What is Social Media?

Marketing October 27, 2011

Tatiana Morand

By Tatiana Morand

First - what exactly is social media?

Wikipedia defines social media as “the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.” The two key concepts here are that it is online or web-based communication channels and that unlike traditional media, such as a newspaper or television, it isn’t just broadcasting information, and it enables interaction. The level of interaction varies depending on the social media technology and the user. It could be as simple as “liking” something on Facebook or “re-tweeting” a Twitter hashtag, to answering questions or commenting on a site such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Quora.

Types of social media websites:

You’ve probably heard of many of these websites before, but here is an overview of the types of social media sites available and some examples:

Why should you participate in social media?

Of course, most of us are involved in social media to some extent in our personal lives, but why should your organization incorporate social media into your marketing or communications activities? Here are a few reasons to consider:

  1. To communicate with and engage your existing constituents or audience.
  2. To raise awareness of your cause.
  3. To recruit and/or retain volunteers.
  4. To build new audiences and/or grow your membership.
  5. To increase event participation.
  6. To raise funds.

Social media is a natural fit for causes because people want to see themselves reflected in the kinds of causes nonprofits represent. With social media you create real connections with your supporters.  They can tell you what they want and share information with your organization. Social media gives your supporters a vehicle with which to communicate, ask questions, give feedback, and share their stories, photos, information.

Reality Check – before you begin:

Social media sounds like a no-brainer right? Everyone seems to be on Facebook and tweeting up a storm.  But you need to be realistic about your goals and about how quickly you can get on the social media bandwagon. It’s often hard to see tangible results. Many non-profit groups struggle to accurately determine how their social media efforts translate into real action and real donations.

So when should you try social networking?


  • you’re doing well in other online channels
  • you have people dedicated to its care and feeding
  • you’re willing to give up some control

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