If we aren’t careful, we might be entranced to believe social-media networking platforms have been around for quite a while. I mean, if Facebook is valued at $5 billion in its Initial Public Auction, then surely it’s a tried-and-true company that still has room to grow. Right?
Before you jump over to your E*Trade account, you might ask yourself “What has Facebook (or Twitter, for that matter) done for me?” That query, if you are a nonprofit or a small business, can be tricky to answer, unless you started with a plan and with some measurable goals that can be stood next to what you have in fact done. And sometimes, what you want done can get a nice push from social media but social media won’t necessarily do the heavy hauling. And that’s ok!
One fundamental problem is measurement. Do you have a baseline of how much money and time your staff should invest in SM outreach? Do you have a target on the return you want for the investment? Is everyone aware that the return can be a higher profile or more hits to the website or a better attended fundraiser – not just lots of new donors responding to each post?
In a couple of postings last December, Mitch Joel got tough with those organizations that establish a social-media outpost simply to say they have a social-media outpost:
We’re trapped with a “me too” mentality that finds more and more brands doings things in Social Media with the sole purpose of making sure that they’re just keeping up with The Joneses (the competition), instead of carving a unique path and making sure (on the upfront) that they’re establishing both relevant and money-thinking return on investment programs.
Part of the clumsiness with which nonprofits engage social media, though, comes from the SM ‘experts’ who promise strikingly high returns on any investment of production. The ability to establish a free account on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc only adds to the myth that the said account guarantees profit. The proverbialcan usually be spotted by their general, non-quantitative, ambitions on how your money and time will (likely) provide a huge windfall.
, though, requires a good deal of effort, planning, and guidance. And if your charity has not outlined what it hopes to achieve with the SM outreach, how will it know if its strategy is working, not working, or needing some timely tweaks?
Moreover, you might have good reason not to invest too much in social media at all. We asked Steve Frillmann, Executive Director of in New York ( ), why Green Guerillas has used social media, but only sparingly:
Numerous people having being pushing Green Guerillas to embrace social media as an outreach and fundraising tool. They often reference the huge numbers of donations social media campaigns have secured for disaster relief or political campaigns. We are listening — we have consultants creating a social media plan and a new website for us right now. But we have a healthy skepticism about the transformative power of social media for our nonprofit. We have no doubt it can help us get our stories out, help us create some new partnerships. But even with the most well-crafted, targeted messages, we cannot re-create the sense of urgency or the call for change that a large event or a dynamic politician can create. The magic is still in the message — however you get it out.
As with any outreach to your constituents or customers, you need to consider what you are going to say, and why. Your organization or business needs to take stock of where it is, where it wants to go, and how social media can provide one tool of many on how to get there. Mitch finished his blog by getting right to the nub of the issue: “If you can’t measure it, benchmark it and iterate on it… don’t do it… please.”