By now, whatever your business – for- or non-profit — you shouldn’t have to be persuaded that content marketing and social media are essential strategies to survive and thrive in the current zeitgeist.
The digital revolution won. Digital communications are a part of our daily lives. It’s fundamentally changed how people find you and communicate with you.
And it should be no surprise it’s dramatically changed the way nonprofit marketing and fundraising must be done to be successful.
Except… too many nonprofits don’t seem to have gotten the message. They’re still, for the most part, doing business the way they did ten years ago. Limping along with, at best, a half-hearted, slapdash approach to digital marketing. With no one person assigned to lead, manage or evaluate the program. This is causing nonprofits to wither on the vine.
Because if no one sees or hears your message, are you really there? At best, you’re fading away.
Do you know a nonprofit that’s on life support?
I’m going to propose a simple but powerful 7-step cure to step into the limelight and take charge of your 21st century online fundraising, content marketing and social media:
- Build an integrated online fundraising, content marketing and social media plan
- Commit to implementing, measuring and following through on your plan
- Begin with a content calendar
- Create your plan within a context that aligns with your mission, vision and values
- Be constituent-centered to reach audiences with relevant messages
- Be strategic to reach goals efficiently and effectively
- Amplify your results by putting in place technology infrastructure necessary to work smart in today’s digital landscape.
1. Build an Integrated 21st Century Online Fundraising, Content Marketing and Social Media Plan
If you don’t build a plan, you’ll never implement one.
If you do build one?
Research from the Individual Donor Benchmark Report shows that building a plan is your secret sauce to success.
If you had a plan, then investing more by spending more time and more money led to greater results. If you didn’t have a plan, there was no correlation between spending more time and more money and having better results. That’s what the data tells us about having a plan. It really is the thing that makes all of your investments worth it.
– Heather Yandow, Creator, Third Space Studio’s annual Individual Donor Benchmark report
Let’s review what happens absent a plan.
One client I worked with told me:
Once a week, as time allows, our communications manager looks online for articles related to our work. Then she posts a link to them on Twitter. Sometimes she’ll also share them on Facebook. She also takes funny photos to put up on Facebook, aiming for one photo every Friday. No one ever comments, and she doesn’t monitor whether folks share or like the articles. She says she puts up the articles to develop our ‘thought leadership’ and shares the photos to engage folks in a fun way.
Hmmn… what’s wrong with this picture?
What’s wrong is that social media without a content marketing plan is a waste of time. There’s no end game. No goal.
To what end is this communications manager trying to develop thought leadership? To what end is she trying to make the experience fun?
To paraphrase Lewis Carroll in ‘Through the Looking Glass’: If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll very likely get there.
At best, stabs in the dark are pointless. At worst, they drain resources from other priorities.
Nothing gets done as well as it should.
2. Disavow ‘Nonprofit Late to the Online Social Party’ Syndrome
“Yes, it sounds great. Not sure I can make it though. I’ll try, but I might be late.”
That’s exactly what many nonprofits have said when invited to the online social party.
The 2017 Global NGO Online Technology Report found 95% of global nonprofits agree social media is effective for online brand awareness and 88% agree it’s effective for creating social change. Yet only 5% have been using it for 10 years or more. 28% have used it two years or less; 37% have used it just three to four years.
There is lack of clarity as to roles and responsibilities. Some assign social media to communications staff (30%); some to administrative/program staff (20%); some to volunteers (18%); some to executive staff (15%); some to a social media manager, and some to fundraising staff (6%). Only 32% have a written social media strategy. And more than a quarter of executive staff leaders do not want to devote financial and staff resources to online digital marketing.
Of course, if you’ve been doing online fundraising and social media on a ‘maybe I’ll show up/maybe I won’t basis’, you’re likely not seeing bottom line results.
So… not wanting to devote resources to this makes perfect sense.
If you want to limp along.
Want to do better than that?
Establish goals. Create measurable objectives. Develop strategies. Put everything together into a timeline. Assign responsibilities. Measure results. Hold people’s feet to the fire.
3. Begin with a Content Calendar
Pick a content calendar template and project management system that works for you.
There are many different templates and content scheduling tools out there to choose from, so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You can find some good editorial calendar templates here and here (for small nonprofits). Your content calendar can even be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet template; a Google calendar; a free Editorial Calendar Plug-in with a simple drag and drop interface; a Word document, or even a hard copy calendar you print out and mark up with pen and ink. Or a calendar you affix to the wall and populate with yellow stickies you can move around.
It doesn’t need to be fancy; it just needs to be something with which you’re comfortable.
There are also numerous project management systems available (e.g., Basecamp, Asana, and Jira to name a few). These are useful when multiple people are contributing to your online content development and digital marketing strategy. Your goal is to facilitate the consistent creation of high quality content and give your plan some needed organization.
Just get yourself a plan!
4. Build Your Plan within a Context
First fill it in with important upcoming dates.
External ones like holidays, back-to-school and community events; internal ones like fundraising events, anniversaries and special funding drives. Then fill in important campaigns. Your annual appeal. Special appeals. Giving days. Volunteer initiatives. All of these things are things you can piggy-back off of.
Then make a list of your key initiatives for the year.
Consider how talking about these initiatives may fit into particular weeks or months. For example, if you serve veterans you might make note of Veteran’s Day for a special blog post. If you serve moms, you might make note of Mother’s Day as a time for some special photos on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram. If you’re a social justice organization, Martin Luther King Day might be a good time for a series of tweets.
Also plan ahead to be flexible and nimble.
Whenever your issue becomes a breaking news issue, you want to be prepared to take advantage. Whether it’s government action/inaction, an earthquake or hurricane, or a terrorist attack or shooting, if it’s on your constituents’ minds that’s where you want to go.
Getting inside the heads of your constituents is super important.
5. Be Constituent-Centered
When your interests and your constituent’s interests align, they’ll take notice of your content.
Otherwise, not so much.
It’s really a case of content falling in a forest and no one hearing it. If you put out content that’s irrelevant to people, they will fail to see or hear it. If you’re lucky, they’ll open it and view it with detached half interest. More likely, they won’t click on it at all. They certainly won’t engage with you, take desired actions, or share it with their networks.
To offer up constituent-centered content requires you to figure out where the values intersect lies. At that point of intersection is where your social content marketing strategy lives.
6. Be Strategic
Never forget your goals.
You’re not doing this simply to make work for yourself, right?
So ask and answer the following:
- What are our digital engagement goals?
- Who are we targeting?
- What is manageable?
- How will we integrate messaging across channels?
- How can we measure engagement?
- How do we allocate resources?
Online social engagement, like any other business process, requires planning to ensure your interactions build towards your business goals with efficiency.
7. Amplify Results: Employ Today’s Best Practices, Not Yesterday’s
The digital landscape is a fast moving object.
Social media changes so frequently that unless you have a full-time social media manager who has time to consistently research and adopt emerging trends, odds are you’re using social media in ways that are no longer effective.
Don’t have an in-house resource to keep you up to date? One of the best ways to stay current is to work with an outside vendor who lives and breathes this stuff on a daily basis. There are independent contractors and entire firms who will do this for you. Ask your networks for recommendations, and be sure to get references.
It pays to read up on what’s available, so you can direct your staffer or independent contractor.
Here are some trending resources that may help you:
- Learn to create marketing videos for social media via Animoto. I’ve actually tried this, and it’s not too daunting. And I’m a true trogolodyte.
- The ultimate Facebook marketing guide via Social Media Examiner. I find their articles useful, step-by-step tutorials.
- 24 Hot Tools and Apps for Social Media Marketers. There’s more here than you’ll want to use, but reading about what’s possible will get your juices flowing. For example:
– What if you sent blog posts to your supporters, and told them they could listen to them on the go on Narro? You might get more engagement in your carefully crafted content, and your supporters would appreciate your making their lives easier. Win/win.
– What if you sent real-time videos to supporters using Loom? It’s a Chrome browser extension that immediately creates a shareable video your constituents can access without an account, and it integrates right into the Gmail interface. What a great way to showcase your work in the field!
– What if you made it possible for major donor prospects to instantly connect to you via Skype? Skype offers a plugin for Chrome or Firefox that makes setting up calls quick and easy. You simply insert a Skype call link into an email, social media update, or calendar event. Then the recipient can simply click the link for a phone call.
– What about creating short videos to share in your social news feeds or as stories on Facebook or Instagram using Clips, a free iOS app for creating and editing square video, which tends to perform best on social media? The app combines the camera and effects into one easy tool.
– How about using Storeo, a fun iOS app that helps you produce Instagram stories? The app chops your video into 15-second segments, the correct length for an Instagram story. Viewers won’t notice the transitions, so they’re likely to consume more content. There’s a free version.
What challenges or successes have been yours in trying to implement 21st century social marketing strategies?