Beyond Mirror Selfies and Candy Crush – Why your non-profit should be using social media.


Social media has swiftly permeated our personal and social lives.  Sometimes the association of social media with viral games like Candy Crush and updates on a reality TV star’s favorite meal can mean we firmly file these media mentally under ‘leisure or playtime’. image But even as the boundaries between personal and professional social media networking can be hazy, this doesn’t mean that there is not a real business need for social media in your non-profit organization’s work in health. The profound social changes bought by a technology are seen when “it becomes normal, then ubiquitous and finally so pervasive as to be invisible” (Here comes everybody by C. Shirky ) The social media tools are the ‘new normal’ and are becoming the wallpaper of our lives. According to stats from the Pew Research Center they are reaching ubiquitous… we can be certain invisible is coming soon. The for-profit titans of social media offer non-profits of any size, powerful tools to leverage the full potential of the internet in connecting your followers to your organization. An essential element for any organization but particularly relevant for those working in health education field. Social media takes you to where your supporters are or alternatively where your target population is. imageResearch suggests potential for social media networking as a tool for health intervention . Programs have used online networks of friends to promote health messages such as condom use and sexual health. Early results indicate there are measurable short-term improvements using these technology-based interventions. Translating this to more lasting effects will likely require multidisciplinary approaches, but novel techniques in social media are a welcome addition in future planning for health education programs. To get started consider these top 3 tips:

1. Approach social media like any other organization program or project and begin by setting defined goals and objectives for your organization’s social media activity.  You may be focused on raising your online brand awareness, fundraising, driving traffic through your website or even part of an intervention program. This planning phase will help focus your efforts.  Keeping the big picture perspective in mind will help you achieve more efficient choices of metrics as you monitor your social media impact. image 2. Diversification across media platforms is important for your organization.  As described by Heather Mansfield in Social Media for Good, this form of media is in a state of flux and your social media efforts need to be able to move with that flow.  Consider integrating your efforts with other media platforms such as blogging and e-newsletters to maximize impact. image 3. Don’t fear failure. This can be the big challenge, especially for small non-profits with limited resources.  Social media is an emerging and evolving phenomenon and finding the right tools and voice for your organization might require some experimentation. Even social media experts ‘build’ their fan base in an iterative process, trying difference content, different media and finding the right voice for each form of presentation. image Help is out there!  Several online organizations offer resources and guidance to non-profits embarking on social media communications, for example NpTechForGood and CCGHR and Non Profit Technology Network Some such as Social Media 4 Nonprofits also organize regional conferences on the topic. As you approach social media for your organization’s work in health, its worth remembering the words of Samuel Beckett… image


6 thoughts on “Beyond Mirror Selfies and Candy Crush – Why your non-profit should be using social media.

  1. Ruth, this post information is great for non-profits and other upstream public health organizations such as college programs that help minority and low income students enter and succeed in college. As I was reading your post I couldn’t help but to think about how the program I used to work for College Assistance Migrant program at Sac State – can use your tips to improve their outreach efforts. They have a Facebook page and this was created when I was the program Outreach Advisor. Facebook was really useful in promoting and sharing information among high school students. The program I think could benefit from your tip #2 – diversification across media platforms. Creating groups in LinkedIn, Tweeter and Instagram are other platforms the program can explore. I will love to share this post with the director of the program, I think she will be interested in reading about this. Thanks!!

  2. I enjoyed this post. You gave concrete ideas, particularity for non-profits who have not gotten their “feet-wet” in the social media world.

  3. Dear Dr. Ruth,

    Here are my thoughts:

    1. You always start your posts with a rather humorous approach to catch your readers’ attention. I think this is effective in a way that your readers would want continue reading what you have to say about this certain topic. Also, your approach introduces the casualty into the discussion/conversation, which makes your readers feel you are exchanging your thoughts/ideas with them and encouraging them to do the same.

    2. A very nice incorporation of readings from this past week and health-related focus into your post’s theme. I think this incorporation really puts your post into practical use of social media to disseminate public health messages and applies theories into real-world cases.

    3. I especially enjoyed reading the following phrases and statements:
    – “The social media tools are the ‘new normal’ and are becoming the wallpaper of our lives.” — The phrase “wallpaper of our lives” just echoed with me and warmed my heart a little.
    – “Social media takes you to where your supporters are or alternatively where your target population is.” — This is a perfect statement in encouraging organizations to utilize social media with an aim to reach out to more people and ultimately to serve them better.

    4. The top 3 tips that you have provided would definitely get your readers thinking what to do or not to do when using social media to promote their non-profit organizations.

    Clipper Young

  4. Ruth,

    I very much enjoyed reading your post.
    strengths of your post:
    -great use of the listing steps
    -using humor to catch readers attention
    -making the topic relevant to many readers while talking about social media
    -the lengths of your post- not too short and not too long.

    I loved the photos, but maybe you can enlarge the ones with text to make it easier to read.

    • Hi Sarah. Which photos were too small? All, or was it just the cartoon? I will try fix all, thanks for the feedback!
      Also out of curiosity, what device did you read it on.

  5. Like others in this thread, really enjoy your blogging voice Ruth and the memorable bits of wisdom you sprinkle along the way! Very salient tips, and a standout is #3; not many of us hear in our working environments or feel the public health/healthcare culture can be considered “failure friendly”. It’s evocative of the idea of trying small things, or making “small bets” to counter these fears, and learning what works through doing. Beth Kanter writes about all of this here: Thanks!

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