Posted by Mardi Elwood

With the constant stream of information, especially on social media, learning how to communicate with your audience is important. By using generic, canned messages, your nonprofit loses that personal connection and understanding with the audience. Creating messages that correspond with questions or comments from your audience will allow them to feel as if your nonprofit is addressing them personally. That connection will create a positive image over time. Making canned messages feel personal reminds your audience of how you treated them, leading to more word of mouth and telling others how you connected with them. In addition, others who are viewing your profiles will see your responses and how personal they are. Personal, canned messages can also create a positive reputation for your nonprofit on social media.

Depending on how big your nonprofit is, you can control how your canned messages work. If you are a smaller nonprofit, it would be beneficial to give a personal response to the question or concerns based on your company’s standards. This will allow for a wide range of people to see that you care about those questions or concerns, and can grow your social media presence. If you have a larger nonprofit, creating canned messages that feel personal is a large part of creating that connection on social media.

Here are three things you should NOT do with canned messages:

  1. Responding with "Check our FAQs":

    This will divert the attention of the person, and they might not even find their answer in your FAQs. This can cause your audience to lose interest in what they were concerned about and leave your site because they could not find a straightforward answer. Because of the constant flow of information, people want responses right away and having to search around in your FAQs may make them go a competitor or lose motivation to find the answer.

  2. Responding with “Call our Customer Service number at...”:

    This again will cut that connection, and more likely than not, that person will not call that number.

  3. Not responding at all:

    If you have a larger nonprofit, it may be harder to respond to every person, but try to make it happen because that person voiced their concern for a reason. You don’t need to respond to every comment that doesn’t voice a question or concern, but responding to each one that does will create that personal connection and care factor. But even responding to comments that don’t have a question will give you a step up from other nonprofits who don’t.

Creating personal canned messages can be hard, but here are a couple tactics that will help you tackle them:

  1. Create personal messages based on a topic or keyword that you may be posting that day/week.

    This will enable you to view the questions or concerns with messages that correlate to the topic rather than steering them with an answer that doesn’t help.

  2. Use name fillers when responding to messages.

    Even if you are using a personal canned message, responding to the person by using their name will make them feel that you are personally responding to them and shows that you care about their concerns.

  3. Know and understand the questions being asked for a response.

    Gather all of your frequently asked questions or concerns and write more personal responses to them in a few different ways. Keep these message in a list, and when one pops up, you know how to respond. This will allow for a variation of responses, which will make it seem like you aren’t using canned messages. Make sure you switch the responses out every once and awhile to keep the variation going over time. Also make sure your responses are timely and relevant to the question the person asked. Don’t make your responses to stat heavy or commercial-like. This makes it more of a canned message by throwing in a percentage based on your nonprofit’s accomplishments, which can be seen on your website.

  4. Make it an interactive conversation.

    Keep the conversation alive if the person has a follow-up question. As Jane Boyd, the CEO of 45conversations says, “The one key thing that I wish nonprofits understood better about social media is the power of conversation online and the art of telling real, human stories. Conversation is powerful.” Knowing that they are engaged in a conversation, the person will be more comfortable in communicating with you. Use compliments in your personal canned messages, saying “Thank you for asking/showing your concern” will show your audience that you do really care about what they are saying and will make them believe you will take their words to change or make your nonprofit better.

  5. Really understand each of your social media outlets you are using to respond.

    If you are using Twitter, ensure your messages fit the character count. Make your messages short but concise. Know how to respond to the person, whether it be a direct reply to their comment on Facebook so your comment doesn’t get lost in the crowd, or knowing how to reply to their @ name on Twitter or Instagram.

  6. And finally, don’t make your responses for your benefit.

    Use them to benefit the person asking the question or commenting. John Haydon, author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies, recommends you “make a sincere effort to become a trusted member of your community—to become one of them. What this means is pouring sweat, tears and love into listening and demonstrating how much you care—with replies on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.” Doing that will grow that positive and caring reputation you want for your nonprofit on social media.

Overall, your nonprofit wants to create personal canned messages that are not only personal, but accurate. Show your passion in responses, and respond in a way how you like to be responded to. Canned messages can be made personal by knowing your audience and the research that follows the topic you are posting about. Keeping that in mind for your social media will help grow the cause you developed and keep your audience coming back for more.

Want more information on how to take your messaging to the next level? Firespring can help! We offer immediate support to nonprofit organizations looking to update their social networking or start completely new. Learn more by calling 877.447.8941 or email