There is a groundswell of well-intentioned, but unfounded faith in social media as the cure-all for a lack of mission-driven design discipline.
If you believe that social media is a medium that you can use to share your mission, tell your supporter’s stories, and create a culture of communication with the organization, then just do it.
There are four key reasons why any social purpose organization should participate in social media: Strategic (for what purpose are we doing this?), inspirational (motivating our peers and followers), relational (building and stewarding relationships), and aspirational (as a voice of visionary and courageous leadership).
Keep these four reasons in mind as you overcome these three myths of social media:
Myth #1: We don’t have time
The real issue is not that you don’t have time. You haven’t made social media part of your social network ecosystem and a priority of your communicating your mission with clarity.
Is the real issue lack of time, or is it fear? Is it fear of making a mistake? Fear of what to do? Fear of what tools to use?
An effective social network ecosystem includes many elements, and is designed to focus attention on your organization’s mission. Remember to be less concerned about the media you're using, and more aware of the audience you're trying to reach. That’s how you get your content to align with you’re audience’s interests. The core of a social media strategy begins with:
- A web site with a blog, and embedded sharing capability (that’s where your content resides and how it can be shared).
- Twitter – with an account that belongs to your organization, not a personal account posting on behalf of the organization.
- Email communication, using an email management platform such as Mailchimp.com. You’ll want a platform that makes it easy to create mobile and tablet-friendly email, that also display well on desktop devices. Mail Chimp does this very effectively, with an elegant drag and drop interface with flexible layouts.
- Measuring interactions between social sharing and traffic to your web site, donor pages, and other intended content destinations.
Remember, all media is social media. A social media ecosystem is an inter-related social network, beginning with your contact list, and growing in reach and influence as your content is shared across the networks.
All of these will be integrated. Integration means that your messaging, your marketing and your methods have continuity between all of the elements. Imagine how donor engagement might improve if you understood how intentionally-designed and integrated communications impact the perception of your cause and the donor experience.
Myth #2: We don't have a voice
Don’t be fooled. You already have a voice, the question is: Is it focused, coherent, and communicating your mission with clarity?
Your organization is not a brand. It has a purpose, an identity, values, and a culture. It represents a specific cause and must be a voice of visionary and courageous leadership on behalf of the cause. Stop thinking like a brand, and think like a person. Humanize your organization. People don’t connect with brands, they connect with shared values, emotion, and meaningful experiences.
Begin strategically, with a managed, focused voice that speaks on behalf of your organization and the causes it represents.
Keep in mind: it’s not just about your organization. It’s about your audience—the ambassadors, donors, advocates, champions and community you’re seeking to attract, inspire, inform and engage. Putting them first makes them part of your narrative, and not simply an observer of it.
Social media can be a place for inspiring your followers. Think of how you will use it as a means to raise your voice, and speak on behalf of the causes that you champion. Your organizational voice is based on your organization’s purpose, character, and cultural attributes of who you are, what you value, and why you matter.
Your voice will build trust and credibility. Your roles may include acting as an:
- Influencer: Sharing content that advances your cause and how others think about it. To direct followers to content and motivate them to action. This strategy requires that you have a content-rich web site, or reliable and credible content sources to drive traffic to.
- Convener: For posting events, sharing news and information, and sharing other organizations’ content.
- Champion: Highlighting your program impact, supporter, follower and donor stories, successes and how their lives are impacted by your work. Tell their stories with your voice!
Myth #3: We can’t measure the return
If you’re managing to outcomes, you must also communicate to those outcomes. Your board, donors, and grantors need to become enlightened to the reality that communication, including the use of social media, is as much a part of program or service delivery as the rest of the activities they prefer to support or fund.
Engagement is interaction; interaction is conversation
Engagement is an indicator of how well you are interacting with your audience. Measuring engagement helps you understand how well interacting with your audience in order to build relationship, affinity and loyalty – which leads to influence.
Influence is interest; interest leads to action
Is your audience interested? Influence measures the growth of your followers across social media platforms, and the level of interest of your audience in what you’re sharing. Simply put, influence measures the number of followers you have, and how they share your posts.
Use these free or low-cost tools to manage, measure, monitor and engage on social media:
- Hootsuite.com and Bufferapp.com, two affordable social media management tools help you post, schedule, manage, and measure your social media activity.
- SharpSpring helps you measure, monitor and interact with your social network and create behavior-based interactions with your audience.
Here’s what you need to realize: All media is social media. Community exists whether you're trying to build one or not. Your social network is already everywhere you visit, speak, and listen.
Be Social. Advocates, ambassadors and influencers recognize that every interaction is an opportunity to build relationships.
Be Courageous with Social Media
Don’t be tentative about this area of communications; resolve to make a commitment and stick with it for at least a year. Benchmark where you start, and measure how your influence and engagement grows.
There is nothing to fear, just questions to answer:
- Where is your audience? What networks intersect with them?
- Is your content primarily words, images, video, or all three?
- Is your content informative, inspirational, or engaging?
- If your goal is to engage, post content that your followers will share. Do you understand what their values are, what interests them, and what motivates them?
- What are the key networks you should consider (if at all), and why should you consider them: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+. How many networks can you realistically manage?
- What are your board or grantor’s position and expectations of social media? How can you assure the board that your content will align with their oversight and reflect the best interests of the organization?
Be courageous – your audience is looking for more ways to engage with your organization – you need to provide them the opportunity, and content worth sharing. Give them opportunities to share, and let them tell your story for you.
Learn more about these perspectives on social media in Raise Your Voice: A Cause Manifesto, a book that explores how purpose, character, and culture help organizations communicate to the outcomes they are working to achieve.