I often field this question in my discussions with nonprofits.
“Julia,” they ask. “You are always writing about new social networking tools. Does my nonprofit really need to be active on so many different sites?”
Usually, in the middle of asking the question the color drains from their face and they become noticeably agitated and anxious.
Nonprofit professionals are always suspicious of social media consultants. I think this is because they assume I am going to insist they jump on at least 15 social networking sites immediately.
However, nothing could be farther from the truth.
While it’s often not what they want to hear, I have to be honest and tell anyone asking that there is no one right answer for every nonprofit – no one size fits all.
Asking about the tools (social networking sites) to use before developing a social media strategy (goals – the reasons behind using the tools) is putting the cart before the horse.
Many nonprofit organizations have very limited marketing budgets, so it is understandable that they want to get the “biggest bang” for their already-stretched buck.
They want quick and easy answers to their social media problems.
They want results and they want them now. (Don’t we all!)
Unfortunately, social media is not the marketing silver bullet many (disingenuously) claim it to be. It’s not as easy (or free) as it seems.
There are no firm right or wrong answers, and once again, no one size fits all.
Like everything else worth doing, having success on social media is not easy.
Social media strategies must be implemented first, measured and tested, continually improved upon and revised, before you can really see results.
Before determining in which social media baskets to put your eggs, do the following:
1) Research. Determine your strategy. Who is your target market? By target market I mean your community – the people you are trying to reach on social media.
What are they interested in? Do they like travel, fashion, shopping, activism, the environment?
What are your “competitors” doing that seems to be working and how could you adapt their methods? What are other industries doing that works and what falls flat?
2) Ask. Ask your community what social networks they prefer in an email survey, newsletter or informal poll.
What do they actively use? See what they say – it will certainly surprise you.
They are reading blogs, posting updates and photos, looking for jobs and watching videos, all using social media.
They are interacting with each other, with businesses and brands, and with causes they care about. Find out where they are, and go to them.
3) Jump in. Most likely your target market is already active on or more of the “big four” social media networks – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
They may also be on Pinterest and Google+. But, they may not. And you may not have the time or the inclination to manage this many sites. Which leads me to #4…
4) Start slowly and build. I understand – no one wants to be late to the party or miss out.
But do not feel like you are already so behind that you can’t even start. Social media is a valuable tool in your marketing tool kit, but if it’s not used at all, it will have no benefit.
Remember to ask your community what they want to see from you on these networks– advice tips, helpful articles, photos, videos? What is your purpose?
Before you get totally overwhelmed, remember:
You cannot be all things to all people. There are consultants and contractors in your area who specialize in marketing, public relations, websites and social media.
You are good at your job; you don’t have to be a social media and technology expert on top of that.
Less is more. Choose two social networks to begin with and take it from there.
Don’t get discouraged. Getting the results you want from social media is time-consuming.
It’s like exercise – you will only start to see results with consistent effort. Start with realistic goals and you may be surprised to surpass them.
Do you have anything to add? Anything that I missed? Please feel free to comment in the section below or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks for reading!
This is an updated version of a post I published in February 2012.
Do you need a step-by-step guide to creating digital storytelling campaigns?
You are in luck!
Sign up and get a free chapter of my new book, Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits. This book is designed to be a step-by-step how-to guide for small and mid-size nonprofits that want to learn how to set goals, measure results, and carry out amazingly successful digital storytelling campaigns!
When you sign up, you will also receive my free weekly bulletin with tips, tricks, and advice for savvy nonprofits on how to kick butt at online marketing and fundraising.