When it comes to offering you social media marketing advice, I regularly look to what’s trending in the world of small businesses. They’re often similar to nonprofits in size, resources, and expertise, yet they’re also a bit ahead of the nonprofit curve. Sad, but true. So…
Let me get you up to speed!
First, let me reassure you: what I’m about to share is information you can use. I’m not going to tell you to:
- Set up shop on every fly-by-night social platform you may be hearing about.
- Invest in a separate strategy so you can reach Millennials.
- Invest tens of thousands of dollars in advertising.
I’m simply going to suggest you be strategic. Work smart. Apply marketing rigor (aka: a documented social media strategy) to yield measurable results.
In 2016, social media research revealed three trends emerging.
- Social media platforms entered the consolidation phase.
- Social media became the media.
- Social media strategy must be integrated into your marketing.
The bottom line from these trends?
To remain competitive, small businesses (and nonprofits) need a documented strategy for employing social media to support their work.
The research comes from Buffer’s 2016 State of Social Media, offering a snapshot of small business social media use. They surveyed 1,252 respondents.
- 74% worked for companies with 50 or fewer employees.
- 85% had marketing teams of 5 or fewer employees; almost half were the only marketer!
- 21% worked for marketing, PR or advertising firms. They’re outsourced marketing support.
You can see the companies surveyed were relatively small. So whatever they’re planning to do – and they’re doing this because they believe it will help them be more profitable — your small to medium-sized nonprofit can do too. Let’s take a closer look.
1. Social media platforms enter the consolidation phase
The picture emerging from the research is that more than half of businesses are using the same top five platforms:
- 93% Facebook
- 88% Twitter
- 65% LinkedIn
- 63% Instagram (owned by Facebook)
- 56% YouTube (owned by Google)
The good news revealed by the research is that there are no new “hot” social media trends. Consolidation is beating innovation. You can settle in, and focus.
Do you have to use all of these top platforms? Of course not. It’s better to use one channel well than five channels poorly.
But you should endeavor to find out which platforms your constituents favor (try a one question free Survey Monkey poll); then meet folks where they are.
TIPS FOR NONPROFITS:
- Facebook – While it’s the top platform, 19% of small businesses will put less effort into Facebook as it has reached a saturated point for a fifth of them. Evaluate whether this is true for you. Actionable marketing guru Heidi Cohen suggests if you want to improve your Facebook marketing to get more bang for your buck you follow and read Mari Smith, Jon Loomer, Brian Carter and Andrea Vahl. For nonprofit specific advice, I suggest you read John Haydon and Julia C. Campbell.
- YouTube – It’s now the second-largest search engine after Google. Be present or miss search opportunities.
- Live video – Greater usage of video content continues, extending a trend from 2015. Put it up not just on YouTube, but on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Wherever you think you’ll stand out. Put it on your blog and on your website too! Video is so easy to make these days – anyone with a smartphone can do it – so this makes good sense. It’s personal, tangible and a great way to tell a story. Plus, people don’t have time to read much anymore. But they’ll watch the tube. Again sad, but true.
2. Social media became the media
We all know from the recent presidential campaign that folks got a preponderance of their news from Facebook and Twitter. As this evolution continues, social media will be treated the same way as traditional media was previously treated. In other words, to be visible you’ll have to invest time and money. You can’t rely on people finding you by accident. There’s just too much competition!
Businesses will move budgets from print ads to online ads. They’ll move people from offline public relations to online engagement and content creation and curation. They’re already doing so. Research reveals:
- 91% pay-to-play on Facebook.
- 34% pay-to-play on Twitter.
- 27% pay-to-play on Instagram.
- 25% pay-to-play on LinkedIn (Offers advertising, subscriptions and HR services.)
- 11% pay-to-play on YouTube.
- 6% pay-to-play on Pinterest
- 5% pay-to-play on Snapchat
TIPS FOR NONPROFITS:
- Invest in organic search and paid advertising. From a marketing perspective, social media is like search; optimize social media for organic and paid results.
- Invest in your own social media (aka: blogs). I’ve long been a blog proponent because blogs give you a great way to build relationships with folks using your own No matter what happens with other businesses consolidating (or tanking), you own (1) your blog content and (2) your subscriber list. No one can take them from you, or mess with them in a way that negatively impacts your reach. Blogs also offer folks who’d never otherwise know about you a way to find you via search – which is why investing in content marketing is so vital. You can post links to your blog using other social media, thereby driving folks to your website.
3. Social media strategy must be integrated into your marketing plans
One of the principle reasons nonprofits don’t invest more in social media is that they aren’t able to see the return on investment. They have a bottom line for other things, but not for social media. So they can’t justify the staffing and budget to themselves or their boards. But this is kind of like not being able to get a job because you’ve never had a job.
You need to build experience. And you need to build measurement into your experience.
Sure, it’s more difficult to measure social media ROI than fundraising ROI – but it’s not impossible. You can measure your results.
But first, you must commit. To measurement. And to investment. You’ve got to start somewhere.
TIPS FOR NONPROFITS:
- Start with the bottom line. What would success look like to you? What would justify the expense? Is it that you’ve built your mailing list from XXX to ZZZ? Or is it that you’ve increased engagement by getting more folks to answer your calls to action? Build a goal-based social media strategy that answers the question: “What, specifically, do we want to get out of this?”
- Eschew vague goals like “create greater awareness” or “grow numbers of followers” or “increase click-throughs.” Those don’t answer the “why” question. And if you grow your Facebook followers from 1,000 to 1375, is that good? Who knows if you didn’t set a goal and if you don’t know what each additional Facebook follower is worth to you in terms of engagement and/or investment?
- Make social media someone’s job. It doesn’t necessarily have to be someone’s full-time job. It doesn’t necessarily have to be part of just one person’s job. But it must be spelled out, and these employees must be held accountable for results. Otherwise, you’ll have difficulty showing a return on your social media investment in a manner associated with your business objectives.
- Integrate social media with development (fundraising and marketing) in a written plan. Buffer’s research revealed that small businesses primarily use social media for awareness-building purposes (branding, reach and content distribution) that don’t provide measurable results. They also do it “catch as catch can.” UMass Dartmouth Inc 500 Research found 2/3 of small businesses did not have a documented social media strategy. Don’t emulate them!
- Document an integrated strategy where marketing and fundraising messaging support and interact with each other. Plan ahead to schedule content. Use social media personas to target your audience. Create calls to action that yield your desired results.
- Incorporate measures to demonstrate you’ve transformed social media distribution into desired actions (e.g., advocacy, shares, comments, sign-ups, attendance, donations, sales). Heidi Cohen recommends the following metrics for small businesses; they apply to nonprofits as well. To learn more about how to do this, specifically from a nonprofit perspective, look to Beth Kanter and M+R.
The time to decide is now.
- What platforms will you use in the coming year?
- What resources will you invest in, and how will you measure ROI and ROE (return on investment and engagement)?
- How will you develop and monitor your plan, and who will be responsible?
Don’t make this yet another year you think: “I’m sure social media is doing something for us… I’m just not sure what.”
If you’re having trouble finding time and resources to dedicate to social media, you’re making a decision. That social media isn’t important.
Social media is important in 2017. It’s the media.