Social media is all about relationships. It started in the mid-90s when AOL introduced the idea of chat rooms online. Although it seems like a long time ago, it was only 15 years ago. Today, there are a number of social media channels or social networking sites. Here are some of the biggest players:
Boasting millions of users, these social networking sites are rapidly replacing traditional media. Over one-third of Americans are spending more time on social networking sites than watching television, reading newspapers or listening to radio. How does this translate into opportunities for nonprofits?
It may be confusing at first glance but the bottom line is simple: social media is about people making new connections and maintaining their current connections. It’s about growing and cultivating a network of contacts. Fundamentally, it’s about people and relationships. Millions are using social networking sites to share content and have conversations online. This brings us to the main point of social media: conversations and the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
This is not a brand new concept. Word-of-mouth marketing has been around since time began. It is the most effective way to persuade and influence other people. Numerous studies have shown that word-of-mouth marketing is better than advertising and even better than public relations. It’s people influencing people, friends influencing friends. Peers and colleagues hold more influence over their friends’ purchasing and donating decisions than any other source of information.
How do you harness the power of social media? To start, all you need is “real estate,” or a page, for your nonprofit. Having “real estate” in the social media community comes at no price. It’s absolutely free — you just need Internet access to set up a profile. What do you do next? You start sharing information in real time with your “fans”(Facebook) and “followers” (Twitter). Each one of your fans or followers have their own Twitter and Facebook friends. They have a whole different universe of friends, in many cases maybe hundreds and thousands. When your nonprofit sends a message out (a post update on Facebook or a Tweet on Twitter) it can quickly ripple out to thousands, even tens of thousands of people. The reach of your message could be exponential.
Marketing As Its Best
If it is of interest, your message has the possibility to get re-posted and re-tweeted from friend to friend to friend. If nonprofits use it wisely, social media will let your organization cultivate your audience and stay on their radar screen.
As nonprofits, we want to engage new people. We want to capture their attention. Ultimately, of course, we want them to donate money, volunteer and attend our fundraisers. The way to get there from where you are right now is to make friends with them and to keep that friendship alive through regular communication. Just like you would do with any friend.
Social media marketing works. It works because when social media channels are handle and managed well, it creates what feels like a very personal connection. Here are some interesting numbers to consider:
• In 2005, 8% of all adults online had a profile on a social network site. Today 50% do.
• In 2007 total online giving in the USA reached over 10B dollars, which is a 52% increase from 2006.
• 51% of wealthy donors prefer to donate online. Half of them use Social Media to do that.
Social media is a very personal thing. It levels the plain field for small and medium nonprofits. Through social media, nonprofits can cultivate relationships with people who will enthusiastically spread the word about the work your organization does. And do it for free, which is about what most nonprofits can spend on marketing and advertising.