Engaging volunteers through social media

Many volunteer managers are accustomed to connecting with their volunteers through traditional means like progress reports, emails, meetings or even phone calls. However, social media can often be an overlooked resource for staying connected to volunteers.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that volunteer managers use social networks to produce content that is accessible and easy to find. Include ways to connect your program or organization online in all other forms of communication you already use. For instance, ask people to join your Facebook group or follow you on Twitter in your email signature, brochures, business cards, websites, etc. The more ways you offer for individuals to connect to your social networking efforts, the more likely they are to remember to find you when they’re online.

Every day, more and more adults sign up for a social network. In fact, Pew Internet reports that nearly 67 percent of adults now belong to a social network – the most active of that group being adults 18- to 40-years-old. On the same note, a 2012 survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project indicated that nearly half of American adults own a smartphone, which is a cellular phone capable of accessing the internet and running mobile applications. Similarly, nearly 20 percent of American adults now own a tablet computer like an Apple or Android device. The great thing about social media, smartphones, and tablet devices is that they are portable and can be accessed from anywhere.

What’s more interesting is that social media users are more likely to be active in voluntary groups. According to a 2012 report by Pew Internet, 75 percent of adults are engaged in volunteer work. Those individuals that identify as being active in online social networks are more likely to be a part of volunteer groups compared to those who do not use the Internet – 56 percent of non-internet users belong to groups while 82 percent of group participants belong to social networks. Nonetheless, many volunteer managers have been hesitant to get on board with social networking as a means of engaging their volunteers. This article explores why and how volunteer managers should use social networks to connect with existing volunteers. Future articles will dive deeper into this subject and also explore ways to connect with potential volunteers by using social media for recruitment.

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