Six Ways Social Media Has Affected Nonprofit Newsletters

How Social Media Affects NewslettersLast week, I asked for your thoughts on how your newsletter has changed, including how your organization’s use of social media has affected your newsletter, whether print or online.

Of the 299 people who had answered this particular question when I pulled the data yesterday, a third said that social media had little to no effect, because

  • the organization wasn’t using social media much or at all,
  • the audiences for the newsletter and for social media were very different, or
  • the organization used the communications channels in totally different ways.

The other two-thirds described several ways in which social media has changed their newsletters, mostly in positive ways. The responses, some of which I’m quoting below, fall into these six major categories.

Social Media is the Newsletter “Pressure Release Valve”

Many people said that social media released a lot of the pressure associated with their newsletter, in terms of both deadlines and content.

“We can be more flexible about when we get the newsletter out because we use social media for the time-sensitive stuff.”

“We used to hold an issue back a week or two if we knew something was coming that needed to be reported in a timely manner. Now we send the newsletter according to a set schedule and use social for breaking news and quick coverage.”

“We use social media to share more frequent updates than in our newsletter.  Facebook serves as our ‘weekly newsletter’ and Twitter as our ‘daily newsletter.'”

“We feel much less pressure to cover everything and recognize everyone in the newsletter, because we are engaging with them in social media.”

“Social media lets us weed out the small things that can be communicated through Facebook versus in our monthly newsletter.”

“Articles that don’t make the cut for the newsletter get put on Facebook and tweeted.”

Social Media Allows More Focused or Specialized Content in the Newsletter

“We don’t need a wish list in the newsletter anymore. If we have a need, we just send it out on social media and get immediate responses. The newsletter is a better way to tell a more complete story and still the best way to communicate with our older donors.”

“Social media allows us to get the day to day information out there, and the newsletter allows us to let people know what’s coming up month by month.”

“We’ve made the newsletter less about ‘updates’ and more about general work/impact.”

“It’s been a game changer. It’s really helped us define the content, tone, how users engage with the content . . . the email newsletter is now more in-depth looks or points of view on topics, and less news-flash.”

‘We put all the update stuff out on social, so we can make the newsletter very donor-centered.”

Social Media Helps Build the Newsletter Mailing List

“‘A newsletter subscription link is available through our social media pages, so our numbers have increased.”

“Social media has helped us grow our subscriber list and extended the reach of our newsletter, since we post links to every issue on our LinkedIn and Facebook pages.”

“We talk about the email newsletter on social media and that always brings us more subscribers.”

Social Media Produces More Exposure for the Newsletter Content

“We put all of our newsletter content online so that people can share or tweet the individual stories, in addition to sharing the whole newsletter too.”

“We share the newsletter content on Facebook and Twitter a couple days after it goes out, so it gets more people clicking over to the website for the articles.”

“We use social media to promote discrete newsletter items, like our regular alumni spotlight feature.”

Content is Repurposed and Remixed Between the Newsletter and Social Media

“Our newsletters are composites of a lot of content we’ve already shared on social media.”

“We repurpose a lot of content between the two, with more in-depth stuff in the newsletter.”

“Everything is connected now. You may find different information on social media versus the newsletter, but it will be around the same topic.”

“Our newsletter has longer articles that often summarize or provide more reflection on the shorter pieces conveyed in social media.”

“We use social media to test messages and see what’s popular, then we sometimes use that information to make decisions about print content.”

Social Media Extends the Conversation Started in the Newsletter, and Vice Versa

“In our newsletter, we encourage readers to ‘keep the conversation going’ by visiting our social media sites.”

“We use them together. In our newsletter, we ask people to share story responses and feedback on our Facebook page.”

“We ask a question on a relevant topic in social media and then format responses into an article, giving a voice to members who might not otherwise by participating.”

What Do You Think?

Do you see some new ways to connect social media and your newsletter here that you could try? Leave your reflections on what you’ve read in the comments.

Electronic News Photo by BigStock

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  • Love what I’m seeing here.  I’m recommending to folks that they create one, central social media content calendar; then use it as a basis for ALL their media channels.  When folks say they don’t have time to add a blog, for example, I suggest that links back to their blog posts could form the content of their enewsletter.

    The question that is stumping me now:  Do we still need hard copy newsletters?  I’ve always used them because they bring in contributions (a remit envelope is included).  However, I’m not so sure that the amount raised justifies the cost (not to mention the trees). Then there’s also the fact that there are still some constituents who don’t read email.  What do others think?

    • I don’t have a problem with print newsletters, just BAD print newsletters and there are a lot of those. For a long time, that was pretty much the only way to communicate, so the print newsletter was a dumping ground for everything. Now that we have lots of ways to communicate, it’s time to find a strategic purpose for the print newsletter.

      • A good newsletter has value to the reader, who (if it’s a NEWSY newsletter) will choose to read it instead of…

        a) a cruise brochure b) their alumni magazine c) a packet of coupons and all the other mail that arrived that day.

        A NEWSY newsletter has… timely information the reader can use; interesting stories; PHOTOS and other art (children’s drawings, a scanned hand-written note, etc.); some sort of OFFER for the reader (“Do you love pizza and art? We’re having a pizza party to celebrate our new craft room — the one you helped us stock — and we’d like you to join us!”); results of a survey or other newsworthy statistics; a true “reporting out,” not just “thank you for making a difference.” Reporting out can be as simple as sharing information about that new commercial refrigerator your org desperately needed (replacing the two worn-out hand-me-down Maytags) — how much did it cost, how did you get a good deal on it? Did your business manager insist on free delivery? And what about the nice electrician who volunteered to do some re-wiring? News is everywhere. It’s NEWSY and it has VALUE.

    • In 2008 (ancient times), we surveyed our members and asked them how they wanted to hear from us — print or e-mail/online. A third said only print, a third said only e-mail/online, and a third said both. Our member base skews older, which might help explain the desire for print. But nearly five years later, it’s time to rethink.

  • Like Claire, I wonder if social media makes the newsletter — electronic OR hard copy — obsolete. Would love to see some data on actual open rates for e-newsletters … at the rate that I delete them, even from organizations I support and follow, I’m wondering if they work at all anymore.

  • Cindy Olnick

    Is anyone concerned about missing out on all the people who aren’t on social media? We hear that a fair number of our constituents either actively dislike it or just don’t bother with it.

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  • This topic speaks to the idea of content. Content, content, content. If you have a good FB page, and someone posts a great photo — eureka — you have content for your next newsletter. Ask your FB followers their opinion and — eureka — you have quotes for your next newsletter. Looking for a success story? Ask your FB followers and — (dare I say it again? — EUREKA — you can find a subject for your next newsletter’s feature story.

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  • Glenn

    If you’re wondering if YOU need a hard-copy newsletter, you’re asking the wrong question. I attempt to further the conversation here:

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