ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 1:55pm

posted by
Abbie S. Fink,
Vice President /
General Manager
HMA Public Relations

Do you have a fan page? What’s the hashtag for that conference? Did you see that great blog post? Will you write a LinkedIn recommendation for me?

These phrases and others are becoming increasingly more common among marketing, development, and communications professionals at nonprofit organizations. And with the ongoing support for the value of digital communications strategies, they are sure to stay part of our business lingo for a long time to come.

Digital communications has found a permanent place within organizations. Those that embrace it, making it a part of their daily communications efforts, will find it a worthwhile and beneficial means to talk to and with your organization’s stakeholders.

When it comes to digital communications, it is about engagement and influence, not numbers. Yes, it is exciting when your Facebook fan page hits a major numbers milestone. Or you reach a couple thousand followers on Twitter. But in order for your Facebook or Twitter stream to impact your organization, those fans and followers need to act on the information you are sharing. It may be that a fan page of 500 engaged followers will be more beneficial to you than a fan page of 5,000 inactive or passive followers.

Digital communications is most successful when your content is being shared across other platforms. And content should not be all about you and your organization. Consider sharing information about successful programs in other states, sending kudos to other nonprofit executives in your community, and serving as a resource for other social service organizations. This mix of information about the community, as well as your organization, will make your social networking efforts a success.

Engage a variety of staff members in your social networking efforts. Most often, the responsibility for the strategy and content falls to the communications team, but others in your organization can play an active part in the process. Keep in mind, social networking is a wonderful tool to communicate with your important stakeholders. Be sure to share the goals and objectives with your team and monitor the activity to ensure that it stays true to your organization’s mission.

If you invest in digital communications and engage and converse with your fans and followers, you will begin to see the benefits. It is not automatic, and it takes time to build your presence, but social media is here and here to stay.

Attendees of the upcoming NMI 122 - Digital Communications: Social Media Tools & Strategies, instructed by Abbie, will learn about the social media tools available to them, why it is important to develop a strategy, and how to use these tools to effectively grow their nonprofit’s presence in the social media space.

Attendees are encouraged, but not required, to bring their own laptop with a wireless connection, as well photos and information/content regarding their practice. Participants will develop real social content as part of the class. Click here to register.

Abbie S. Fink is vice president/general manager of Phoenix-based HMA Public Relations. A long-time communications professional, her varied marketing communications background includes skills in media relations, social media relations, special event management, community relations, issues management, and marketing promotions for both the private and public sectors, including such industries as law firms, health care, financial services, professional services, government affairs, and tribal affairs, as well as nonprofit organizations.

She is a recognized authority on media relations and social media relations/digital communications and has made presentations to a wide variety of organizations including the Southwest Legal Marketing Association, Public Relations Society of America’s Counselors Academy, the Arizona Fire Captains Association, Financial Aid Directors Association, Public Relations Global Network, among others.

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Click here to read "State of the Sector 2011: All quiet on the nonprofit front" — by Angela Francis.


This post was right on. Social media is becoming something that every marketer needs to get a handle on. But having numbers is no guarantee of effectiveness. Your message must be targeted and your audience must be receptive to your message. Many people prescribe to the "throw enough mud on the wall and some of it will stick" philosophy, but I think that is largely a waste of time.

This year marketing and public relations through social media was discussed more in my classes than the past. Now I have to really get a grasp on using social media differently during my upcoming internship. I have primarily used it as a tool to keep in touch with friends and family. I have followed a few organizations but am not the typical college student as far as the amount of time I spend on facebook. I know that I am looking forward to working with my PR and Marketing Manager on social media and the website.

Social Media and social neworks are the ways that ALL businesses need to communicate, having a social media strategy is essential. If you are not part of the conversation, how can you hope to influence it?
Social media and social media managers are one of the most exciting areas of online business interaction. Great article and well timed.
Many thanks
Charlie - Social Media Manager @ Social Media X

New digital communications channels do not replace more traditional media. They should co-exist and complement each other so much so that, in the future, the key to running a successful public relations campaign will lie in one’s ability to integrate and manage these new channels with those that have served us previously.

I agree with what Charley Daly said, social media is the key to the future. Instant communication and constant contact is what makes the information age so relevant to humanity.

Of course Social Media is about how engaged your audience is with you (individual or business). Many people need to understand the importance of quality over quantity.

Karol -Social Media Director Social Media Houston

Social media is another part of the internet marketing portfolio. And just like an investment portfolio you have to have a plan for your assets. In this case "digital" assets and understand each "bucket".

Social Media helps build brand awareness and serves as another communication channel to your customers and prospects. But depending on the industry and the amount of time and money you have to invest in a social media plan you should figure out how much of it should be in your internet marketing portfolio. If you want quicker leads/sales Search Engine Marketing and PPC/SEO with landing pages might be a better fit as an example.

Brilliant post, completely spot on. Social media is 'about engagement and influence, not numbers'. It is very important to remember to post relevenat up to date information to encourage your customers to engage with you. It is pointless continually posting about irrelvant topics that that are of no interest to your followers.
As stated above passive customers are easy to come by, can boost your numbers but are of no major benefit to your organisation. Most important factor is to keep it simple, intersting and relevant. Here at we engage with our customers by holding exciting competitions and concerning topics.

Thanks Abbie! I'm a little late finding this so I suppose a lot has changed. With so much social media "noise" right now I'm finding you have to smack people over the head with your messaging - particularly if you want them to take some sort of action (we've even taken to flat out writing in the posts "use that little ol' 'share' button below to tell your friends about this").

Getting engagement is requiring more and more extreme tactics for the message to be recognized.

Thanks again for the post!

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