Facebook. Meet Up. Instagram. Linked In. Google+. Flickr. If you are not a current user of one of these social media sites, you might be an inexperienced social media user and think that list is just a mix of sentence fragments or goofy product names. If I were launching a tech or social media start-up today, I would definitely have a Plan B and C and several domain names registered. Just as you might go through an extensive planning process for a start-up (complete with Plan B and C), a little thought into how we use social media in integrated, cross-functional ways to support strategic program objectives can go a long way in achieving measurable impact for your organization, it’s mission and, yes, its fundraising goals.
First, social media allow for seamless interaction and near instantaneous expression of opinions, values and, well, nearly anything for any topic. Each tool is a giant SUV with countless bumper stickers. For organizations with active accounts, social media are valuable tools to interact with current followers and gain new followers. But, often for many organizations, it may not be clear what to do after they get a Facebook “like.” Meetup.com is an excellent example of the Internet as a tool for or path to physical or face-to-face interaction, or some other non-cyber-only interaction. Meetup’s online interface to connect like-minded individuals for face-to-face meetings later is a testament to the synergistic relationship of the online and physical world. For social media tools like Facebook and Google+, the question remaining after the “like” or “follow” is, what’s next? When users make a commitment to a cause or organization online, a huge opportunity opens up for organizations to follow-up and turn a harmless “like” into a volunteer or target for fundraising. So, having a plan to transform “likes” into a “real world” commitments to the organization and its mission is the first way you can create a measurable impact for the people you serve.
Second, social media provide a nearly endless platform for organizations to build their brand and spread their message. Whether you are using Facebook to accompany an earned and paid media outreach campaign or using Instagram to encourage users to attend events, they can provide an immediately measurable way for you to test the impact of your message and mission. Facebook “likes” can be great indicators of whether or not your campaign is reaching its audience and Instagram provides a great avenue to energize your followers’ engagement by allowing them to express their creativity in new ways. So, integrating social media into more traditional media is a great way to give the message “more legs” and measure impact of your messaging program.
Finally, nothing lets you wash, rinse and repeat messages or content quite like social media. For organizations, social media provide instant access to how many users are sharing, liking and reading their content. For a really simple example, maybe a local farmers market is merely trying to drive consumption of locally grown vegetables and the farmers decide to make a post about locally-grown carrots, but, by the end of the day, they notice, no one really “liked” carrots or “shared” that carrots were goodyou’re your health. By the next morning or sooner, the farmers can post other local veggies that members of the community may have a greater interest in, thus driving more interest in their general aim of increasing consumption of locally grown vegetables. Social media can create an instant quality improvement program to messages and content by using the measurement tools and special utility that each site or product may have.
Social media can let you turn online acts into real world action, extend the life and breadth of your message and finely tune your message in nearly instant ways. Of course, these measurable impacts are only as good as the time and resources organizations invest in planning the right approach and using each social networks unique abilities. But, the time and resources are well worth it when the measurable impact pays dividends for the long-term success of your organization’s mission.