Monday, October 05, 2009

10 Questions to Get You Started Using Social Media for Your Nonprofit or Do-Good Project

One of the most common questions I'm asked as a social media consultant is, "Which tool is the best?" Unfortunately, there isn't an easy answer to that question. If you have a do-good project, or a small nonprofit that you want to promote, fundraise for, or build an online community around using social media, your first step is to create a plan.

If the idea of creating a
social media plan sounds scary to you, just think of it as: 10 Questions to Get You Started Using Social Media for Your Nonprofit or Do-Good Project.

1. What is the goal I'm trying to achieve by using social media? Raise awareness? Build web traffic? Attract new donors? Raise money for a specific campaign or initiative? Increase membership?

2. Who is my audience? Who are you trying to reach? Are they new members, or your tried and true supporters? Are they already tech savvy, or will they need training to use the tools? What are their interests?
How old are they? (Be careful making assumptions about age. Did you know that the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is people who are 35 years old and older?).

3. What are people already saying about my cause, or organization?
Search on Google, Google Blog Search, Technorati, Twitter Search, and Social Mention for your cause, the name of your organization (if you have one), and the URL of your website (if you have one). Search on Facebook too to see if anyone has already created a Facebook Page for your cause or organization. You might find that the online community you want to create already exists. You may be able to achieve your goal, and reach your audience simply by commenting and participating on social networks that already exist.

4. How much time do I have to spend on social media? Check out Beth Kanter's post, How Much Time Does It Take to Do Social Media? to help you estimate how much time you might need, and compare it with the time you have to give. Also, what is the time line for the project? Is it for a short-term campaign, or part of your organization's long-term strategic, communications, or development plan?

5. How much money do I have to spend on social media? Many social media tools are free, or low cost to use. Basically, the more features, functions and customization you want, the more you'll pay. Your biggest cost will be your time, or a staff person's time.

6. What skills do I have? Are you, or the staff person who will be in charge of social media, using social media already, or will training be needed? Are you a natural writer? A blog may be a place to start. Do you love connecting people? A social network like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Ning might be a tool to leverage your talents. If you are a visual person, check out photo or video sharing.

7. What social media tool(s) should I use? Given your goal, the audience you want to reach, what is being said about your cause or organization online, and your time, money, and skills, what social media tools are the best fit for you?:
Using more tools isn't necessarily better. Putting limited resources towards building community around one tool will be more effective than barely engaging on multiple platforms. That said, many tools work well together. For example, videos can be embedded in blog posts, which can be fed into your Facebook newsfeed.

8. How will you measure success?
Based on your goal for using social media, how will you measure your impact? How will you know if the tools you chose are working for you? Below is a sampler of ways you could measure success. Pick 2-3 to track on a regular basis:
  • Subscribers
  • Page views
  • Page visits
  • Downloads
  • Referrals/links
  • Comments
  • Bookmarks
  • Actions taken
  • Money raised
  • Number of donors
  • Campaigns created by supporters
  • Content created by supporters
  • Community growth and strength
  • Individual relationship growth and strength
9. What is your exit, or growth plan? There are no guarantees that using social media will help you achieve your goals, so when choose your tools, think about how you could stop using them gracefully if they don't work for you. Do you know how to delete your Facebook Page? If your blog is integrated into your website, can it easily be removed? Where will people be redirected to if they come to a site that no longer exists?

On the other hand, what if you are wildly successful and build a bustling online community, or an avid group of subscribers to your Youtube channel? Will the tools you've chosen allow you to grow?

10. How can I have fun using social media? This might seem like a silly question, but the number of clients I work with who come to me and sigh, "So, I guess I have to start a blog," is astonishing. No one wants to read a gloomy blogger, or interact with a reluctant Facebook friend, or subscribe to a YouTube channel that is never updated. Social media tools are social. They require your interacting with other people so pick a tool, or tools that sound interesting to you, and have fun!

For more information about creating a social media plan for your nonprofit or do-good project, check out:
Cross-posted from

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  1. As an owner/operator of a small business trying to make a name primarily through social media…the etiquette associated with social networks emerged as one of the bigger learnings for me. When I first started tweeting and posting on facebook etc, I fell into the “novice” social media trap of repeatedly posting links to my site, developing a sense of satisfaction with temporary (short term) spikes in traffic. Little did I know that I was no better than the SEOs and spammers I had grown to loath. However, once I started developing tangible online relationships (yes, some contrived RTing was involved to get their attention), I found that not only was I learning from those around me (how else would I have found this blog?), but a sense of joy/fun came from these interactions. While I think that a plan is necessary to maximize the effectiveness of your social media strategy, I think that many of the principals of traditional interactions and relationship development are key (observing, probing, etc etc). If it dones't feel natural to you, chances are it won't appear natural to those you are trying to connect with. Similarly, what’s so interesting about someone who tweets obsessively about themselves (@parishilton can you hear me? btw - on twitter I am @inyourfacebook).

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