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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Let the experts do the talking

WQED-TV's social media guy Zack Tanner speaks at PodCamp Pittsburgh to nonprofits entering the sometimes scary world of social media. (Scott Beveridge photo)

By Scott Beveridge

PITTSBURGH – When it comes to getting an education in social media for beginners the Web guru at WQED public television station has great advice on how to build a strategy.

Jump right in and engage your followers on Facebook or Twitter. Ask questions.

"Get them talking," said Zack Tanner, the Web developer at the station made famous by the likes of the affable cardigan sweater-wearing character Mr. Rogers and his kid-friendly "neighborhood."

"Be a good social media citizen," said Tanner, while speaking Oct. 28 at the 7th annual PodCamp Pittsburgh, a free conference organized by tech geeks and hosted by Point Park University.

His session is specifically designed for nonprofit organizations with small staffs that are being told to embrace social media platforms to raise money. But, he also makes great suggestions that can help anyone who is tiptoeing for the first time into what can be an intimidating place to play for some people.

"It will really put a nice face on what your are doing in a way that's never been done before," Tanner said.

Here is social media 101, Tanner style:

"Interact with other nonprofits. Retweet their tweets because as nonprofits everyone has to work together."

Pay close attention to what similar organizations are doing online.

Avoid cross posting, he said, defining that as loading Facebook and Twitter with identical information.

"It takes away the uniqueness of the different platforms."

Let the experts do the talking because they know the business and already have the information in their heads.

Nonprofits can run into problems, he said, when dividing up the chore of who is going to post what, where and when. Keep that to two or three people, at best, and avoid using platforms that roboTweet.

"We don't want to look like a machine doing the posting in real time. That's worse than not posting at all."

And, he said, don't over ask for money.

"That's one thing nonprofits are notorious for."

Design a campaign and explain on social media why you are raising money.

"Do the right thing. The donors will come. Post well. Be upfront."

Take a second to think about posts, too, before putting them out there to make sure they are sending the intended message.

And, then think about whether or not the post could cause a "secondary backlash" that can land organizations in crisis mode.

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