We would like to welcome guest blogger, Laura Quinn. Laura is the executive director of Idealware, and a frequent speaker and writer on nonprofit technology topics.
With the new year upon us, it’s a good time to make resolutions for both yourself and your organization. Why not resolve to improve your social media efforts? More than 800 million people are using Facebook alone, and chances are good your constituents are among them.
Planning is vital to success with social media, and thinking ahead can ensure the best return for your efforts regardless of the channel you’re using. We created our free Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide specifically to help organizations like yours strategize their approach to social media.
Pulled from the guide, the following areas of effort are critical parts of a good strategy:
- Put in the Time. As a rule of thumb, set aside at least two hours each week for every social media channel in your mix. If your time is limited to three hours or less per week, start with a single channel that seems like the best bet for you. It’s far better to use one or two channels well than many channels poorly.
- Define Your Voice. For the people following you primarily through social media, your organization is embodied by the things you post. What you say, and how you say it, is of critical importance to their perceptions of you. Your tone can tell your audience much about your organization, but should also be influenced by the medium.
- Campaign and Maintain. Define a campaign—basically, a time period with clear start and end dates during which you push to achieve a specific goal through frequent, targeted posts. But you want to hold onto your audience during down times, too, so don’t drop off the social media channel entirely. Think of the time between campaigns as more open-ended, flexible “maintenance” periods, and use a more moderate amount of activity to retain and grow your audience.
- Integrate Your Communications Mix. Choosing the right communications tools for each campaign isn’t an either/or situation, but a question of finding the right mix of channels for your needs. Integrate social media with the other types of communications you’re doing, such as direct mail, email, phone calls, and person-to-person events and meetings.
- Measure Your Success. Set specific benchmarks. For example, if you want to spread information, define a benchmark for how many page views of the resource you’re sharing you’ll need to consider it a success. Numbers give you something to measure against, and tracking them makes it easier to know what to expect for next time.
- Create a Social Media Policy. Every organization has different needs, issues and concerns, so it’s difficult to create a “one-size-fits-all” social media policy. Think through the issues yours is likely to face, and consider how to deal with them if—and when—they they arise. Sometimes just talking through key questions, concerns and suggestions at your organization can be just as useful as having a finished policy in hand.
Social media is a complicated environment, with different expectations for each channel. Jumping in can be intimidating, and if you’re already using it, breaking your existing habits and routines can be just as difficult. At Idealware, we created the Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide to help. It’s an ideal tool to improve the quality of the effort you put in, and what you get in return.
With a little strategy and effort, you can make your resolutions for 2012 stick—at least those to improve your social media efforts. Remember, social media is not just a means to distribute one-sided requests or missives. It’s a conversation the world is having, and your organization can’t afford to be left out of it.
Let us help you find your voice and join the conversation—and even lead it. Download the Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide for free at http://www.idealware.org/reports/nonprofit-social-media-decision-guide.