If you and your non-profit have steered clear of Google+ during its “people only” phase, now is a good time to reconsider. Yes, your Facebook and Twitter presences are still important — and will continue to be — but the new social network in town has lots of great features you can take advantage of right now.
While Google publicly announced that group and business pages are imminent, non-profits should not wait to wet their feet. Non-profit social media consultant Beth Kanter recommends communications staff spend 15 minutes each day dabbling in the new network.
We asked non-profit staff for their best practices experimenting with Google+ and their hopes for the future of the new social network. Here are four ways non-profits can make the most of the growing network.
1. Host Exclusive Hangouts
Looking for a great way to reward your major donors or dedicated volunteers? Use Hangouts, Google+’s video conferencing feature, to host a hangout with a celebrity or major player in your organization. Your supporters will love the individualized attention of a small hangout that rewards their commitment.
Tammy Gordon, AARP‘s director of social communication and strategy, hopes to kick off their 9/11 day of service with an inspiring speech from a celebrity ambassador in a hangout. “It will be a great way to connect with key volunteers,” says Gordon.
The host of the hangout should create a circle for the event’s participants, such as “9/11 day of service volunteers.”
The AARP team is nervous about using a particular staff member’s personal account to host a large-scale hangout. This concern is probably shared by many organizations longing for the launch of group and business pages.
One way to overcome these worries is to have the speaker host the hangout. If the host is a part of your non-profit’s team, consider the hangout an opportunity for your volunteers to maintain a human contact at your organization.
2. Cater to Your Circles
Circles are a great way to target key messengers, rather than bombard non-interested parties. Try organizing circles by unique interests, geographical location or donation history.
Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Federation’s social media outreach chair, organizes her circles by their interests. Her circles include policy professionals, wildlife enthusiasts and photographers. She emphasizes that followers can be in multiple circles, so arrange circles with greater precision.
Carefully curated circles are a great way to crowdsource ideas from your valued followers. You can ask your volunteers what types of events they would like to see, or ask your donors for upcoming campaign ideas. Spark conversations among people with shared interests.
Gordon hopes that business pages will include opt-in circles so followers can select the type of information to receive. The AARP plans to offer circles on health, social security, consumer entertainment and politics.
3. Huddle or Hangout with Your Coworkers
team jokes that it got a lot done during its “turbo-hangouts,” says Susan Moody, director of communications. With an international team that spans continents and time zones, Worldreader can use Google+’s new option for easy conferencing.
Similarly, AARP’s communications team is planning a hangout this Wednesday for its first Google+ webinar.
While Google+ is not the first platform to host group video conferencing, many companies have long paid for the service. Now, impromptu group calls can simplify and streamline collaborative brainstorming among coworkers.
Huddles are another way teams can stay in touch. Running late for a presentation? Have a brilliant idea to share during off hours? You can share updates with a group by name, email address or circle using the group texting feature of Google+’s iPhone app. Your huddle history is stored in the app, making it easy to connect with your team.
4. Unite Volunteers in a Huddle
If you’re putting on a major event, streamline communications for your volunteers via huddle. Just add the names of everyone who has signed up to a circle and let the messaging begin!
This can be especially helpful if you’re organizing highly coordinated or quickly changing events such as parades, rallies or protests.
Huddles may also be the perfect solution for sharing information with people on different email servers or mailing lists. The groups have no administrators, so people can easily add new volunteers to the conversation. If a volunteer drops out, he can easily remove himself from the list.
While Brigida has participated in some trial huddles among non-profit staff members, she hasn’t fully explored the potential of the Google+ group texting platform. However, its speed and ease will hopefully encourage ample implementation by non-profits.
Still Not Convinced?
Still confused about how your organization can maximize its Google+ experience, where group pages are currently forbidden
? Think of it this way: People come to social networks to connect with other people. While each non-profit has a unique voice, it’s really you — the individuals behind the logo and mission statement — who are the heart and soul of your non-profit. Even if most of your audience is not the early adopter, tech-loving crew, Google’s latest brainchild can work wonders for your organization’s internal operations.
Have you and your non-profit tried Google+? Let us know in the comments about your experiments and successes.
Image courtesy of iStockphoto, GiorgioMagini