Membership in social networking sites
may be free, as a rule, but there’s still a cost in staff or volunteer
time. For every hour your non-profit invests in social networking, an hour is lost to other projects that might further your cause more effectively.
How can you know if social media is the best possible use of your time, unless you’ve first figured out what you want to achieve?
Quantifiable goals will help you to justify your
organization’s social media involvement to board members, members,
donors, and other stakeholders.
If you lay out your best business case and still can’t seem to "sell" your
board on social media, by the way, that doesn't
necessarily mean the board is hopelessly "behind the times" with technology. Frankly, it may be the goal-setting process at fault — or maybe just your timing.
(You may need to need to revisit your goals to ensure that they’re on target
with your organization's overall mission, measurable in a concrete way, achievable with the resources you've got available,
and compatible with whatever other programs and projects are planned for the same time frame.)
Even with the most enthusiastic of boards behind you, however, it pays to be perfectly clear about the goals before launching into social media — for some very practical reasons:
Everyone on the team has to agree on what target you're aiming for, and how you'll all know when you hit it... or not!
Goals will determine your strategy.
What do you want to accomplish? Who can help make it happen?
Audience is critical — the people you want to connect with will determine which social media sites are best for your organization, and what you want people to do
(what actions will get you to those quantifiable goals) will determine
how you interact with them.
If your non-profit's mission is to change public policy or influence new
legislation, for example, you’ll want to get your message in front of
activists who share your interests, and
especially to connect with those who are working in the same
jurisdiction. On the other hand, if your goal is simply to bring new traffic to your
website, you need to engage those people who have an interest in your cause and who tend to share information and resources with their online peers.
Ultimately, your goals will influence your social media usage
in every respect, from whether you’ll use one single profile for the
whole organization or let individual staffers speak out, to the
frequency of Facebook status updates, to what criteria you choose for
your “follow policy” on Twitter…
Goals keep your project on track.
Getting started in social media can be a challenge. Establishing connections and building momentum in social media
doesn’t happen overnight — except for public figures and pop culture
celebrities who bring along their offline fans when they decide to set
up camp on Twitter or Facebook or MySpace. Giving up too soon (or after only a half-hearted effort) is a common reason for non-profits — for businesses and individuals, too,
for that matter — to fail in social media.
On the other hand, no one would deny that social media can be a
giant “time suck” for the unwary. It’s all too easy to become
distracted, exploring cool links and chit-chatting with interesting
While a certain amount of socializing is inevitable and
essential in social networking — it’s all about the social and networking
aspects of the Web, after all — you know that it’s vital to keep your
eye on the bottom line where limited non-profit resources are on the
If you can set up a series of measureable “milestones” along the path to your overall goals for social media — it will be
that much easier to keep focus on those goals, tweak your tactics as you learn what works and what doesn't, and hang in there long enough to start to see results.
What are your social media goals?
How do they translate into real-world achievements for your non-profit —
more donations, more signatures on a petition, more attendees at your
conference, more clients helped through your programs and services?