Later. Much later.
There’s no ‘$’ in social media. Just a plain old letter ‘s.’
John Haydon hit the nail on the head when he proclaimed “social media stinks for fundraising.” That’s not to say you can’t raise a dime or two, especially in a tsunami, but for most nonprofits that’s not what social media is going to be best for. No. For most nonprofits who want to succeed with social media – and not waste precious time and resources – ‘s’ stands not for money but for:
- Sharing to open eyes; not broadcasting to open wallets.
- Searching for what’s out there; not ignoring potential new audiences.
- Supporting your constituents; not interrupting them.
- Stewarding; not fundraising.
Social media is nothing more than marketing using digital networks.
Okay, maybe the term “nothing more” is a bit misleading. Because marketers of yesteryear might surely call social media ‘marketing on steroids.’ Nonetheless, it’s marketing.
Just as marketing is not sales, it’s also not fundraising. Is it designed to persuade? Yes, absolutely. Persuasion is the art of transformation… of bringing someone along from point B to point A. It’s not the art of the solitary transaction. That comes after persuasion (and hopefully also before more persuasion so your buyer or donor becomes your customer for life).
All marketing brings folks along a continuum. You must start with where they are (often they’ve never heard of you) and move them along the path from awareness… to interest… to engagement… to investment. Like anything else, if you try to run before you walk you’re probably going to trip up.
How can your nonprofit avoid this?
WARNING: Don’t try to avoid it by not doing it. Social media is essential to any business marketing strategy in 2014 and beyond. Nonprofits must borrow a page from their for profit cousins to stay competitive. Winging it no longer works. Truth be told, social media may be the very best way to communicate with a lot of your supporters or potential supporters.
A Future Lab infographic shows that over two years ago more than half of executives of 900 leading US companies believed that if their company did not adopt social business they would fall behind their competition. It’s also going to happen to nonprofits that don’t employ social media strategically. If you’re not persuaded by fear of failure, then how about demonstrated success? A study by Insites Consulting reveals that businesses who’ve integrated social media into their operations are, indeed, seeing greater financial success than those who have not.
Achieving success is simple, really. Start by defining what success will look like for you. Set realistic expectations about what you can accomplish via social media. Then put in place systems to achieve those objectives.
Where do you start?
Begin with an understanding that social media is relational, not transactional. People go on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like to connect with their friends (and maybe make new ones). When Twitter began, it was about sharing short bursts of inconsequential bits of information. Chirps from birds. That’s certainly not about fundraising.
But it’s definitely about something. Something nonprofits can use. It’s the ability to have real time conversations with folks. To show them you’re interested in them. That you care about them. Not to make them do something for you. But to do something useful for them. And to do it for them at their convenience. In fact, these are the first and second rules of social media:
1. Be useful.
But let’s take a step back. In order to be useful, you need to know who you’re talking to, what those folks want and where you can find them. So… do this:
Find the right people. If you’re a nonprofit, find folks who share your values and vision. If you aim to end hunger, find folks who care about this. Maybe it’s foodies or soccer moms. Find the influencers in these groups. If you aim to end cruelty to animals, find animal lovers. Engage them. If it’s caring for seniors, maybe it’s their adult children. Focus your marketing content to solve problems for the people you hope to connect with on social media.
Find the right places. Lots of folks use Facebook, but maybe not your folks. Ditto for every other social media channel. Survey your current supporters and find out where they hang out. It’s likely you’ll find more like them in the same networks.
Listen to your people. Laura Fitton, co-author of Twitter for Dummies, says: “The ability to which you can provide value to others but also attention to others is going to determine how effective you are on these social platforms. This attention to others is how you build influence on social,” she explains.
Interact with your people. Once you’ve discovered the right people on social media – the ones you hope to bring into your community –it’s important to engage with them. If they retweet, thank them. Sometimes respond to their tweets with comments. Sometimes tweet their tweets. Then measure the impact of your interactions. There are plenty of tools out there for this (e.g. Hootsuite; Hubspot’s Social Inbox; Twitter Analytics); what’s important is learning which things you’re putting out there are more useful than others.
Measure what you want folks to do. If you want them to click through to your website, see if this is happening. If you want them to subscribe to your e-newsletter or blog, see if this is happening. If you want them to join your advocacy campaign or sign a petition, see if this is happening. Check out Beth Kanter’s and Katie Paine’s Measuring the Networked Nonprofit. These are all transformational, social objectives – and therefore realistic.
If you want folks to donate to you via social media, go ahead and see if it’s happening. If it’s not, don’t throw the ‘transaction’ baby out with the ‘transformation’ bath water. Discover some more realistic, revolutionary objectives – ones that will really expand your constituency and take your organization to the next level; then really work those angles.
Social Media You Can Use
Social means relational. Think about your relationship with the person you’re engaging with on social media. Think also about your activity’s relationship to the objective you’re hoping to attain through that activity. Here are 36 rules for using social media in infographic form from John Haydon. Check ‘em out; then:
- SHARE– Don’t interrupt folks with boring updates and announcements. Give them news they can use. Tips about upcoming deals. ‘How-to’ information lists. Reading list recommendations. Recipes. Craft projects. Entertaining video links and compelling stories. Interesting perspectives on issues they might want to share with their friends or professional connections. Useful stuff.
- SEARCH – Help folks find you through interesting pictures, videos, blog posts and discussions. Join in the fun on LinkedIn and Google+. Add to the conversation. Make new friends, fans and followers who may eventually sign up to your very own email list.
- SUPPORT – Respond to folks who engage with you. Support their point of view. Offer additional helpful information. Show them you care about them and what they care about. Don’t make it seem like you only want them to support you.
- STEWARD – Ask less, thank more. Tell your donors what heroes they are. Share outcomes. Make folks feel good.
Plan. Build relationships. Measure engagement that works. Ask folks to join your email list. And then… later, much later (when your social media fan, follower or hangout buddy really knows you and loves you)… ask for philanthropic support.