Top 20 ways to sabotage your nonprofit's social media efforts



"Four hundred years ago on the planet Earth, workers who felt their livelihood threatened by automation flung their wooden shoes, called sabots, into the machines to stop them. Hence the word 'sabotage.'" -Valeris, "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country"

Sabotaging your social media efforts is easier than you might think. While you may not be throwing literal wooden shoes into the machine, thinking along these lines will sabotage your organization's potential success in social media:

1. Put someone in charge of your social media who doesn't have a deep investment in the organization. Whether it's an intern, a volunteer who might leave at any point, or an outside agency that's only contracted to work for you a couple hours a week, be sure that the person running your social media doesn't have a ton of experience with your organization or long-term investment in its success. Just find someone who knows Twitter and Facebook and trust them to represent you well.

2. Delegate all social media to the IT department. Don't integrate social media with your overall communications strategy. Those IT folks know computers, so they'll do just fine running your social media accounts.

3. View social media as "just Facebook." You've heard that Facebook is the #1 social network, so just throw all your eggs in that basket. Why bother investing time or resources in another platform? They're all just fads anyway, right?

4. Expect an immediate monetary return on social media. Time is money, so make sure social media starts paying the bills as soon as possible. If you don't see an uptick in donations in the first month or two, it's safe to assume that social media just isn't worth the time.

5. Only talk; don't listen. The first rule in public relations is to control the message, so make sure you use social media to push all the things your organization wants to say, from press releases to donor appeals. Don't waste time monitoring your brand, looking for people discussing your cause, or responding to questions. It's all about you!

6. Don't invest staff time into doing social media well. It should only take a few minutes a day, right? Seriously, how long does it take to write a tweet?



7. Make sure everything you say goes through legal first. Anything you say anywhere could get you sued, so be sure absolutely every post goes through an extensive legal process before being posted, even if that means missing key opportunities for engagement or speaking in a stilted, unrelatable tone. It's so much easier than training someone to be sensitive to possible legal landmines while composing messages.

8. Don't invest in tools or training. Because social media is free, right? And if a 20-year-old can do it, anybody can do it well. Training and tools are scams.

9. Don't post anything if your organization is under attack. The best thing to do when people are saying bad things about you is just to be silent. Don't respond, don't react, don't say a statement is forthcoming. Just don't post anything. It'll all blow over and your organization won't be any worse for the wear.

10. Jump on every bandwagon without making any strategic evaluation of its worth. All social media is naturally going to be a fit for your organization, so do and try everything, even if it goes beyond your staff's bandwidth.

11. Post without any sense of goals, plan or voice. The important thing is to be on social media, period. So don't worry about having outcomes, goals or a particular style.



12. Use "text-speak." Abbreviate everything (i.e. "you" to "u"), use as many hashtags as you can fit on Twitter, etc. Because everyone who reads this stuff is hip to that language, right?

13. Use all caps and lots of exclamation points - on everything. Since those jerks at Facebook and Twitter won't let you change the font size, do what you can to make your point seem extra important, or people might ignore it.

14. React immediately when somebody posts something negative or something you disagree with, and draw lines in the sand. If someone starts a fight with you, respond with whatever knee-jerk reaction you feel like at the moment. Start flame wars. Don't stand for anyone talking mean about you or your organization.

15. Don't bother taking time to look good. Got a rectangle logo that crops funny in Facebook? People know what you're trying to do, so don't worry about it.

16. Ask for stuff constantly: donations, volunteering, passing info along, retweeting. Social media is basically an ATM, so use it to always ask your supporters to do things for you.

17. Use the exact same messages on every social network. It takes too much time to adjust for tone, language or audience on every network, so just go ahead and keep those @ replies and hashtags on your Facebook posts. Assume "one size fits all."

18. Don't evaluate progress. Just do what you feel like and don't stop to look at what's working and what isn't.

19. Believe your audience is all of the same demographic. Don't waste time evaluating to your audience or appealing to a broad spectrum.

20. Don't learn from other people's successes. If someone has a win on social media, it's bound to be a fluke, so don't bother figuring out ways you might replicate aspects of their program.

Keep the list going! How else have you seen people sabotage their social media efforts?

Photo credit: Earthlightbooks, Katie Tegtmeyer and Gamma Man on Flickr