Nonprofits: Yes to Facebook & Twitter, Blogging…Not so Much

The latest snapshot of nonprofit social media use and strategy comes from a recently released report from Sage, a company specializing in software solutions for business and nonprofits.  According to first quarter data from their Nonprofit Insights 2012 survey, the majority of nonprofit organizations used social media (84 percent) and reported that that it was important to their organization’s overall mission (75 percent), with 46 percent indicating satisfaction with their social media outcomes.

Other key findings include,

  • The top 3 social media sites among those surveyed were Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
  • Just over 1/3 (35 percent) of survey participants used a tool  to manage their multiple social media accounts
  • 71 percent of the nonprofits surveyed indicated that public relations or creating “buzz” was their primary reason for using social media
  • Determination  of social media “success” was often through the number of  social media clicks, friends or followers (reported by 61 percent of participating nonprofits), although 17 percent link it to the amount of  dollars raised
  • Less than 1/3 (29 percent) of nonprofits blog

Download the report Sage Nonprofit Insights, Q1 2012 Social Media Study for additional survey data as well as social media tips for nonprofits.

Lessons from 2011

At this time of year, when the offerings of and celebrations ’round the holiday table result in my exertions grinding to a snail-like pace, I tend to indulge in a mental review of the prior 12 months. Now, I have to make certain I don’t revisit the year gone by with glasses either too rosy or gray, but taking the time to flip through journal entries, re-read emails and peruse photos of both a familial and professional nature gives me the chance to savor small accomplishments that perhaps I was too quick to brush off when they occurred, and snort over stumbles that need to be re-acknowledged and then filed out of sight in the how-not-to-do-it bin.

At his website Strategic Monk, Greg Richardson describes what he has learned throughout 2011 in his post 12 Lessons That I Learned This Year.  His example of sharing has encouraged my own, and I hope yours too.

In 2011, I learned,

  • to keep reaching out – you can only continue to learn if you ask someone who is doing it now/has done it before;
  • that time on the computer/tablet/smart phone on the other side of the room doesn’t count as time together;

and for my last one, I am going to steal Greg’s succinct final lesson:

  • Yes, I can do this.

What did you learn in 2011?

Well Done is Better than Well Tweeted (or you know social media but do you know your nonprofit?)

When I’m chatting with nonprofit professionals and the topic of social media comes up – which is inevitable given the nature of my work – I tend to respond to their concerns about if it is really “right for us” by waving the strategy banner. We rely on a sound strategy to provide the foundation for every other operational issue, why wouldn’t it be used to guide agency outreach, messaging and marketing via social media (or any other medium)? I mean, giving your social media activities a clearly defined purpose, measurable goals and parameters to guide usage just makes good business sense and lays the foundation for some very exciting exploration and expansion of how you communicate with stakeholders, donors, clients and potential supporters. Right? Rah-rah – let’s hear it for strategy!

But maybe I’m wrong.

While I pontificate on the need for organizations (nonprofit or otherwise) to have a well-formed strategy driving their social media, I may be missing a bigger issue. Actually, I am now convinced that I have been stepping over a rather large one in my eagerness to preach all that is holy about strategy and data and planning and feedback loops, and it is more critical than any strategy or metric. It is the question – do you know your nonprofit?

A post by Steve Olenski at Social Media Today captures the fantasy world that many businesses, and yes, nonprofits, are living in regarding social media and their bottom lines. If you have ever wondered why your tweets and Facebook posts have not led a steady stream of contracts, collaborators or donors to your door after six whole months, you may be falling into the same trap.  No tweet, no post, nor strategy, nor social media expert can make up for a product, an event, or a fundraiser that, for whatever reason,  misses the mark. Are you certain that you are hitting yours ?

So, do you know your nonprofit? Not the mission statement, or the goals set for 3 years from now or the buzz words from the branding session held at that board retreat a decade ago – do you know the here and now of your organization?

  • What sets your organization apart?
  • How are your services different from,  and a level above, what is offered elsewhere?
  • How have you changed the lives of clients and families and what might have happened if you were no longer providing those services?
  • How has that impacted upon your community/city/region?
  • What does your presence and your “product” mean to the community?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What is important to them?
  • Why should they care about what you do?

Services, advocacy and education are the products of nonprofits, particularly those in the human and social services field. Their quality and effectiveness are, and always should be, priority one. Social media comes second. Before you revise your communication and marketing strategies because of disappointing numbers, revisit the heart and soul of your nonprofit – those you serve, how you serve, those who support you and why (or why not!).  Take time to reflect on what is happening in that intersection.  Discuss this reflection (and any tweaks you think are advisable) with other leaders in the organization rather than plan how quickly you can hit the 5,000 followers/likes/+1  mark. The better you know yourself (your organization) the better you will use social media to communicate and connect based on who you are, as well as what you do.



Podcamp Pittsburgh – An Exceptional Local (Free) Resource

This past weekend I joined bloggers, podcasters, and social media aficionados of all stripes for Podcamp Pittsburgh 6, an “un-conference” around new and social media featuring content on, well, just about any given topic in any given timeslot. Podcamp doesn’t organize around a yearly theme or otherwise dictate presentation content – an approach that actually encourages a rather unique experience year to year. In just the two Podcamps I have attended there have been sessions with: a representative and a councilman, a recently unmasked secret agent, a career advice blogger, a panel of superheroes and an appearance by a beloved seasonal icon of Pittsburgh.

This year I sat in on sessions about start-ups in Pittsburgh (and why if you are one you are lucky to be here), anonymity in political blogging and commenting, how social media has changed the workings of the Congress, how nonprofits can use social media to motivate people into action and a lively discussion of the realities of search engine optimization (SEO). I was able to finally meet people I only knew by their Twitter account handles and connected with others around the shared interests of nonprofit work, juggling business and personal social media accounts and making major career transitions in a shaky economy.

There is an appealing organic aspect to Podcamp, as impromptu sessions have been known to break out in spare rooms while mini-discussion groups sprout up in nooks throughout the venue. Interaction is encouraged – no Podcamp volunteer will disapprovingly point you toward a session if you decide to continue a fascinating conversation with another camper rather than attend a presentation.

There was a fairly strong nonprofit presence at this year’s Podcamp and I encourage anyone working or volunteering in marketing/communications with social media for a nonprofit organization to consider attending next year’s event. It’s free (or a $25 personal sponsorship), it’s innovative, it’s an excellent resource and it’s in our backyard. Oh, and it is also organized, staffed and run completely by volunteers. A group of dedicated people (none of whom I know personally) with a passion and talent for new media and knowledge-sharing pull together each year to put on a 2-day event that measures up to some of the “professional seminars” I’ve attended.

Executives, employees and supporters of nonprofits in western Pennsylvania – bookmark the Podcamp Pittsburgh site (they will soon post this year’s sessions online) and keep it on your radar for next September. I cannot wait to see what year 7 will bring, and I hope it brings you.