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Most nonprofits don’t have the luxury of staffing a full-time social media person. That’s simply the reality. However, this hurdle shouldn’t prevent your organization from doing real-time marketing. Prepare your organization to respond to things like important events or hot topics in the news that are relevant to your cause and constituents—and talk about them on your social media channels. For instance, if you have a major fundraising event coming up, prepare yourselves. Have someone post on Twitter and Facebook what’s happening live as the day goes along. This will be an important channel for constituents who’ve given to the cause but can’t be there in person. Not only will these live posts help constituents feel engaged, but they’ll also give them a firsthand account of what their money is doing. Donors often want to know specifically where their money is going. Another idea is to engage in hot topics in the news that are relevant to your organization. Ask your followers what they think about the issues. People want to be heard. If you open the door to letting them engage with your brand, they will feel valued.

I recently learned that, on average, people follow six to eight brands on social media. This means you’re competing with not only your followers’ friends posting pictures of what they ate for lunch, but you’re also competing with other organizations. If they’re following your nonprofit, then it’s likely they’re following other nonprofits as well.

So how do you make your organization stand out? You have to learn what your constituency is interested in now. See which of your posts have the most likes/comments to discover what messaging and topics best resonate with them. Knowing your constituents’ interests is a sermon we preach every day to our clients. If you don’t know what they like or spend their time talking about, then how can you truly speak to their hearts?

Engaging your constituency in a conversation through social networks is one more piece to true multichannel communication. However, when posting, keep in mind that social networks are not true direct-response channels. While it’s important to cultivate and steward your organization’s social network, we’ve found that any direct ask tends to alienate that audience. Social networking is about engagement. Once you have an engaged follower, that first step can lead to gifts in a variety of other channels.

Is your organization ready for real-time marketing? Does your following warrant real-time marketing? If not, then work on building that piece first. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Real-time marketing is pointless if no one is listening.

Be responsive. Be relevant. Be ready.