Aligning Social Media with Organizational Goals

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Social Media Rubix Cube

Having a “presence” in social media is worthless unless you do something with it. It isn’t enough to merely have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Change.org and half a dozen other platforms. Nor is it enough that your employees “use” these accounts. The truth is that unless your social media activities are aligned with clear goals, they are probably not bringing any tangible value to your nonprofit.

Having a social media program without attaching it to some sort of goal creates unnecessary work for your staff. Someone has to write blog posts, someone has to push out content to social networking sites, someone has to read and respond to comments. And, as long as that someone is doing all of that, she or he isn’t doing something else. In other words, we are talking about the opportunity cost. That is, the cost of doing one activity instead of another. For example, your employee focusing on social media could be writing grant proposals or making calls to potential donors. The point is, of all the activities your employee could be focusing on, is social media the best choice? The answer depends upon the value social media brings to your organization.

An employee who uses social media to catch up with friends on Facebook doesn’t create a lot of value for your nonprofit. Neither does an employee watching YouTube videos of the latest Justin Bieber songs. What this amounts to is wasted productivity and is exactly how at-work social media usage gets a bad name and undermines its strategic value to your organization. On the other hand, an employee who monitors Facebook for positive and negative mentions of your nonprofit, manages donors request in real time on Twitter, or engages in reputation management on Google+ is doing work that brings value to your organization.

How do we, then, transition from having employees “using social media” to using the same tools to advance the mission of your nonprofit? To answer that question, you must have a clear understanding of your organization’s overall strategy and how social media can help you achieve your goals. Once you defined the role of social media in your organizational strategy, you can establish a social media strategy. It is from a clearly articulated social media strategy that value will follow. Your employees will be supporting specific and measurable goals and objectives, not something random and intangible.

Olivier Blanchard in his book “Social Media ROI” sheds great insight on successfully defining strategy, tactics, goals and targets – and understanding the difference between them. A strategy, according to Blanchard, is a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal. A tactic is the means or method by which a strategy is carried out. A goal, Blanchard points out, is the organization’s desired end point (also known as an objective) and a target is the specific value assigned to an objective within a finite time frame.

Having that in mind, let’s say that your organization’s goal is to raise more money from small individual donors. You decide that social media can be an important vehicle to reach these donors. Translating this into a social media strategy, you plan to use Facebook to increase your reach and prospect-to-donors conversions. Two of the tactics that you can use on Facebook are: a) discount tickets to your next gala event for connections on Facebook upon their first online donation; and b) $5 off to an upcoming event (like a wine tasting) to anyone who shares your Facebook page with his or her network of friends.

Now let’s talk about targets. If the goal is to increase new donors, the target can then be expressed as 100 new donors in the first quarter.

A second example of aligning your social media activities with the overall organizational strategy is on online reputation management. Let’s say that the organizational goal is to improve its overall image. You then plan to use Facebook, Twitter and blogs to measure the pulse of your brand and to build a positive reputation about your organization. Three tactics that you can use are: a) monitor, respond and engage in conversations happening around your nonprofit; b) proactively identify advocates and build relationships with key influencers; and c) create and share valuable content to position your company as trust-worthy leader. In terms of a specific target, it could be expressed as a shift from the current 1:4 ratio of positive-to-negative comments on Facebook, Twitter and blogs to a 1:1 ratio on the same channels by year end.

I hope these examples illustrate how you can align your social media activities with broader organizational objectives. On my next blog post, I will talk about focusing on creating a roadmap by turning goals into targets.

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