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Welcome back to guest blogger, Susie Bowie, Communications Manager at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Over reliance on numbers—particularly when it comes to measuring the impact of social media—is getting pretty annoying. The problem isn’t a new one, so why do I find it especially bothersome?

I hear a lot of frustration from nonprofit communicators about leaders and board members who still insist on measuring social media success solely by the number of fans or followers. To be fair, it’s probably the only way they know how to justify the investment of precious staff time.

We have to move our leadership past a social media question of “should we?” to the question of “how do we do it best?” And it’s our responsibility to provide them with more guidance and a supplement—not substitution—for numerical metrics.

We’ve moved from a culture that receives information to a culture that begs to participate in information. Our organizations have to figure out which stakeholders we’d like to engage online and set some goals about what we’d like to accomplish through that engagement. After that, we do have a big, ugly ROI question staring us in the face.

Social media has worked well for the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. And I feel fortunate that our organization embraces a culture of innovation and technology. What do I think it’s done for us?

  • Broadening Our Knowledge:

We can easily follow our grantees in quick updates on Facebook, track philanthropic trends using Twitter, and see what foundation work our colleagues are doing in other areas.

  • Shedding Light on What We Do and Who We Are: We’re better able to showcase the personality of our staff and convey that we’re real people here. We truly care. Social media has provided a vehicle to share stories and quick updates of our donors, grantees and the impact of both.
  • Participate in High-Value Conversations: Asking open-ended questions has provided insights into our stakeholders’ thoughts about philanthropic and community issues. And now that we can comment on other Facebook pages (as a page), we can congratulate our local nonprofits for a job well done on a frequent and informal basis, sending the message that we support their impact and their work.

Most small to mid-sized organizations just don’t have the budget or the staff time to spend on heavy metric analysis, but there is a really simple way to test whether your social marketing is effective.

We recently decided to ask our followers to answer a quick online survey to test our suppositions—that our social media goals up to this point are being met. I’m excited about what we’re discovering.

More than 90% of our current respondents have said our Facebook page has helped them to better understand what we do. This is huge, considering how mysterious and complex the community foundation world often seems to those who aren’t on the “inside”. Comments like “your page has helped me connect the dots”, “I feel like there’s a more personal connection to the Foundation”, “serves to humanize the work of the foundation” have been so affirming.

Nearly 70% of respondents at this time have indicated that our Facebook page has helped them feel like they better know our staff. That’s important for us. Our success is based on relationships.

We asked other questions about our blog, our Twitter presence, what kinds of posts our respondents like best, and what they would like to see less of, but the main message for you is this:

If you’re immersed in the world of social media fairly regularly for your organization, consider a simple survey. Although it’s not the absolute answer—it’s only part of this constantly evolving ROI challenge—it will facilitate a better understanding of what your followers have gotten out of your social media presence. It’s powerful and may take you far away from the Count von Count Sesame Street method of social media evaluation.

P.S. Get more in-depth case studies, templates and tools, and guidance for nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update. Subscribe today.

Guest Blogger on June 6, 2011 in Social Media | 3 comments
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Several Getting Attention e-update readers had questions in response to this recent article: 11 Steps to Media Relations Success. This one was asked by several nonprofit communicators:

Q: What are typical objectives/measurable outcomes for media relations work?

That's the sticking point for us – with such little staff time and budget for our PR efforts, we want to be smart and targeted with what we do. But we find that we often don't hear back from the releases we send out, and don't have much time to do follow-up phone calls, etc.  So how can we measure our success?

–Kate Lucas, Grants & Communications Coordinator, Common Hope

A:  Here are key outputs to track. They'll enable you to stay the course, if all's well, or correct if you're not getting anywhere.

Track these outputs: Articles placed, links added, online mentions of your organization, number of requests for public appearances, incoming press calls, etc. For example, two articles or one letter to the editor a month, three incoming press calls or 10% increase in daily unique visitors to your website generated by links on other sites. As always, look for trending (steady increases) rather than absolute numbers.

In addition, Kate, tracking coverage helps your organization assess who is talking about you and how you can best respond proactively (before it’s a crisis, enabling you to keep the focus on your messages) rather than reacting in panic. In addition, it helps you gauge the ROI (return on investment) of your media relations work.

I suggest you create a media log to record media relations activities and results. It will assist you in evaluating the contacts/relationships you have with specific media outlets and reporters, and help you identify concerns with particular outlets/reporters so that you can address them (e.g. always misquoted, description of organization incorrect, inappropriate language to explain issue, etc.)

Remember that outcomes (changes in action, awareness, understanding, attitude and/or behavior)of your media relations work are what's ultimately important Of course, these changes (other than action, e.g. driving folks to sign an online petition) are very difficult to measure. 

P.S. Get more in-depth articles, case studies and guides to
nonprofit marketing success — all featured in the twice-monthly Getting Attention e-update.
  Subscribe today.     

Nancy Schwartz on January 21, 2010 in Media Relations and Press, Nonprofit Communications | 1 comment
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6 Steps to Showcasing Your Marketing ROII was really jolted by this Ask Nancy query I recently received. Jessica (names have been changed to protect the innocent) asks for help with the most challenging (and most critical) step in nonprofit marketing — getting the support of decision makers and colleagues for doing it right.

Q: Help — We're losing ground past and we need professional marketing help. How do I get the budget and support to get it?
      
My organization has been in existence since the 1960s, longer than any other environmental group in the state. But, like many nonprofits, we've never been good at marketing ourselves, and therefore don't have the membership base we need. As a result, we're beginning to lose our historical advantage.
       
We clearly need professional marketing help. I'm an implementer, but I'd be far more effective working with a marketing expert who has analyzed our challenges and designed a strategy for me to implement. While leadership recognizes our need for professional marketing help, they are not moving forward in that
direction. Help!   
Jessica, Outreach Manager, State Natural Resources Council

Believe me, lack of support isn't uncommon, especially now when tensions are high and budgets low. Many nonprofit professionals either don't understand or doubt the value (or, in some cases, the seemliness) of marketing. Others see value in marketing but are in the "just do it" camp, not understanding that professionalism is as essential here as in other fields. It is these organizations that are frequently eclipsed by competitors in membership, fundraising and awareness. As a result, their impact is significantly limited.

Build support for marketing in your org by learning how to showcase your marketing ROI (return on investment). Read my guide to building support for doing marketing right today.

Flickr Photo: William Hartz

Nancy Schwartz on May 28, 2009 in Nonprofit Communications, Planning and Evaluation | 4 comments
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