How Your United Way Can Be a Better Friend


When it comes to building a presence on social media, there is an elemental truth that is often forgotten: social media is social. That means that if you want to develop a strong relationship with your United Way’s online followers, there are some basic social norms you need to practice. The most basic of these norms is the Golden Rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. In other words: share content with your followers that you would want to see.

While this may seem obvious, practicing the Golden Rule can be easily forgotten in the constant grind of creating online content for your United Way. In the hustle and bustle of marketing your United Way, it can be challenging to stop and take a moment to assess what your United Way is communicating online.

Today, I challenge you to do just that: slow down, look at the content your United Way is sharing, and assess the value of that content from the perspective of your followers.

While there are all sorts of guidelines out there about the content you should be sharing online, we’re going to use the 80/20 rule. There are many variations on this old marketing rule, but in the context of our conversation today it means this: 80% of your online content should give something to your followers, while no more than 20% of your content should ask your followers for something.

United Ways have long been fundraisers, so the default in marketing is often to focus on asking for whatever United Way needs. From donations to volunteers, United Ways tend to spend a lot of time asking their followers for one thing or another.

While it is totally appropriate to focus on making an ask in campaign brochures or radio spots, social media is different. Social media is social, which means it is meant to be used for building and maintaining relationships. And who wants a relationship with someone that is always asking for favors and rarely offering anything in return?

Take a moment to think about this in a personal context: picture your friends that are part of a multi-level marketing company. How often do you find yourself annoyed at their constant self-promotion, invitations to attend a product party, or their unending sales pitches? When a friend ceaselessly asks for our support, our affinity for them wanes. Our affinity wanes because our relationship isn’t balanced: our friend is making asks more often than they are giving us something of value.

The relationships you maintain through your United Way’s social media profiles follow the same pattern. When your United Way’s social media content asks followers for something more often than it provides them something of value, your United Way is failing to be a good friend. Just as in real life, being a good online friend means striving to give more often than you take. While promoting special events and requesting volunteer support is important, it should not be the primary thing your United Way is posting about.

Open your United Way’s social media pages and take a moment to look at what has been posted over the past few months. Are most of your posts asking for something from your followers, or are you doing a good job of sharing content your followers find valuable?

Regardless of how your social media feed looks right now, maintaining a balanced feed is a constant process. Especially as campaigns come to an end or a special event approaches, it can be easy to inundate your followers with asks and fail to also provide your followers with other content that is valuable to them. Seasons of asks are often unavoidable, which is why it’s important to slow down, assess the content your United Way is sharing, and redirect the content your United Way is sharing as appropriate.

Developing or maintain a strong relationship with your United Way’s online followers starts with your United Way being a good friend. By practicing the Golden Rule and regularly reviewing the type of content your United Way shares with your followers, you can ensure that your United Way is good online friend.