Using my online marketing skills to generate a positive social impact is something that is pretty important to me. It is not surprising then that I get excited when Sprout Online works with not for-profit-organisations (NFPs) to build their online presence. I was recently chatting to the head of digital marketing at a reasonably sized NFP about the difficulty he has had in getting his senior management team onboard with social media. I put together a brief document titled ‘the benefits of social media marketing for NFPs’ in an effort to assist him to educate his team that I thought I would share.
The benefits of social media marketing for not-for-profits
NFP organisations can benefit greatly from an active and engaged presence online. An online presence through social media and blogs is essential in a saturated and competitive environment where NFPs are competing for donations, awareness and ways to proactively engage their audiences, advocates, clients/beneficiaries and donors. A presence on social media can drive awareness for a particular cause, cultivate donor relationships, promote events, communicate information about a particular cause or service, and open two-way communication with advocates, volunteers, clients/beneficiaries and staff like never before. Blogs are a great tool to share stories, images and videos of the positive impact your organisation is having on the community.
Why does social media marketing not always work effectively for NFPs?
Lack of planning
Many people are of the opinion that because they are promoting a social cause, they will receive attention in the social media world regardless of how and what they post online. As a result, they spend no or little time planning or thinking strategically about what content is appropriate for each social media platform, or how they can tailor specific material to each segment of their target market. Fans and followers become disengaged and stop donating or being an advocate for the organisation and what it espouses. To avoid this common problem, NFP organisations need to think strategically about what content they post online – What is interesting to their supporters? How can they thank their supporters? They should develop a content calendar that maps out what and when content is going to be posted so as to align with events, days of action, campaigns, etc.
Limited knowledge of social media
A marketer (or anyone for that matter) does not know what they do not know. Social media marketing is a rapidly changing space and it is therefore important that NFPs remain up-to-date with developments so that they can maximise the opportunities available to build their reach and engagement online.
Lack of strategy
Before a NFP organisation signs up for every possible social media platform, they need to have clear answers to the following questions:
- Who is their target market? Are their segments within that target market?
- Where is the target market hanging out online? (ie which social media platforms do they frequent?)
- Do partner organisations have a presence on social media? Which platforms?
- Do similar/competitor organisations have a presence on social media? Which platforms?
Too often, a NFP makes an assumption that they should have a presence on every social media platform but this can be incorrect especially if their target market is not located there. Given the limited resources of NFPs, many are better of focusing their social media efforts on two social media platforms (for example, Twitter and Facebook) than spreading themselves across every platform.
Lack of relationship
Many NFPs continue to have a very traditional understanding of marketing. They communicate to the ‘masses’ with little regard for differences within their target segment and are surprised when they receive few responses. Social media has shaped the creation of a different approach to marketing, one that is more personalised and tailored to the audience it is aimed at. While social media provides opportunities for ads in the way traditional media does, its real power is in its ability to assist NFPs to:
- Develop relationships with supporters, advocates and donors
- Facilitate discussions with supports, advocates and donors
- Educate supporters, advocates and donors
- Promote events and campaigns
- Share ideas and opinions on issues.
No clear point of difference
There is a proliferation of NFPs engaging on social media. Most of us are overwhelmed by a never-ending stream of requests from thousands of organisations all asking us to pitch in and help their worthy cause. How organisations position and differentiate themselves from others is a critical element of their marketing strategy.