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This is an overview of my presentation at the Nonprofit Digital Strategy Forum at Digital Atlanta. It was great to meet everyone and discuss how to foster community across generations!

Description: Engaging multiple generations in a conversation about you can be daunting. How can you appeal to the zealous teenage volunteer and the technology-wary senior citizen at the same time? We’ll discuss why this is important and I’ll offer common sense methods for having an enticing online message without favoring age groups.

Don’t fake it.

You wouldn’t just grab a megaphone and start hollering at a crowd—that would give your brand a bad name, right? Don’t insult people by exploiting their community. Before you can be successful on a platform, you must be familiar with it. Commit to finding the value in a social network, interact on it, and learn from people who do it best. Don’t auto-post from other networks either! Get involved.

Target age groups both simultaneously and individually.

Your mission, your stories, and at least some of your action steps are universally interesting—when it’s not age specific, don’t try to make it so. Young people are savvy, ‘old’ people are wise; they meet in the middle on the internet (see the following steps for more guidance here). Sometimes, though, you must have a laser target on your audience and not be ashamed of it. Sixteen-year-olds are some of the best promoters of your cause, but they won’t be making large monetary donations when you need it. Use content and tone, directed at your largest target, to answer fears and persuade people to take the desired action step.

Do Facebook, and do it well.

You don’t have a choice. If you’re not doing Facebook well, you’re losing respect for your brand. Facebook can be confusing, though, and its features are constantly changing. You need to know the difference between personal accounts, Groups, Lists, Pages, and Community Pages, and how to use ‘Like’, ‘Send’, ‘Recommend’, and everything else. Know how to ‘Use Facebook As Page’. If anything sounds unfamiliar, go to Facebook.com/help. If you can’t find your answer there, get to Googling!

Pictures, pictures, pictures.

Take (lots of) pictures, pick the best, and let your community tag themselves. It may seem arbitrary, but you’re cultivating interaction right then and becoming a part of their lives. They begin to identify with you because they’re in your picture—don’t underestimate it. Surely you know someone who enjoys photography as a hobby, has a great camera, and is willing to take your ‘official‘ pictures. Let them use their gifts! Pictures are great on Twitter as well, providing variety and interesting content.

Be professional.

It may not make sense to you, but ALL CAPS and bad spelling and 1,000 ellipses per sentence make people wonder if you’ll be as careful with their money as you are with how you represent yourself. Eliminate (or prevent) the reservations and shame people develop about your organization by treating your internet community with some respect. You wouldn’t show up in a dirty t-shirt, late, with pie charts drawn in crayon, to a meeting with investors—but that’s exactly what your community is: investors. It may not be of the monetary variety, but they’re going to invest time and ‘social currency’ in your brand. Have a healthy dose of humility, listen, and pay attention.

Engage when needed; cultivate perpetually.

Your brand’s online presence works best when it guides and cultivates, not when it controls, dominates, or condescends. People are talking about you, and you need to give them a better place to do it so you can watch it and track it. Don’t let people tell lies about you, but don’t get into petty arguments. Don’t give a spam reply to everyone who mentions you on Twitter. In short: don’t be annoying. When in doubt, ask people. Ask questions (real ones, not rhetorical ones) to create lively, useful conversation around your cause—those questions can be your most valuable asset if you have the trust of the community.

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November 10, 2011 — Leave a comment — In Blog, Digital Atlanta, Presentations