Think back to one of your first dates.

Do you remember it? What was it like? Was there nervous anticipation? Some butterflies? Awkward silence even?

I remember my first with my (now) wife of five years being characterized by all of those things at one point or another. But, looking back there are 3 things that first date required of me: Taking the risk and putting myself out there, getting the conversation going to get to know her, and asking her if she would be up for a second date with me.

No matter the emotion evoked from your first date memory, these 3 ‘first-date’ principles will help you acquire supporters with social media, to keep you from wondering ‘what could have been’ between you and prospective supporters online.

1. Put yourself out there

I didn’t meet my wife by being a hermit or only hanging out with the same like-minded friends all the time. I met her by participating in a 10K with 35,000 runners in Charleston, when I was currently going to school five hours away. I had to take the risk, put myself out there, and get to know a friend of a friend.

The same principle applies with social media.

While the expanse and pace of social media can be overwhelming at times such that you wonder if it’s worth jumping in, it’s helpful to take a step back from the noise and think about what you’re trying to accomplish through social media.

 “Even with so many new tools like Facebook, Twitter, and beyond, few businesses are actually doing anything markedly different than they used to. Facebook is a fancy photo scrapbook and Twitter is often just a tiny press release machine. It’s the same shouting with a different megaphone.” – Jae Baer, Youtility

Thinking of social media as a new megaphone with which to share your nonprofit’s story and engage new supporters can help us see its value and staying power. No one is going to become a social media expert overnight, nor did I convince my wife that I was marriage material after the first date, but it’s worth taking the risk, putting yourself out there, and seeing what all the buzz is about!

2. Keep the Conversation Going

Did you have a first date experience with someone who only talked about themselves? If so, there probably wasn’t a second date. Conversations on the first date work best as a two-way street, talking with your date as opposed to at them.

It works best when it’s conversational.

The same applies to social media. The more engaged you are with your followers and fans online, the more inclined people will be to return the favor and share your content with their personal networks!

The point of social media is not to talk at your supports (that’s advertising), but to talk with them (that’s relationship building).

I’ll give you an example. My wife and I learned early on in our relationship that we both shared empathy towards helping victims affected by modern day slavery and human rights abuse. We began supporting an organization, International Justice Mission (IJM), a nonprofit that is holistically advancing this mission by rescuing victims, bringing criminals to justice, restoring survivors, and strengthening justice systems.

I recently ran a personal fundraising campaign on my 27th birthday via social media in which I raised funds for IJM. IJM turned me from a supporter to an advocate because they took the time to thank me for my efforts supporting their mission by joining the conversation on Twitter.

Simple engagement to show that you’re listening on social media is an opportunistic way to attract new supporters, build trust, and lead to greater levels of online and offline engagement from your greatest asset: your supporters.

Seth Godin reminds us, “Social media is a marathon, a gradual process in which you build a reputation. The best time to start was a while ago. The second best time to start is today.”

3. Ask for the Second Date

Returning once more to our ‘first date’ analogy, you probably have a good idea before the first date is over if you’re interested in a second. But, it’s always good to set the expectation and simply ask.

Similar calls-to-action on social media are important to further engagement with prospective and current supporters.

If people find your content valuable on social media, they are going to be inclined to taking next steps to engage with your cause, but are you asking the right question, in the right place, at the right time?

Even if I thought my wife was ‘the one,’ if I had asked her at the end of our first date to marry me, she would have said no. Instead, I had to cultivate the relationship and prove to her I was marriage material over months of more dates before she would ‘Yes!’

John Haydon shares 6 proven ways for acquiring new constituents through social media.

If you’ve taken the plunge in to social media, and started engaging with your network of online supporters, don’t be afraid to ask people to take a next-step of support. They might just say ‘yes’ like my wife did to me!

Is your first-date experience still fresh in your mind? Did my story about taking the plunge, being engaged with conversations and asking for next steps to get to know each other better resonate with yours?

I’ll leave you with a word of advice from author and social media expert, Jay Baer, who reminds us..

“Smart companies use social to turn customers into fans, and fans into volunteer marketers. They worry less about squeezing every nickel and click out of each tweet and status update. The more you sell, the less you sell.”

Have you been able to acquire new supporters through social media? Have you seen great examples of nonprofits acquiring new supporters, or turning supporters into advocates via social media? I’d love to hear your examples in the comments below, thanks!

Don’t forget to check out the npEXPERTS eBook packed with advice on donor acquisition!

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