Why your nonprofit needs a social media strategy

in Integrated Multichannel Fundraising & Marketing,Online Fundraising,Social Media

Would you produce a direct mail campaign on a whim?  Would you just “try it” to see what happens?  Or would you plan it carefully as part of an overall fundraising and marketing strategy?

I believe your answer is that you would plan it carefully as part of an overall strategy.

So why do so many nonprofits and for-profit companies venture into social media without a strategy?  This is the on-target question raised by Steve Richards in Econsultancy’s Digital Marketing Blog post, “Why you need a social media strategy, not a Facebook strategy.”

Richards’ point is that almost no one would experiment like this offline.  So why be so haphazard with social media?  To quote Richards,

“The paradox is that most of these same companies would not undertake offline marketing activities on a whim, but carefully plan their campaigns to the smallest detail. They are scrupulous about targeting their direct response campaigns, and every word of a print advertisement is carefully chosen.”

Even other online channels such as email and pay-per-click are done with care and a thought-out strategy.  This is in contrast to social media which is often viewed as “an add-on that we get to whenever we have a few extra minutes.” 

Yikes.  That’s risky.

To paraphrase Richards and to put this in context of the nonprofit sector:  “And when I say social media activities, I mean a structured, organised set of activities, which bring your social media strategy to life. It’s not about being on Facebook, or having a Twitter account, or creating a YouTube channel. Social media isn’t a set of platforms; it’s an attitude towards engaging with prospects, donors, and members in an open, honest way, and it has to be properly co-ordinated . . .

Technology and new tools are great. I mean that. We simply need to be careful not to be dazzled by the shiny new toy.  We need to be careful not to start playing with the new toy without first reading the instructions and understanding how it works.  Or rather, without first understanding how social media fits in with your overall fundraising and marketing strategy, goals, and objectives. Including, what you specifically want to achieve with social media that contributes to your overall strategy.

Here are some points to consider as you develop your social media strategy:

Who are you targeting?

– Where’s the best place(s) to find them? Which social media platforms are most relevant for your audience?

– Perhaps you’re also trying to expand your audience into a broader cross section of people.  That’s fine. But again, have a plan and choose social media platforms that match your target.

What types of messages will resonate with your audience and inspire them to respond?

– Social media is a great way to drive traffic to your website. What will you have them do when they get there?

– Social media is also a way to monitor what’s being said about your nonprofit.

– How can social media build upon and compliment everything else you’re doing?  How can these platforms reinforce your other channels?

– Will you use social media to raise awareness, raise funds, cultivate donors and members, share news, market events, praise donors and volunteers, acquire more supporters, etc.?

What are you striving for through social media?  And what is the sequence of steps you must guide them (i.e., donors, prospects, advocates, members, etc.) through to reach your goal?

Bottom line: Without a social media strategy how will you ever know if you accomplished your goal?  How will you know if your efforts have been worthwhile?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Steve Lalli November 8, 2011 at 7:09 pm

What occurred to me while reading this is that our social media should be a means to an end, instead of an end in itself.

It’s a valuable “tool,” yes, but for an organization, putting a tool to use is not without effects. A lot is at stake, so as much thought should go into our social media efforts as possible.

Thanks, Karen.

Karen Zapp, copywriter November 9, 2011 at 10:25 am

Hey Steve,

You’re right. Just as direct mail campaigns, email campaigns and so on are a means to an end (acquire donors, raise money for your cause, cultivate, etc.) … the same is true for social media. All channels should be included in your overall fundraising plan/calendar and working to achieve business goals.

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