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Harnessing social media for social good

Dec 05, 2012

At a conference held today at New Delhi, people from various NGOs, corporates and civil society organisations came together at the Social Media for Non Profits event to discuss the importance of social media in this day and age for NGOs and their work.


Want to fund-raise? Hit Facebook.

Want better productivity from colleagues? Get them on yammer.

Want your social message to get through? Jump on to Twitter.

For NGOs, social networking is the answer to reaching out to a vast audience that can be a funder, its supporter, an advocate for its causes and the messenger for its outreach. With 125 billion friend connections on Facebook and 3.2 billion ‘likes’ and comments every day, the social media presents a vast outreach opportunity at minimal cost to Indian NGOs. Highlighting this aspect, Ritu Sharma, Co-founder of the US-based Social Media for Non Profits (SMNP), said: “You reach thousands of people at a fraction of the price, not to mention saving the costs on printing.”

The SMNP held its first-ever meet for Indian NGOs, in collaboration with Microsoft and a host of other organisations, in leveraging the social media for raising funds, highlighting issues, building profile and spreading word about their work. The one-day workshop is part of a series of 12 taking place across the globe on empowering the non-profit sector in the use of social media. The workshop highlighted the pitfalls, advantages as well as ways to use the social media tools effectively.

Darian Heyman, Co-producer of SMNP spoke about how the online media is evolving at such a fast pace for anyone to become an expert. He said: “Dive into it and learn by doing,” and emphasised upon some of the absolute do's for the practitioners of social media. Become a curator of content so half of the posts should be about issues, other organisations and events; be a thought leader so that people find your comments interesting, useful, funny and not boring; use Facebook and Twitter as live events so respond with immediacy.

Some of the common mistakes that organisations make in the use of social media are to hand over this part to a volunteer; get into social media advocacy but not respond to comments; lack of persistence; and thrusting only organisational information that puts off people. The other big mistake that people make is to post the same content on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, even as the audience for all three varies.

Anjan Awasthi from Facebook said that the best way to use social media is to build an audience, connect with that audience, engage with it and allow that audience to repost, share and amplify your views. In terms of popularity and sharing, it is photographs, text, video and links in that order.

The CEO of GuideStar India, Pushpa Aman Singh, had a word of advice for NGOs. “Get your standard documents ready, get notifications, get a smart phone that allows you to check email, SMS, keep tabs on the social media and most importantly enable you to respond quickly.”

Highlighting the role of corporates in giving, Madhu Khatri from Microsoft said that the company is giving upto $1b in donations to non-profits and upto $4 billion as software donations. “In India alone, we are bridging the gap by providing training to NGOs.”

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