The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Is Your Nonprofit a Dabbler in Social Media or an Effective Power User?

A brief preface from Network for Good: 

If you’re contemplating committing time to engaging people on social networks – and it does take time – you need to ask yourself a bunch of other questions first.

The first question you should ask yourself as a fundraiser is, do you have your most basic online outreach in place? You shouldn’t be committing staff to Facebook if you don’t have a decent website home page or can’t email supporters. Before you think about social networks, you should have:

• A well-branded, easy-to-use website
• The ability to process secure donations online
• An email campaign tool that complies with federal anti-spam laws
• A website analytics tool (like Google Analytics)
• A listening tool (so you can monitor online conversations)
• Great follow-up for online donors and supporters
• Smooth integration between online and offline efforts
• Regular reporting on all of your efforts so you can learn and correct as you go

If you don’t have these things, Network for Good can help. We’re a nonprofit like you – and we have tools like DonateNow and email marketing by Constant Contact, as well as training and eBooks, so you can check off this list.

If you have all of this, you may be ready for the next step: creating a social media strategy. If you’re actively conducting online outreach, monitoring results and listening to what people are saying about your issue, you will be able to put together a realistic strategy that identifies an audience you want to engage – and a goal for that engagement.

Now on to the regularly scheduled article…

A recent survey report from Ventureneer and Caliber shows that those nonprofits that invest time, energy and resources into social media become “power” users and find success in promoting their causes.

Social media are not expensive, and even small organizations can use them successfully. However, it does take commitment, planning, and staff time to make them work over the long haul.

Nonprofits and Social Media: It Ain’t Optional defines the difference between those nonprofits that use social media very effectively and those for whom it is a waste of time. The former go “all in” so to speak, while the latter go at it half-heartedly and intermittently. For example, the survey that underlies the report revealed that while 95% of the surveyed nonprofits have a Facebook page, only 22% thought that page very effective.

The Ventureer/Caliber report provides “10 Highly Successful Social Media Habits for Nonprofits.” They include:

  • Nonprofits excel at social media by dedicating the time to it. Power users typically allocate at least 25 hours of staff time to social media per week. They tweet daily and publish content to their blogs and update their social media profiles weekly at minimum.
  • Power users employ social media for more purposes. Most nonprofits that use social media do so to boost visibility; drive traffic to websites; and build community. Power users of social media also employ it to raise money, engage in advocacy, and to do cause marketing.
  • Nonprofits that are ultimately successful in using social media start slowly. They build a foundation, and then add more media (and time) to the mix. The longer nonprofits use social media, the more kinds of media they use. The more kinds they use, the more successful their social media efforts are.
  • They rely on social media to strengthen marketing, not to reduce marketing expenditures. Social media is about increasing cost efficiency and marketing effectiveness.

There is much more in this useful report, including how to pick the right medium for your message and how to lay the groundwork for better social media outcomes. For instance, the report says that each of the Big Four — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube — have their own “specialties.” Facebook, for instance, is more effective for cause-markting while LinkedIn is best used for researching and connecting to major donors and board members.

Joanne Fritz is the author of Joanne’s Nonprofits Blog and editor of About.com’s Nonprofit Charitable Orgs Guide

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Linda Lombardi
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