phoenix rescue mission and social media

Today we launch our social media interview series. We are interviewing nonprofits and ministries about how they use social media. Some are quite proficient, some are relative newbies and some have yet to begin. There is no one way, no right way to use social media. You and your organization are unique and therefore the social media strategy that works best for you is also unique. By sharing how others are using social media, we hope to help you glean insights as to how you might better use this powerful tool.

Debra Pryor of Phoenix Rescue MissionSo today, we’re honored to interview Debra Pryor, the E-Communications Coordinator for Phoenix Rescue Mission (PRM). PRM has a robust and active presence on the major social media channels. We’ve been following their work and are impressed with what they do. Debra was kind enough to give time to pick her brain about what she does and how she does it.

Oneicity: How did PRM get into social media marketing?

Debra: I had my own MySpace page before I ever began working for Phoenix Rescue. I was also on FaceBook and YouTube (for my cat videos). The Development Director wanted to get more involved in building community and for PRM to have more of a conversations with our donors. Our director asked if I was familiar social media and if I thought I’d be able to do “that” for the Mission. I did a lot of research and reading. I looked at how other nonprofts were using social media sites. One by one we kept adding different sites in. Almost exactly a year ago I transitioned from Development Assistant to fulltime E-Communications Coordinator. I’m also responsible for the upkeep on the website which was redesigned in April 2009.

Oneicity: What social media channels do you use for PRM?

Debra: PRM is using several different social media tools: Twitter, Facebook, our blog, Flickr, YouTube, MySpace and Change.org.

Oneicity: Which do you think is most effective for PRM?

Debra: Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are all three very effective.

MySpace is the easiest to build community on. Twitter is powerful too because it is pretty open-ended. Facebook is a little harder. You have to know the people you are connecting with or who you’re looking for. MySpace and Twitter allow you to just do a search without knowing the person.

Once you have a community in one place, then you can send people to the other communities on other sites. If you’re on those sites, let them know. People on your website should be able to find your social media sites right away. Most people are surprised that PRM is on all the sites it is. That tells people that we’re legitimate and serious about social media.

Oneicity: Which would you recommend as best place to begin in social media for a small nonprofit just starting out?

Debra: A Facebook Fan Page is the ONE place to start. That’s the most legitimate place to start a page. Everyone is more genuine in their approach on Facebook than other sites.

Oneicity: What are your social media goals for PRM?

Debra: It started out really with just wanting to increase web traffic. If you search for “Phoenix” and “Homeless”, we wanted PRM come up. Now we are about building community, which is beyond the original scope, and that’s a good thing.

Oneicity: What’s your favorite success story in social media for the mission?

Debra: We have a Facebook follower who works for the local power company. They contacted PRM through Facebook asking about our emergency food box program. It turns out that there was a mother holding on the telephone right then who was trying to pay her electric bill and needed food. Our supporter at the power company asked through our Facebook connection how the woman could get a food box. We responded and sent the information back through Facebook with our location and the information. In about an hour, this mother came down to our Family Outreach Center with her four children and got help. She wasn’t far away us, but she didn’t know about PRM and didn’t know how to get a food box.

Oneicity: What do you enjoy doing most?

Debra: I like having those kind of conversations. When people started to talk back it really began to click. The first 6 months seemed like I was posting and posting with no one responding. I used bit.ly which helped me to see what’s going on, which links were getting clicks and which weren’t. That gave me a better feel for what our audience was responding to. I starting to play around with what type of links worked and what times of day worked best.

Oneicity: What do you enjoy doing least?

Debra: I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the analytics, like Google Analytics. I’m not really a numbers person so it is tough to manage and keep track of all the stats. But I feel once you have a community who actually cares about what you post, it matters less what size your audience than who your audience is. You have to know your audience and focus on who you want to reach out to. One fan is where you start.

Oneicity: Describe what your day is like. How much time do you spend and what are your processes?

Debra: I tend to post a lot in the morning and leave afternoon for the blog and website updating. I check in on all of our sites. I respond to emails and interact with anyone that I need to. I send thank yous to companies and churches who have helped us.

I take pictures of volunteers for our online photo albums. My day can be fairly random depending on what’s happening at the Mission and our Family Outreach Center.

I try to find one thing to post on all three sites that you wouldn’t know unless you worked or volunteered for the Mission. I try to tweak the posts for each site just a little so that they are unique.

I integrated everything to my Inbox. But I also go to the sites to check there as well, like our Facebook fan page.

I’m not using any of the software tools. I don’t have all the information tied together. I need to look into something that manages all the information.

Each social media site has different audiences and so I don’t want to update every site with the same information. I don’t have everything tied together. I know there are people who have their Twitter and Facebook status linked. Every time you Tweet it does a status update on Facebook. I don’t do that. I want to respond to each individual audience.

Oneicity: That’s interesting that you’re thinking about individual audiences, could you explain a little bit about that?

Debra: Twitter is a place I can share about homelessness in general and even about other organizations. It’s very open-ended. It seems the audience of Twitter is a little bit of everyone based on the people who follow us.

MySpace tends to track a little younger. So, our page there has more widgets and more going on. I try to be more informal. I only post about things that have to do with PRM. I don’t share stories about homelessness in general.

The same holds true about Facebook but it has a slightly older demographic. But I still try to be conversational. So I’m still posting mostly on PRM. I custom-tailor posts on Facebook, too.

We’re also on Change.org. We have a small community there. They give you lots of options that we haven’t fully utilized yet. Interestingly, they are the people who have given us the most money on their site. We have around 50 supporters and they’ve given over $500 and that’s way more than the other social media sites.

On YouTube we began with some videos. I didn’t understand that you could acutally build community there. I’m still working on that–who do you make friends with, who do you not. I try not to make friends with people who have weird content since we’re a faith-based nonprofit. I try to be careful. I wouldn’t want to advocate anyone who would post content that wouldn’t be approved my organization.

Oneicity: Thanks so much Debra for taking time to talk with us. We’re impressed with your work and with the work of Phoenix Rescue Mission. If you want to learn from someone who’s doing a good job of utilizing social media check out the good work that Debra does on for Phoenix Rescue Mission. You can find them on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Change.org.

So what do you think about what Debra has to say? Are you using MySpace? Facebook? Twitter? How about YouTube or Change.org? Fill us in on what you are doing. We’d love to hear from you.

Hoots and Thomas

Picture of Hoots and Thomas

Hoots and Thomas

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