What’s the Point? Outlining the Importance of Social Media Strategy

by Elaina

Original image from flickr user mclib

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been exploring Sparked to find bite sized volunteering projects for when I have downtime. Luckily for me, there are many nonprofits there asking questions about social media and communications, but it’s disappointing to see so many focused on poorly chosen goals and metrics.

Most of the social media and communications requests posted are on topics like, “How can I get more likes for my Facebook page?” and “How can I get more followers on Twitter”. My default response is to ask about their larger communications and/or organizational goals and how more likes or followers will help them get there. The responses that I get back are often that they don’t have a goal, that likes and followers are their only goal, or that they are on social media because a board member told them that they had to be.

I know that nonprofits are not alone in not quite knowing the right ways to use social media towards their goals, as businesses are struggling as well. Small organisations are often frustrated by a lack of progress and want to (re)gain ground as quickly as possible. However, moving ahead without strategy or planning rarely, if ever, leads to true success. Yes, you may get 10,000 likes on Facebook, but if you don’t do anything with them, or don’t know what to do with them, then how are they helping you? Or, as the title of this post more bluntly asks, “What’s the point?”

In order to get more out of your social media activities, it’s important for your team to set aside time to create a comprehensive strategy. Beyond just strategizing about Facebook or Twitter, a comprehensive plan will weave your activities together, and you will have better luck at reaching your goals and use your time and efforts much more efficiently.

Here are some key things to consider as you start thinking about your communications strategy:

  • Include leadership and stakeholders in your planning. You aren’t going to get a good strategy by having a volunteer (or even a paid consultant) write it for you without input. In order to make sure that the goals  selected actually make sense for your organization, you need high-level leadership, your development team, and your communications staff included in the discussions.
  • If you struggle to come up with good goals, think of your ideal outcomes. Many go with the number of Facebook likes, since it’s such an easy metric to measure, but it’s not a goal that will do much for your organization by itself. Try thinking of your ideal outcomes of a successful strategy. Will you gain more donors? Will you gain more volunteers? Will you retain more existing donors? Once you think of positive outcomes, it’s much easier to think of communications goals that will help you get there.
  • Spend time thinking of your target audience(s) and your ideal individual target. As an example, a nonprofit’s ideal donor may be an older individual with considerable financial resources, and their ideal volunteer may be a younger individual who isn’t constrained by family commitments. These two audiences frequent different social networks, engage with traditional media at different levels, and often have different expectations of the nonprofits they engage with. Understanding these targets will guide you to make better decisions about which social media tools to use, how to use them, and how to incorporate traditional media into your strategy.
  • Predict the future by your learning about your past. When researching your target audience(s), nonprofits often forget about a huge treasure trove of information: your donor database records on past and current donors. There you have information about average donations, frequency of donations, donations by geographical area, and possibly even your donors’ age, gender, interests, income, workplace, social media activities, and how they got involved with you. Even if you want to target a different demographic, it’s helpful to know as much as you can about your past successes. Also, as retention is much easier than new acquisition, you don’t want to abandon your current supporters while reaching out to new ones.
  • If you have limited resources, stick to a single goal. As different goals will likely have different target audiences, you may need different strategies for each one. By focusing your efforts on a single goal, you will optimize the limited resources of your staff and achieve better results. As you achieve success on the first goal, you can start working on more down the road.
  • Bring in help when creating your strategy. Having any planning for your communications activities will give you a better chance of success, and many nonprofits do well just working on their own using online strategy guides. When the time comes to look bigger, consider bringing in some outside help. Whether you go with a paid consultant or find a rock star volunteer, you will get better results by bringing in someone with communications expertise and an outside set of eyes.

These tips aren’t enough to create a full communications strategy for your nonprofit or business, but I hope that it helps you make your planning sessions more productive as you get started. Use the comments below to let me know if you have any questions.

Does your nonprofit or business have a social media strategy? How did you build yours? What are your high-level goals?


Looking for more information on building a social media strategy? Check out these resources: