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Getting Started With Social Media

The buzz in the nonprofit world right now is that social media are the next big step for advertising for nonprofits. With blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, you can instantly reach a large demographic that you couldn’t reach otherwise.

But you have to plan. It’s easy to get caught up in the buzz and forget that social media are just marketing channels. To make them work, you need to figure out your target market, define your marketing strategy, and create your marketing campaign.

Social media often backfire for nonprofit groups that jump on the bandwagon before they’re ready. If you start a blog, and then you stop uploading posts because you haven’t really figured out the benefits and logistics of blogging, your organization is going to look like it doesn’t care about outreach. If your Facebook page is stale, your group will look unprofessional. By contrast, if you create a social media campaign that reaches across platforms, is updated regularly, and provides relevant information to a defined target market, your nonprofit will look like it’s engaged with its clients and your brand image will improve significantly.

How do you go about setting up a social media campaign? The following tips will help.

1.       Determine your social media goals.

Can organizations create successful blogs without defining their marketing goals? Of course they can. But it’s risky. Better to determine ahead of time what you hope to achieve and how to do it.

The first step is to brainstorm ideas with your management team — to be sure your social media goals are in line with the organization’s marketing goals — as well as with other staff members, to explain the importance of social media and to get their ideas.

By taking a phased approach, your social media strategy will be appropriately aligned with your capacity and strengths.  Pick one or two goals for your blog, for example, and once that blog is up and running smoothly, move on to Facebook and choose one or two goals for that. Trying to achieve too much with one blog, one Facebook page, or one Twitter account will confuse your target market.

Below are some examples of social marketing goals:

Goal: Maximize brand loyalty for our new fair trade tea products.

Goal: Develop a volunteer recruitment program for our advocacy campaign.

Goal: Increase online donations for our inner-city tutoring service.

2.       Determine your target market.

Be as specific as possible without limiting yourself. Look at previous data and stories about your customers and try to settle on one target market.

When determining your target market, don’t try to figure out who will be on the Internet. Instead, determine your target audience. The Internet is full of every kind of person, and you may be surprised who is out there using social media. From e-mail to Facebook, there is a social media campaign that can reach just about anybody who uses a computer.

Below are some examples of target markets, tied to the previous examples.

Goal: Maximize brand loyalty for our new fair trade tea products.

·    Target Market: Young, socially conscious, higher-income women.

Goal: Develop a volunteer recruitment program for our advocacy campaign.

·    Target Market: College juniors and seniors with majors and interests in our issue.

Goal: Increase online donations for our inner-city tutoring service.

·    Target Market: Medium-income parents of children ages 8 to 12.

3.       Determine which social marketing tools to use.

Here’s where you get to be creative. Check out this list of social marketing tools and see what fits your target market.

Think of how social media can reach out to your target market using these three rules:

Understand. Before you settle on a social media platform, spend at least two weeks exploring it. If you are considering a Twitter account for your firm, sign up with Twitter in your own name and spend some time exploring. Every social platform has its own terminology, etiquette, and quirks. Comment on blogs, make Facebook friends, follow people on Twitter and understand what’s going on from the perspective of a participant.

Incentivize. Make sure your target audience has reasons to keep coming back to your social media interface. Are you providing articles on your blog that people want to read? Are you giving them information through Twitter that they wouldn’t get otherwise? If all you are doing is traditional advertising — talking about your products and services — the only people you’ll reach are your loyal fans.

Track. Social media, just like other advertising, are effective only if they attract people to your organization in some way. Determining a metric is essential — but more about that in the next section. First you want to consider the flow of your social media constituents.  If people read your Facebook page, where do you want them to go from there? What do you want them to do with the information they find there? Do you want people to retweet your tweets, or comment on your blog posts on their own blogs?

Here are some examples of social media tools:

Goal: Maximize brand loyalty for our new fair trade tea products.

·    Target Market: Young, socially conscious, higher-income women.

o   Social Media Tool: Blog discussing the current developments in the fair trade field and stories from the farms that our organization works with.

Goal: Develop a volunteer recruitment program for our advocacy campaign.

·    Target Market: College juniors and seniors with majors and interests in our issue.

o   Social Media Tool: Facebook site that has volunteer opportunities as well as links to interesting articles and legislative updates.

Goal: Increase online donations for our inner-city tutoring service.

·    Target Market: Medium-income parents of children ages 8 to 12.

o   Social Media Tool: A YouTube video highlighting the impact of the tutoring service on inner city kids with a link to Google Checkout where viewers can donate.

4.       Translate your marketing goals into a realistic metric by which to measure success.

Just as investors talk about return on investment (ROI) for dollar outlays, you should be thinking of return on investment for your efforts. You may not be spending any money on your social media, but you are investing time as well as your credibility and your Internet image on social media, so it is important to maximize your social media ROI.

How do you measure success? Make your metric as specific as possible, without limiting yourself or fragmenting your target market. Remember: number of online followers is not the right success metric all the time! If you are promoting a store in South Carolina, and you have 10,000 followers, all in Japan, you have not achieved your marketing goals.  20 local followers are much better than thousands of international followers, in this case.

Here are some examples:

Goal: Maximize exposure of our new fair trade tea products.

·    Target Market: Young, socially conscious, higher-income women.

o   Social Media Tool: Blog discussing the current developments in the fair trade field and stories from the farms that our firm works with.

→    Metric to Maximize: Number of comments on our posts and number of outside links to our articles.

Goal: Develop a volunteer recruitment program for our advocacy campaign.

·    Target Market: College juniors and seniors with majors and interests in our issue.

o   Social Media Tool: Facebook site that has volunteer opportunities as well as links to interesting articles and legislative updates.

→   Metric to Maximize: Include a field in the volunteer application that says, “How did you hear about us?” Make one of the options “From our Facebook page.”

Goal: Increase online donations for our inner-city tutoring service.

·    Target Market: Medium-income parents of children ages 8 to 12.

o   Social Media Tool: A YouTube video highlighting the impact of the tutoring service on inner city kids with a link to Google Checkout where viewers can donate.

→   Metric to Maximize: The number of dollar donations that come through the site.

5.       Determine Logistics.

This is the heart of the process, and what will ultimately determine whether your social marketing campaign succeeds. This has to be personalized for your organization, but you should consider the following details:

·         Do you want to have one cohesive voice, or many voices?

·         How much time can an employee spend writing blog posts or updating other social media sites?

·         What current information-sharing techniques does your organization use, and can those be easily translated into a social media platform?

6.       Maximize your metric by reviewing what works and what doesn’t.

Go out there and start blogging, Facebook posting, Twittering. Every few weeks, review your metric and see what’s working and what isn’t. If your number of Twitter followers is increasing but you are not seeing any translation to donations, something isn’t working. Re-evaluate and adjust.

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That’s all there is to it. Remember: Before you jump into the social media scene, be sure to define your strategy and tactics, and after you begin, check periodically to be sure your campaign is working. Good luck!

GUEST POST BY NEIL SHAH, FOUNDER, COMPASS PARTNERS

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About Community Wealth Partners

At Community Wealth Partners we dream of a world in which all people thrive. To realize this dream, we help change agents solve social problems at the magnitude they exist. As a Share Our Strength organization, we bring the successful practices of one of the nation’s leading anti-hunger, anti-poverty organizations to hundreds of change agents nationwide.

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