When you look at a new website, it’s similar to meeting someone for the first time. First impressions count, right, even if you can overcome them with a lot of work later? But with so many websites competing for readers’ attention, it’s a lot harder to get that chance for a second impression.
What reaction do you want your readers to have: a smirk, eyes rolling, or yes, it could be eyes widening in delight? A website is the public face of your organization, and while you’ll never see visitors making those faces, you and your organization will feel the effects of them.
A website shows an organization’s brand, its personality, who it is to their customers or supporters. Some websites shout loudly but don’t have much to say, but I tend to think far too many websites whisper quietly, and get lost in the conversation online.
Developing a social media strategy is one of the first steps to understand how to get your organization’s message out to the world.
It’s not easy. There are no quick fixes, but it’s not just about posting a few messages on your channels every week and responding to a couple of comments. It’s about developing long-term relationships, building trust, and finding and bringing the right audience to you.
You don’t want to post too many fundraisers or ask your audience to participate in too many campaigns without providing any useful content, advice, or offering to answer questions. Otherwise, you will alienate your audience. You want to work on understanding what your goals are and what you want to give your audience. If you give to them, they will be more willing to support you.
The following series will walk you through six steps to develop this strategy — When, Who, Why, What, Where, and How.
Don’t just skip to the how part of this series. It doesn’t work that way!
This is the fifth part in a series of posts about developing your social media strategy. Here, we will look at the section that you’ve been waiting for: how to implement your strategy.
HOW Will You Do This?
Believe it or not, you already have a lot of the strategy worked out. Who is your audience? What platforms do you have already? Where is your audience hanging out? Why are you doing this?
You should be able to use what you have answered to these questions to write the specifics of your action plan. The actual implementation of this plan (sometimes referred to as tactics) is the easier part.
Track what is being said about you
One of the easiest ways to do this is to set up alerts for several search engines (not just Google), and keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook (using search, hashtags and Twitter lists). For example, the business in Tanzania that I work with has alerts set up to monitor the name of the business, Arusha, Tanzania, porter’s rights, eco-friendly, and Kilimanjaro. Those are the priority words for now, but we could also easily expand that list to include alerts on safaris or climbing.
Set it up in a spreadsheet, or if you want it very simple, just a text document (like Google Docs or Word). This doesn’t need to be fancy either if you do not have the time or money. The most important part is that you are aware of what’s being said and have this information in one place so that you can look at it over time.
If your organization is still new or small enough that you are not yet generating a lot of discussion, you can still find people that are talking about what your organization does. It’s likely that is where you can start interacting with your audience.
If you decide to use any of the social media monitoring tools out there, consider pulling out the most relevant information and tracking it separately. Otherwise it can get overwhelming, and it can prove useful if you need to provide a short report to someone else in your organization who either does not have access to these tools or does not understand them. I personally like Hootsuite, but that might also be because I’ve spent the most time with this tool. With Hootsuite, you can easily set up lists by hashtag or keyword, as well as customize your own, and stream it all in one place.
Develop an editorial calendar
Plan a broad outline for the next six months to a year, depending on what’s going on in your organization. We already talked about setting goals, and now that you have some of them outlined, it will be easier to decide what useful content you want to push out on social media.
As you are probably realizing, you should not just be pushing out promotional material, fundraisers, or calls for action. This is about interacting with your audience in a way that will meet their needs, but at the same time give them a reason to follow and support you. It’s about what you can offer them.
It’s also important to figure out how you can tell the story of your organization in a way that resonates with your audience. This story can be interspersed with posts that offer value to your customer or supporter, as well as some posts that either ask for donations or are promotional in other ways. Remember that your content should not only include text, but also images, graphics and video when it makes sense.
In an article on Copyblogger, Zack Grossbart and Justin Evans discuss editorial calendars for bloggers, but you can also take this information and use it just as easily for your organization. One important point they make is that having a calendar in front of you will help determine how best to promote this content. Should you push the content out in one day or over a series of weeks? How can you add more to this content to make it richer?
Your calendar should, when possible, line up with what’s going on in the world. For example, October 16, 2013, was Blog Action Day and the theme was human rights. If you’re a nonprofit, I’m sure there was some way you could have joined in to participate, even if it was just a tweet in support of the day. Also, February is black history month, March is women’s month, April is genocide month. Find out what’s going on in your field (or local area geographically) and determine how you can participate.
Decide what platforms you will use
Again, by now, you know your audience and you know where they are online, and you’ve assessed what you have in the online world, so you should already have an idea of what platforms make the most sense for your organization.
As I noted in part four, if your budget is small, you should still have a passive presence on a number of platforms. But then you should narrow it down to what platforms you are going to engage on with your audience everyday.
In “Which Social Media Networks Should My Nonprofit Use?” Cody Damon looks at a number of platforms in detail: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and Google+. He tells you about the audience on each platform (although gender and age should not be the only reasons to pick a platform). He also lets you know where the numbers came from, so you can assess it for yourself.
Plan for each channel strategically
What social media sites did you decide on? It’s a good idea to keep at least a broad track record of exactly what goes out on each channel so that you can look back at a glance and see what’s going on (this might be in addition to the editorial calendar, which also tracks possible future ideas. Sometimes it’s simpler to have two documents; do what makes the most sense for your organization. This would also be in addition to measurement, discussed below).
While you will want to re-use similar content across channels, it’s important to remember people use different social media channels for different reasons. What resonates on Facebook will not necessarily work in exactly the same way on Twitter. Tailor each post to that channel’s audience.
Develop a process for how posts will go out. How are you going to find out what’s going out via the website, press releases, and other channels? If you have more than one person posting to a channel, it’s vital that everyone understands the voice of the organization, is aware of what is being posted and when, and that branding is consistent across channels. Some paid social media tools make this more convenient, but it’s possible to manage this without them, if you do not currently have the funds.
Experiment often and adapt
Depending on the dynamics of your organization, this can sometimes be difficult. Ideally, you want to work within a culture that is interested in trying out numerous ideas, adopting what works, and discarding what does not. In social media, what works one week might not work another week. It’s important to try out ideas quickly and see what happens. If you wait too long the audience mood may have shifted.
Research what organizations similar to you are experimenting with. But remember, as I discussed in “Contemplating a Communication Shift Along a Rural Road Outside Arusha, Tanzania,” what works for others will not necessarily work for your organization. What they do can be studied and adapted, but not copied. Each strategy has to be tailored to fit that one organization based on its specific needs and audience.
How will you measure this? How will you define success? How will you know if you were successful? There are a lot of tools out there to help you measure how you’re doing on social media. Figure out exactly what you want to measure. Make sure that you’re not just crunching numbers but that you have time to analyze what you’re doing.
Track each channel separately and then pull it all in together and either look at weekly or monthly reports (check out Beth Kanter and KD Paine’s Measuring the Networked Nonprofit to start). Also, make sure that you’re not only looking at numbers but dialogue on your channels.
It can help to write down the start date of what you are measuring and when you are going to assess it. Otherwise, time can get away from you. When will you re-evaluate each of the tools or what you are doing with them? Will you give yourself one month or three months?
When will you need to re-evaluate your overall goals? This will probably depend on your organization’s strategic plan and how often that changes.
What did I miss? If you’re out there reading, let me know I’m reaching you in the comments below.