Online Reputation Management

The 7 Greatest Fears of Non-Profits about Social Media

By Justin Seibert| 4 Min Read | October 7, 2010

I’m giving a social media presentation to a group of non-profits tomorrow. Per my standard procedure for speaking engagements whenever possible, we sent out a survey ahead of time to learn more about the attendees so we could better tailor the discussion.  Question 8:

“What is your biggest fear / concern / difficulty with social media?”

Their answers might surprise you.The responses broke down as follows.  Some could really go in a couple different places and one could argue for some of my categories to be combined, but Frankie says relax.  Perhaps the title is a little misleading, but this is meant to be illuminating, not scientific.

  1. Effectiveness – 31%.  How to make it useful.  Sample concern: “Being able to continually populate it with relevant and thoughtful content.”  This is a great concern.  It shows the persons are concerned with bringing value to the table.
  2. Time – 15%.  How to make time for it all.  Sample concern: “Spending more time than the benefit we can receive.”  Another great concern.  There are a ton of great tools out there to help you manage your time spent on social media, but a big part of it is having a well thought out strategic plan so you can make sure you’re focusing on the most important elements.
  3. Negative Comments – 15%.  Worried about what people will think if someone writes something bad.  Sample concern: “Comments being made on the page and we are not able to keep up with responses.”  This is the #1 concern I hear expressed in the for-profit world when discussing blogs and social media with companies evaluating their value.  My immediate counter to this legitimate concern: if they’re not saying it on your blog or facebook page, they’re saying it somewhere else.  Wouldn’t you rather know about it and be able to address it in a forum where you have some “control” and a group of passionate followers?
  4. User Privacy – 15%.  Worried that patients, children will be exposed.  Sample concern: “Security and patient confidentiality.”  This is a huge potential pitfall, but not one that can’t be avoided.  For these types of nonprofits, social media plans with compliance components are critical and should be discussed with attorneys ahead of time.
  5. Lack of Control – 8%.  How to control the situation.  Sample concern: “lack of control” (this was an easy one to categorize).  Related to negative comments, this is a huge concern by many organizations, particularly if they’ve long dealt with traditional pr tactics or had attorneys heavily involved in their crisis response plans.  A very fair concern, but people need to realize there is no such thing as true control in today’s internet world – just ways you can minimize exposure and protect yourself.
  6. Appearance – 8%. How does your social media presence reflect on your brand and organization? Sample concern: “looking sloppy.”  This can be addressed with plug-ins, regular; thoughtful use; and – when applicable – nice pictures.
  7. Management – 8%.  How to handle with multiple users. Sample concern: “the usual concerns of message control when more employees are involved in social media.”  There’s a fine line to balance here.  You don’t want to turn off your employees (often some of your biggest advocates, especially in the NPO world) by blocking them from social media usage or harsh restrictions, but you also don’t want it to be a free-for-all.  Addressing this issue comes down to having a good plan.  We’ve also found it helpful for organizations to start with one official point person per social media property (e.g. twitter, facebook) and establish a plan for others once they’ve found a comfort level and seen what kind of response comes.

All legitimate concerns and most are applicable to the for-profit world as well.  Any other concerns you think this group missed?

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Written by Justin Seibert

Justin Seibert is the President of Direct Online Marketing. Justin holds a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University. He contributes a wide range of online business-oriented topics, including the subject of exporting. His contributions can be found on publications such as the Pittsburgh Business Times, AdAge, SES Magazine, and La Voz del interior. Justin and his family enjoy learning about new cultures during their travels.

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