Social Media for a Better World?

I just read a new report by the Bridgespan Group, which suggests the social media strategies may add more cost than benefit to small nonprofits.  In Tweeting for a Better World, Bridgespan suggests that many nonprofits are failing to think through their strategy, define their target audience, match online tactics to real world goals, or consider how they might measure success and learn from failure.

The report provides guidelines for establishing a social media presence, including:

Choose appropriate social media goals and connect them to organizational goals.

Recognize, however, that some organizational goals–such as issues related to budgets–may not be appropriate for social media venues.  And major donors are more likely to respond to one-on-one or small, personal meetings rather than Tweets or press releases.

Define and understand your community.  How do they use social media?  

Social media attention span is typically short, and people won’t “like” you on Facebook or will stop following you on Twitter if you are not interacting with them in a way that they find appealing and that supports their needs. A basic mistake is “talking” too much and not listening to and engaging with other voices in the community. Use surveys, interviews, or focus groups to find how this target community would like to interact with you. Ask them what social media tools they use, whether they’d like to interact with the organization through social media (which forms and how often), and what they’d like to hear from you (updates, policy information, event invitations?). And go online yourself.  Hang out on Facebook pages and LinkedIn discussions, follow similar organizations and thought leaders on Twitter—and start listening

Determine what to measure.  

Measurement in the online world can seem deceptively easy. How many people are following you on Twitter, or like you on Facebook? How many are commenting on your blog posts, viewing your videos on You Tube, re-tweeting  you, or sharing an article with others? Hurray—these can all be counted!

Even better, once you know how you are doing, you can set measurable goals for improvement: increase the click-through rate to the website from Facebook and Twitter by 100 percent, increase online signups from the Facebook landing tab by 10 members a month, increase Facebook likes and Twitter followers by 50 percent over the next six months, and so on. But because your social media goals connect to things in the “real world,” it’s important to try to get an idea of what these social media measures tell you about what you’re actually seeking to achieve. You can do this in a variety of ways: periodically surveying people, asking event attendees what brought them there, and seeking to understand how much response can be attributed to each channel.

Allocate resources to do it right.

While most of the social media resources are free,  ongoing costs are driven by staff time.  While you don’t want to inundate people with too much content, they stop listening if you don’t post frequently enough or don’t say things that are important to them.  Ongoing social media costs are largely driven by staff time. as the following chart illustrates.

Category Activity Approximate time required
Content Creating content 2-6 per week
Screening for relevant third-party content 1-5 hours per week
Screening audience content 1-5 hours per week
Web Posting to social media tools 2-6 hours per week
Responding to comments/questions 1-4 hours per week
Surfing relevant web and social media sites 2-5 hours per week
Measurement Measuring results of social media tools 1-3 hours per week
Evaluating progress towards goals 4 hours per month
Conducting quarterly strategic reviews 3-6 hours per quarter

These time estimates are starting points for small organizations just getting involved in social media. For such organizations, having a meaningful presence on Facebook and Twitter can take a minimum of a quarter to half of one full-time staff member’s time. Larger organizations that desire a more active social media presence could spend even more time on implementing their social media approach.

Experiment, monitor and modify.

Social media work lends itself to experimentation and learning through doing. So it is important to use tools like link trackers and Facebook insights to understand which of your posts are generating the reaction you want (likes, reads, shares). Experiment with different elements, have more posts that end with something that allows interaction than those that do not (e.g., a question to answer, poll to take), and see what works and what doesn’t for your audience. Do your best to understand how people are reacting to these changes, not only online but in the real world.









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