So how do you decide what conversations to join; what channels to use and; how you should engage supporters? You need to set some goals and create a social media plan. And just as we discussed in the Getting Started with Communications Planning Guide
, to create an effective social media plan you need to:
a) Identify your social media goals and objectives
b) Define your target audience and which social media they use
c) Identify strategies to determine which channels will help you meet your objectives
d) Determine resources available
e) Decide how you’ll measure your social media success
a) Establish your goals -- what do you want to achieve?
Social media experts (such as John Haydon and Chris Brogan) suggest that you establish SMART goals for your social media activities as well. These goals should be:
Keep these simple and well defined.
How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal? You may need to measure a number of things (e.g., # of: comments, tweets, website visits, etc.) to determine success. Remember to measure social media effectiveness you’ll need to establish benchmarks – what is the current status of these measures?
You may be tempted to set lofty social media goals, but if you are just getting started, you’ll need to be realistic about what you can achieve as a social media beginner.
When setting goals, be sure to factor in available resources – remember social media is time consuming.
Set a realistic timeframe for meeting your goals. Social media experts suggest it will take 3-6 months before you may see results.
b) Define your target audience -- who are you trying to reach and what online communities are they involved in?
While you may already have a clear profile of the constituents you are trying to reach with social media, remember that different age groups use the web differently and are congregating on different sites online. This means you might need to segment your audience and identify different strategies or channels for the various segments.
c) Identify Strategies -- what are the most effective social media channels?
If you’ve done your homework in Steps 1 & 2 as well as b) above, you’ll have a good idea which online communities your constituents or audience participate in online. From listening, following and monitoring, you’ll also, hopefully, have developed an understanding of what is involved with many of the social media channels.
Remember, you shouldn’t just pick social media channels based on size alone. Some online communities may be small but could be more effective for your organization – depending on your goals.
If you’re not sure where to start, social media consultant, Chris Brogan suggests that if he was starting out today, “the very first piece of social media real estate [he’d] start with is a blog.” Then he suggests building “outposts” to help reach into lots of different places and communicate with people where they might be, such as:
d) Determine available resources:
Before you finalize a social media plan, it’s important to be realistic in terms of how you’ll resource this. As mentioned earlier, the social media channels may be free, but to maintain a social media presence is a time-consuming undertaking.
Take stock of:
- The size and technical experience of staff and/or volunteers
- Time staff and/or volunteers have available for social media
- Content available that could be used for social media
e) Decide how you’ll measure your social media activity:
What and how you measure your social media activity will depend on your objectives. For example, if your goal is to “increase daily website traffic by 10% in 6 months” you’ll need to determine your current daily web traffic as a benchmark. Then you’ll need to start tracking daily hits and backlinks (e.g., through Google Analytics) to begin to gather metrics over your six month period.
If your objectives are to build community and increase awareness of your organization, you might want to set specific goals as to the number of Twitter followers, Facebook friends or group members on LinkedIn. Of course, you’d first need to benchmark your current number of supporters on each of these channels.
What are some of the things you can measure to help you determine if you’ve met your objectives? Here are some examples:
- On your website:
- Hits – individual page views
- Your Blog:
- page views
- YouTube video views
- Flickr photo views
- Blog subscribers
- Twitter Followers
- Facebook Fans
- LinkedIn group members
- Forum threads
- Facebook Follows
- Facebook Likes
Before you start measuring – benchmark. If you’ve already been gathering any of the above metrics (e.g., Facebook fans, web traffic, etc.), be sure to take stock of your starting point so you can get an accurate measure to see if you’ve met your objectives.
You might want to check out the ROI Calculator for Social Network Campaigns available on Frogloop – care2’s nonprofit marketing blog.
STEP 4: Build Your Online Presence
So, now that you are a consummate online listener; you’ve identified where your constituents are congregating online; and you have begun to participate in online conversations - now you can now start to implement your social media plan.
Before you jump into the social media pool, have you considered:
- Developing a social media policy to ensure effective brand and image control.
- Identifying who will be responsible for monitoring, creating content, contributing/posting and responding to the various channels you have decided to participate in?
- Have you identified how much time you can devote to each of your channels – daily, weekly, monthly?
Building your presence
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you begin to build your online presence:
Don’t Just Broadcast…
- Write blog posts that ask questions and engage the reader to comment
- Post questions on Facebook to get information and feedback from constituents
- Continue to comment on other blogs to build relationships and your profile
- Post videos or slide shows and ask for questions or comments
- Respond PROMPTLY to all blog comments, forum questions, tweets, Facebook questions, etc.
- Create “talkability”
- Ask for help (retweets, etc.)
Establish a Routine – and Remember Social Media Takes Time
How much time will you need to accomplish your social media goals? That will depend on the objectives and strategies you’ve set. What can you expect? Here are some realistic timelines suggested by Beth Kanter, nonprofit social media guru:
- 5 hours/week to start listening
- 10 hours/week to participate
- 10-15 hours/week to generate buzz
- 20+ hours/week to build community
- (At least) 3-6 months until you see results
Establish Regular Reviews:
- What have you learned?
- What has worked well?
- What did not seem to have effect (so far)?
- What should you change?
- Are you moving toward our targets?
- What should you adjust activities or targets?
Social media is NOT a magic bullet
- It will NOT help if you…
- … have no clear goals
- … have weak, “me-centric” messaging
- … have no staff or volunteers to lead the effort
- … are not consistent and persistent
Getting started with social media takes time and patience
Don’t expect to see results too quickly. Social media experts suggest that you should plan on investing from 3-6 months before you see real results.