Method, metrics urged for social media

PJ staff report

Nonprofits that want to use social media should take a methodical approach that sets clear goals and measure their progress, a new white paper says.

“If they fail to take these steps, they risk wasting time and resources without having reached any of their target constituencies,” says the paper, which was prepared by NPower Charlotte Region.

In effort known as Project Ignite and funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, NPower Charlotte Region has worked with nonprofits on social-media solutions.

The white paper looks at the way some of those nonprofits are using social media and makes recommendations on how to make effective use of social media.

Social media are “about relationships with people,” the paper says.

And social-media tools, it says, “are like every other marketing and public relations tool – they are useful in some situation sand not in others.”

To be successful in using social media, nonprofits first must determine “what they want to achieve and from whom,” the paper says.

Nonprofit can engage their constituencies in three ways, it says, including recruiting new customers, patrons, volunteers and donors; developing deeper relationships with those constituencies; and retaining existing relationships.

Before deciding how to use social media, the paper says, nonprofits first must ask themselves what they hope to achieve, such as strengthening relationships with existing participants and supporters, or expanding connections with the news media and government leaders.

Because social media are all about increasing engagement with target constituencies, the paper says, nonprofits should make sure they update their social media consistently.

“If you build a reputation for active, thought-provoking posting on your social sites, your followers and friends will come to view your organization as a community leader,” it says. “However, if you let your social sites become stale, people will lose interest.”

So nonprofits should schedule time each, as little as 15 to 30 minutes, to posting fresh content on their social sites.

“Consistent engagement will help keep your organization top-of-mind for your supporters,” the paper says.

Measurement of social-media programs also is important, it says, but nonprofits should “never let the metric of the tool define your metrics.”

Growth in the number of Facebook “fans” for a nonprofit may be “great for Facebook, but what does it mean for your organization?” it says.

So nonprofit should make sure there are “solid and clear base measurements on your desired outcomes,” the paper says. “Setting meaningful and measurable goals is extremely important to adjusting your strategy for the [particularly social-media] tool, for gaining upper management buy-in for the tool and to effectively use the tools.”

Social media are successful when they are “part of your corporate communications and development strategy,” the paper says.

Nonprofits “must match the appropriate target audience and end goal with your choice of social media tool,” it says. “And since social media is so audience-centric, it is crucial that it be consistent, frequent and engaging.”

The paper offers quick steps nonprofits can take to be successful with their approach to social media, as well as tips for structuring their day to manage social media.

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