. Regardless of which Facebook option you choose, track which kinds of posts or content your community responds to the most to help make the most engaging space you can. Images are prioritized as content types so try to include an image with your posts or even images themselves. Here are some specific Facebook tools:
  • Edgerank
  • Booshaka
  • iPhone/Andriod/iPad
  • Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, etc.
On LinkedIn, consider creating or using the Subgroups functionality so that you could manage a group of volunteers or peers in a subgroup within the organization’s main group. This helps show affiliation but provide a smaller, more intimate and defined group for those looking participate. When sharing messages, use LinkedIn’s filtering options for location and job field to refine your recipients list to those more applicable. If you host or organize events, whether they are major conferences or small weekend volunteering projects, consider creating LinkedIn events for them so that people can RSVP and show from their personal profile that they are planning to participate. Lastly, check out the various applications that LinkedIn integrates with – for example, you can pull in RSS feeds from your blog or the organization’s website, have your slide shows appear on your profile, and more.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear how you’re using social tools to support an organization you volunteer for, or how you share your knowledge and experience as a volunteer with others!

Mastering Social Networking as a Volunteer
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