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Sophie Bifield is a social media expert for businesses in the corporate world with an interest in teaching everything she knows to non-profits.  She has spent tons of time researching why more non-profits aren’t currently taking advantage of social media trends, and has started a blog that is dedicated to sharing information on how to use social media to non-profits.  The blog will be in full swing starting February of 2010, but you can follow Sophie on Twitter as she tweets about some golden opportunities for non-profits- and anyone interested in better utilizing social media.

Love and Water- What is the premise of your blog, PROFIT: CHARITY?

Sophie Bifield- It’s an information source for non-profits about using social media.  I went through a series of interviews with non-profits, and I was being asked the same question repeatedly about how to use social media.  I found that non-profits have a different set of challenges when it comes to social media, primarily with time.  They don’t seem to have the time to devote to it, and many can’t yet hire someone to take it over for them.  But also there’s not the same return on investment when it comes to social media, because they’re trying to raise money, not sell a product.  So many are very resistant to using social media at all, and I think it’s a shame considering how much I know it can help them.  So I decided to talk to as many non-profits as possible and gather as much information as I could and help them come up with ways in which to use social media to their advantage.  I’m putting all the information together and I’m going to start blogging about it in February.

L&W- Can you touch on a few key ways social media can be useful to non-profits who aren’t sure whether to use it or not?

SB- It’s important first to clarify what they want to focus on.  It sounded like a lot of the groups I spoke with are resistant because they don’t have a clear objective as to why they want to be online.  A lot of them just thought they should be online because everybody else is, and then couldn’t figure out how to utilize it properly for them.  So they chalked it up to, “well, it just doesn’t work.”  So I think it’s important to define what they want, whether it’s raising more awareness, raising extra funds.  And once they define that then they can move forward with it.  Also, raising awareness is an excellent reason to be using social media because it does spread information and campaigns on a much larger scale.  If the campaign is right and properly done, then they can definitely raise money through social media as well.

L&W- What are some of the benefits you’ve see charities gain from using social media?

SB- My favorite campaign right now is the Care campaign by Eric Carr.  He’s calling himself the Million Dollar man and he’s using Twitter and Facebook to raise money and awarenss for his cause.  But he’s also gone one step further in using this new technology where when he does his iron man he’s going to be attached to a feed-through online that will tell people online to see where his heart rate is, when he’s got a pain in his leg, anything he’s feeling while running the race.  So it will allow people to tell him what to do in real time.  So if his foot is hurting people can say “take a break” or “run faster.”  His coach is going to help him pick out the best answers and tell him what to do at that time.

L&W- That’s amazing- what a great example of how to innovatively go the extra mile, so to speak, with social media.

SB- Yes, it’s a brilliant campaign, and all the social media outlets he’s using are effective because he has such a specific mission.

L&W- What is a good way for non-profits who don’t have any experience using social media to begin?

SB- Well as I said it’s first and foremost important to have a plan in place.  Then you can move ahead and plan a strategy.  And then to take some time to learn what Twitter and Facebook are and how to use them to your advantage, and that will be different for everyone depending on their objective.  With Twitter, for one thing, it’s not a push-for-marketing tool- it’s a conversation.  It’s a way of interacting with people and letting them in on what you’re doing.  Knowing that can help create relationships that could eventually turn followers into donors.

L&W- You are currently tweeting about very valuable information for non-profits.

SB- Yes, well, I try to put out as much as I can through Twitter about tips and opportunities that come up for non-profits.  Hopefully some will be able use it to their advantage.

L&W- This is such valuable information.  So your blog will be up and running by February?

SB- Yes, we’re looking at February, so you can keep it on your radar for then.

L&W- Thank you so much!

SB- No, thank you.  It has been wonderful to talk with you and share information.  I really appreciate what you’re doing, and am happy to be a part of your project as well.  Plus, we met on Twitter, which is a testament to what having a good conversation can do!

L&W- Exactly!

Follow Sophie on Twitter here: @ProfitCharity
Become a follower of her blog here: http://profitcharity.blogspot.com/