One to an undefined many communication by Wesley Fryer, on Flickr

Image by Wesley Fryer on Flickr (cc)

Your nonprofit organization has an event next month, you’re looking for ways to promote it, and suddenly creating a Facebook account seems the most brilliant way to bring out the masses.

Stop! Take a deep breath.

A quick reality check

While Wendy’s may be able to pull this sort of one-month campaign out of their back pocket – not to mention all the pre-planning, expertise and resources that go with it – your organization will need a minor miracle to do the same.

That’s not to say that you can’t get started; your event is a great opportunity to tell your fans how to find you. But don’t rush it. If you don’t already have a solid plan ready-to-go, focus on your event and get back to social media later; it should be part of your long-term marketing strategy and you’ll do better by planning ahead for next year instead of scrambling around now.

4 ways to find success – with a little help from your friends

Even without a social media presence, there are ways to tap into those networks: Ask others who support your cause to do it for you.

1) Give your fans the tools they need to spread the word. Personal social media use is growing across all age groups – adults 55+ in particular – so be careful not to jump to conclusions about who you think uses these networks. Make it easy for people to share information about your event and put together a little promo toolkit. Create a web page about the event that people can link to. Put together a short (25 words or less) promotional blurb for the event that’s easy for people to use. Think through all the different things people could use to share your message and give them what they need to do so.

2) Pitch it to your email list. If your organization has an email list, ask those folks for help. The tools you’re creating for Tip #1? Send an email that points the way to that toolkit so people who want to support your organization by sharing that info have it handy.

3) Check with your sponsors. Consider everybody from your major corporate sponsors to the mom and pop bakery sponsoring your hot dog buns; a lot of them will have their own social media channels and may be more than happy to promote their own affiliation with your cause by promoting your event to their network.

4) Ask your volunteers. Don’t forget to ask your volunteers for help getting the message out; they may have their own business, school or employer who can offer promotional support, or have their own networks they can connect with.

Bonus: Get some coverage in your local media. A majority of news outlets now use social media to distribute their news. Earning some media coverage for your event will help you offline and online – and give your other fans even more news to share.

What’s worked for you? Please add your own tips to the comments!