Nonprofit groups turn to social media to expand reach

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Nonprofit groups turn to social media to expand reach

By ERIN MOODY
emoody@beaufortgazette.com
Published Sunday, November 4, 2012   |  689 Words  |  

Richard Wilson thinks "social media is where it's at" when it comes to helping local nonprofit organizations.

"If you truly want to help, if you truly want to be connected to your community, it's there for you through Facebook," he said after arranging a food drive at his Maggies Pub restaurant in Habersham for HELP of Beaufort.

Like a growing group of others, he used Facebook to get the word out.

Beaufort County nonprofit groups are turning to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, apps and other online networking tools to promote their causes, events and needs.

For some, including the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, it's a way to reach a younger generation, marketing and public relations director Sarah Bergin said. The organization started using Facebook about two years ago and is expanding into posting videos. Box office staff will be asked to poll those attending events to help determine if the online push gets people in the door, she said.

"It's becoming more constant for us," Bergin said. "It's events, it's reminders of events, it's what our board members are doing, meetings and just photographs that show we are part of the community and active."

Online marketing supplements -- but does not replace -- newspaper ads and press releases, she said. She is working with symphony staff and board members to get them to "share" instead of simply "liking" Facebook posts, so information goes out to their online friends and reaches a broader audience.

Lisa Annelouise Rentz, who handles publicity for ARTworks, also continues to use conventional marketing tools, such as the fliers she distributed in Beaufort last week. However, she uses Twitter, Facebook and a Beaufort SC 365 app for Android and iPhones, too.

"Social media, it is definitely growing, especially with Twitter ... I use that a lot," she said. "It's actually informative and it's so brief that it's easy to read."

An online presence should get people involved by both showing them what's going on and enticing them to get involved, Rentz said.

"We're a community art center," she said. "We're not virtual ourselves, so we want people to show up. It's just important to have the message go across all platforms. The goal is to get people to go out and see the events."

The Beaufort County Library has been on Facebook for about three years and started a Pinterest page six months ago, information services coordinator Traci Cox said. The library uses it as a digital bulletin board to post suggested-reading book covers.

"Instead of customers seeking out information, the information is coming to them," she said.

She believes the library's fledgling Pinterest effort will grow because of the visual appeal.

"Anyone on the Internet likes pictures more than text," Cox said.

Hope Haven of the Lowcountry, United Way of the Lowcountry and American Red Cross Carolina Lowcountry are among dozens of area organizations that not only post regularly about events and information relevant to their causes, but also when specific needs arise.

Steve Curless, HELP of Beaufort president, says the response to recent online pleas for assistance has been overwhelming. Offers to hold food donation drives like the one at Maggies Pub, or place donation boxes at local businesses have helped fill pantry shelves at what is typically a slow time of year.

"It's amazing how people come through when they find out about it," he said. "That's always been our trouble, getting people to find out about needs."

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