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Posted by on Jun 2015 in All Stories, Member Support | 0 comments

Social media: Friend not foe – how to get started

social media iconsSocial media is a great way for people to communicate, interact and remain informed.  It can also become an important advocacy and promotional tool for you to connect with your tenants and your community. Non-profits can use these platforms to advocate and gain support.

It’s helpful to remember that social media isn’t new. Facebook launched in 2004, more than ten years ago. LinkedIn and MySpace launched a year before, in 2003. Even before these websites got started, Internet users have been interested in creating, sharing, and commenting on user-created content. GeoCities, Tripod, web forums, and blogging services allowed amateur users to share their ideas with an international community and receive feedback via comments, guestbooks, and forum threads. Social media websites make this even easier by removing technical barriers and creating a friendly environment for people to connect and interact online.

In the housing sector, social media can help property managers and housing advocates to communicate with tenants, advertise market units, build relationships with stakeholders, and advocate for increased funding and supports.

When getting started with social media, it’s helpful to identify a few goals. Why is your organization using social media and what do you hope to accomplish? Are you trying to engage tenants? Are you advocating as part of a federal election campaign? Who are you trying to reach?

Before you start:

  • Write down your goals and break them down into small pieces that you can measure.
  • Decide who will be responsible for social media accounts. Have a backup person with access to the account. Don’t forget to change passwords when staff turnover.
  • Choose a standard username to use on all social media websites (e.g. “TrueNorthNPH”). Make sure that you have a square picture of your logo that fits well into a Twitter or Facebook profile picture.
  • Start a social media calendar. A simple spreadsheet will help you plan ahead.
  • Pick some things to measure and decide how often to measure. Using a spreadsheet will help you track your progress over time.

DOWNLOAD: Sample Social Media Spreadsheet (Excel file)

In your first week:

  • Create your first tweets/posts. Find a balance between keeping your social media accounts up to date without overwhelming your audience. On Facebook, two to five posts per week is a good starting point. On Twitter, you may want to post more often, at least once per day. If possible, post a mix of things: photos, videos, news stories, updates, and infographics.
  • Engage with other users. On Twitter, follow community members, tenants, local politicians, and other housing providers and advocates. Retweet their messages and reply to their tweets. Similarly, Facebook pages can “like” other pages and share posts. Don’t forget to follow ONPHA’s Facebook and Twitter accounts!
  • Try using hashtags. Hashtags help to link tweets and posts to a common theme. Some examples of commonly-used tags include #nonprofit #housing and #affordablehousing. CHRA uses #housing4all15 for their federal election campaign. #cdnpoli #ONpoli and #TOpoli are examples of regional politics hashtags.

After your first week:

  • Keep posting. You may not have gotten many retweets or likes in your first week, but don’t be discouraged. Social media success takes time. As you get more fans/followers, you’ll see more engagement.
  • Start measuring. Use tools like Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics to measure how well your organization is doing on social media. These numbers can help you decide what works and what doesn’t.
  • Stay engaged. Spend a few minutes each day interacting with other organizations and people in your community. Follow a few hashtags and learn who the most influential people/organizations.

If you have questions about how social media can work for your non-profit, check in with ONPHA’s communications team by emailing


See the handouts for ONPHA’s 2014 conference sessions on social media: “Social media for beginners” and “Building a social media strategy.”

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