If you don’t exist in the social media world, you don’t exist. At least that’s what the numbers would suggest. Today, there are over 800 million active users on Facebook—the largest percentage made up of 13- to 25-year-olds. The average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. Furthermore, Twitter has 190 million user accounts, and LinkedIn has more than 90 million members.
Social media is changing—and already has changed—the non-profit world. Through social media, your Masjid can nurture its online community, and deepen relationships with members in your community. By engaging with your members online, you can increase their involvement in Masjid events and programs, boost fundraising, and drive up attendance.
To get started, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Learn what’s out there.
Find out what social networking sites are out there, and work best for your Masjid. Popular go-tos are Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Flickr and blogging. Develop a plan. How do you want to use these sites? How can your Masjid benefit from staying engaged with its constituents online?
2. Take your time.
Start with just one or two networks (in other words: don’t just go to each site, start an account, and see what happens). Build your network up on those sites; be patient with the time it takes to gain a following. When you’ve built up a good presence and following on those sites, you can then think about joining others. No need to overwhelm yourself when starting out.
3. Tell people where to find your Masjid online.
Promote your online presence in the Masjid. Mention it at the end of your Khutbah. Tell listeners to visit the Masjid’s online page. Include the Facebook or Twitter link on all outgoing emails, flyers, and newsletters, compelling recipients to “follow” or “be a fan of” their Masjid so that they can receive up-to-date news and Masjid event notices.
4. Assign a youth to run the social networks.
The No. 1 mistake that organizations make is that they start reaching out via social networks, and then lack the time to continue them, leaving accounts just sitting there, inactive. To be successful, your Masjid needs to stay relevant by dedicating a portion of each day to social media tasks. Assign a staff member, intern or volunteer to keep up with the accounts, accept friend requests, post news on the account page, post comments on other pages, and invite friends. If you’re at a loss for who to assign the job, find a couple of young but responsible students from the weekend school to take it up. They’ll likely have the know-how for navigating social networking sites.
5. Start a blog.
If you have a staffer/volunteer/weekend school student(s) who is willing to dedicate time to a blog, then your Masjid should have one. It gives the perfect opportunity to talk to your Masjid-goers, answer their questions, and discuss the latest Jumaa Khutbah informally. You increase traffic; you can link to individual blog posts on your other social networks, like Facebook or Twitter. You can use sites like Wordpress.com or Tumblr.com to start a blog for free.
6. Tackle the hard topics.
As you know, members of your community and Masjid have endless questions for their Imams. They want the opportunity to learn more about their faith, and not just the basics. Post your own (or otherwise reliable) articles, notes, links, videos, etc., answering harder questions or controversial issues. SoundVision.com has a wide variety of articles you can use; all you have to do is email a written request (to firstname.lastname@example.org). Invite questions from your online friends/fans and answer them on your page. This will engage members, show that you’re active online, and will have them returning to see what else you have to say.
7. Advertise events.
Is your Masjid holding weekly halaqas? Starting a new program? Having a fundraising dinner? Promote it on your social networks! It’s free advertising and the fastest, easiest way to tell the maximum number of people.
8. Keep a donation button/link handy.
If you don’t already have a Paypal account for your Masjid, get one. People need to be able to make donations electronically. For them, it’s easier and more convenient. While donations online tend to be smaller than, say, at a fundraising dinner, there are higher in volume (so those smaller donations add up fast). Make sure there is a donation link or button on all your networks. Ask members to donate, and direct them to that link. Insha’Allah, this will boost funds for your Masjid quickly!
9. Stay up-to-date on latest developments.
Social media is changing the nonprofit world, but the social media world is changing, too. Keep up on any major new developments and plan accordingly.