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.