Your not-for-profit requires a game plan on social media, rather than just a presence.
Many Executive Directors and senior staff sometimes believe that adopting every technological solution available is the obvious and inevitable path to efficiency and success. There is often a myth that if you’re not evolving - you’re dying. For example, I’ve seen my fair share of management executives fervently embrace social media as an absolute necessity in 2018, only to find that pushing out messaging and content on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat is fruitless. The gains in membership engagement and recognition that they assumed would occur just didn’t materialize and they are left discouraged and wondering what went wrong. When this happens, it’s not uncommon to see feeds and pages go completely silent, with no updates for months if not years. Not all social channels are equal. Some are more casual and fleeting than others. Some attract a different demographic. Some are character and link restrictive and are limited in terms of what they can articulate. Non-for-profit associations require a well thought out strategy on social that is focused on earning valuable attention from users.
There is a five step process that I suggest when determining which social channels should be considered.
1. Identify your goal. Don’t just assume you have to be on social because that’s what people expect. Why are you on social media? If your aim is to attract and engage membership more effectively than the four newsletters you put out every year, then define it as such. Seeking to attract more visitors to your website? Looking to more efficiently communicate with your membership via instant messaging? Whatever your goal, social should compliment your overall communications and marketing strategy as an effective extension.
2. Identify your demographic. How old is your membership? Is it primarily women or men? What is the average age of your audience? Sprout Social published a fantastically interesting post on their blog last year asking these kinds of questions. These kinds of questions will play a role in the next step.
3. Identify the correct social channel. Just because people are on a social network doesn’t mean they log on to it daily, nor does it mean they are your target audience. Did you know that 76% of adults use Facebook daily compared to 18% on Linkedin? Did you know that Twitter’s biggest segment of users are aged 18-29? The majority of Instagram's users are the same age segment as Twitter (18-29) but generally stay on the platform for twice the amount of time. Linkedin has the highest concentration of post secondary graduates and high income earners for a social feed. Did you know that Youtube is widely considered to be the most effective social network for marketing of any kind? Identifying where your audience is is as important as determining what you’re going to say to them.
4. Create a content strategy. This is key. Quality is better than frequency. Approach what you want to share socially with expectation. A good content strategy is informative, engaging, and intellectually valuable. Determine a posting pace that keeps you in front of membership appropriately. Identify the ideal times to publish content. Sprout social crafted a great post this year about the ideal times to post on social based on industry. On that note, instead of juggling two or three different accounts manually, a good content strategy is elevated by a good social media management software like Sprout Social or Social Pilot - where you can schedule content out on different platforms. One of the things I strongly suggest to clients is that they establish a home base of original and well written information, almost in an editorial fashion, that is the primary source of content. A really well written blog post that employs share icons in the footer of a post can gain significant traffic through social feeds and increases the share index of a piece.
5. Identify a metric that can be gauged. How do you know your content strategy is successful? I look at vanity metrics (LMFS or likes, mentions, follows, and shares) as an important element of whether or not a social strategy is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. The more these things occur, the more exponentially successful a post or image is.
I also look at the engagement rate based on the aforementioned. Different social platforms will have different engagement rates. As an example, the engagement rate on Instagram is higher than any other social network. It averages about 3-6% versus 0.5 - 1% on Facebook or Twitter. Calculating your engagement rate is important to determine where you sit based on the average. An engagement rate is typically defined as the total number of LMFS on a post divided by the total number of followers you have on the platform. Take that resulting number and multiply it by 100. Your engagement rate represented as a percentage is what remains. This is a great key performance indicator that you don’t need a software to help you determine.
Seek analytics. Most social media management softwares will provide some key gauges on how you’re doing. Use them. If you’ve installed Google Analytics on your website, you can determine how much of your traffic is coming directly from your social strategy and how long they’re staying. Often, the social channel itself will provide a piece of code (like Facebook Pixels) that can be incorporated into a website to establish more precise analytics on social advertising efforts (if that’s something you pursue). Maybe there’s a specific conversion you’re seeking. A download of a document. A view on a video. A direct message interaction rate you’re seeking to achieve with your audience. Establish key performance indicators and define a benchmark/expectation. There needs to be a return on the investment of time, money, or both, and setting the goal posts is an important element of the equation.
Social media is a marathon, not a race. Not- for- profit associations are wise to treat it as a highly effective form of communication that can be more influential, immediate, and accessible than email or print collateral. With that said, it is important to approach social media with patience and focus, understanding that if managed with the correct expectations, the medium can significantly elevate your overall marketing and communications strategy by creating a responsive and informative value for members and stakeholders.