Nonprofit Social Media Conferences: What’s The Point?

As a nonprofit digital agency, we frequent nonprofit social media conferences all over the U.S. Here are some ideas on how you can make the most of these conferences.

This month we had the pleasure of speaking at two of the largest conferences for social media professionals: Social Media For Nonprofits Bootcamp  in San Francisco and the Salsa Community Conference in Washington, D.C.

These two conferences are among our favorites, because they offer practical tips that can be implemented in your organization’s digital strategy immediately. The attendees are folks who are in the trenches of digital marketing – researching, analyzing and implementing new ideas to market their nonprofits. Being a speaker at these conferences is always an enriching experience, because audience members who have a greater understanding of a particular aspect of social media often ask thought-provoking and challenging questions.

I love being challenged this way, because it highlights one crucial truth about social media marketing: no one knows it all. It’s impossible for one person to know all the nuances of every platform out there: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other networks. That’s why it’s important to chat with numerous professionals. By connecting with others in the field, you can find ways to make your nonprofit more effective on social media to help reach your organizational goals such as fundraising and recruiting volunteers.

Photo by pennstatenews http://www.flickr.com/photos/pennstatelive/

Photo by pennstatenews http://www.flickr.com/photos/pennstatelive/

We’ve come up with a list of five tips to help you navigate your next nonprofit social media conference and ensure you leave with information that can be applied to your nonprofit’s digital outreach plans. One important thing to keep in mind: While attending new events, especially events recommended by colleagues, professionals and other trusted contacts, is important for growing your nonprofit, steer clear of new conferences.

Tip #1

Research the panels. Is there a discussion on a specific topic that would help your nonprofit? Do the speakers have experience on that topic? Are there professionals from other nonprofits on the panel? I always like attending panel discussions that feature nonprofit communications professionals, because they have great insights about digital marketing specifically for nonprofits and they can provide concrete examples from their work. Make a list of the panels you want to attend in advance.

Tip #2

Are the sponsors of the conference on the speakers’ roster? This doesn’t immediately mean that you shouldn’t attend the panel – just check the topic of the panel. If it sounds like it will be more of a sales pitch, there’s no sense spending your time listening to it when you can attend other talks and workshops that align more with your organization’s goals.

Tip #3

Before the conference kicks off, reach out to other attendees, speakers and panelists you want to chat with at the conference via social media. I love when people do this, because it allows me to have great conversations at the conference. It’s a way to go beyond the formal “what do you do”-type questions that are often heard on conference halls. If you establish a connection with folks earlier, you can jump straight into discussions without spending too much time on the introductions.

Tip #4

Avoid the conference high. Forget the grandiose ideas of how the internet is going to solve the world’s problems by helping every nonprofit on the planet. Well, don’t forget it completely, but make sure that you are leaving every conference with lessons and resources you can implement immediately like a new resource for finding content, a new strategy to drive action to your mission or a new software to get supporters.

Tip #5

Find the after party. No, seriously. Drinks and munchies allow everyone to get into the collaborative spirit. I love learning from others and passing on what I know. It is also the perfect opportunity to find individuals and organizations working in the same space that your nonprofit can partner with in the future.