Nonprofits, here's how to up your social media game - Generocity Philly

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Jun. 2, 2017 8:46 am

Nonprofits, here’s how to up your social media game

The message matters only slightly more than the medium and virtual reality is the future.

Arden Theatre Co.'s Stephen Rapp presents at Tech in the Commons.

(Photo by Jeanette Lloyd)

Tech in the Commons is supported by the Knight Foundation and organized by Generocity.
Your social media strategy doesn’t matter if your content is lame.

So, how can place-based nonprofits best use social media to tell the stories of their impact — without, indeed, being lame?

Allen & Gerritson’s (A&G) Tim Reeves and Mike BostonArden Theatre Company’s Stephen RappLauren Hughes and Rebecca Cureton; and Greater Philadelphia Virtual and Augmented Reality Group’s (GPVAR) Clayton McNeil visited the fourth Tech in the Commons bootcamp organized by Generocity and supported by the Knight Foundation to share their own best practices.

Why the story matters most

Mike Boston’s #BlackWithBlue movement started with a rap song produced by police officers and inner-city youth in a studio he’d rigged in the back of his truck, called Mobile Stü.

After the song’s music video and accompanying social content was released last November, it soon went viral — organically, with no paid media — to reach over 50 million impressions and counting, according to Boston-based ad agency A&G, which helped form Mobile Stü’s social messaging. (Boston works as a facilities manager for the company in its, yes, Boston location.)

The rapper has appeared on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and The Ellen Show to talk about the initiative, and he has a documentary series in the making.

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What mattered here was the message, not the medium — people recognized the importance of Boston’s work in mending the tense relationship between cops and kids and wanted to spread the good news.

“It’s a meritocracy on the brand side,”said A&G principal Reeves, who helped make Boston’s efforts national news. “For nonprofits, the stories that resonate with people are stories of mission, stories that have a noble pursuit” — and now, major brands are following that rule, too.

“This is about having such a great story that it wins engagement.”

… But the medium matters, too

As for turning that story into a social presence? When it comes to the available media, “if you’re not using it to the fullest, it is sadly going to waste,” said Rapp, the Arden’s director of marketing and communications.

A few of the Arden team’s quick tips:

  • Consider why your audience likes you — The Arden is a performance-based organization, and accordingly, its audience responds the most to visuals related to those performances, such as behind-the-scenes videos of rehearsals.
  • Pick just a few platforms — “It’s really hard to be an organic voice on every platform,” Rapp said, so spend most of your time and energy on what’s working. (And note that Facebook has nearly 2 billion users worldwide.)
  • Use the 70/30 rule — That is, 70 percent of your social content should further the “story” and not necessarily have a sales message attached. It’s less “interruption-based,” more “permission-based,” Rapp said.

Read about how the Arden revamped its social comms strategy.

The future of social media is virtual

What’s on the horizon in social communication trends? AR/VR, of course.

As Visit Philly showed us earlier in the Tech in the Commons series, place-based nonprofits can use augmented and virtual reality to show off the best features of their physical surroundings, thus increasing engagement on their web platforms — and, hopefully, increasing visitors to the space itself.

GPVAR organizer McNeil, who’s also the founder and chief technologist at virtual reality consulting company Synthality, argued that in the future, personal communication through “social VR” will be widely used.

First, to clarify: Augmented reality is the use of computer graphics to change what you’re experiencing — take Pokémon Go as a prime example — whereas virtual reality is about digital immersion, in which your full visual surroundings are changed, often via headset.

A powerful example of the social power of VR in increasing empathy is that of “Clouds Over Sidra,” a virtual reality film produced by the United Nations that follows a young Syrian girl through a refugee camp. The film helped the UN raise $3.8 billion at the fundraising conference where it was showed.

“I don’t know of any other medium that can really [let the user] embody a person” and live life through their eyes, McNeil said.

In the future, he predicted, Facebook will create virtual “places” where users can talk with each other instead of writing at each other. And Snapchat already has Spectacles, the $129 glasses that record Snaps from the user’s perspective.

“We’re a little early” in the social adoption of AR and VR, McNeil said. But for “every successive technology, the adoption period is about five years” — which means prices and barriers to entry will drop over time, too.

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