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Nonprofits and Emerging Media: 5 Top Tips

By Apr 30, 2013

When a nonprofit considers the best way to maximize social and mobile media, it’s important to understand that while these channels are great at establishing dialogue and credibility, and for keeping the nonprofit’s audience current, they aren’t always the best at converting those segments into givers.

Facebook is the most used social platform for nonprofits, and it can be effective because of its ease of use, high user rate, and compatibility with mobile. Twitter also works well to communicate quickly around big events and disasters. But, as is true of any marketing communications today, for social and mobile to work for you and your organization, you need to create messages that deliver relevance.

Here are five things to consider when trying to engage more folks for your cause:

1) Start with a plan. That plan needs to include a realistic goal—more followers, more tweets and more direct donations from social and/or mobile. It also needs to address how to speak effectively to each of your segments with messaging that matters. And it needs to address what tools you will use and how much you will invest to deepen your existing relationships and obtain new relationships. And notice that I did not say donors, but relationships.

2) Encourage sharing and re-posting. Social and mobile are great at creating dialogue. If you can influence a smaller, more vocal group of people who are willing to “spread the gospel,” that’s the group to reach first. They will help your social and mobile become more effective, faster.

3) Don’t think of social as just a single medium. Understand how social can improve communications with your donors overall. Don’t consider it as solely a means to acquire additional donations. It’s best used in conjunction with a website and/or microsites and email communications, as well as wrapped in traditional media like direct mail.

4) Take it slowly and don’t expect miracles. Think of social and mobile as being like a relationship. Good ones get better over time. If your messaging is relevant, people will come to trust you more and more. Donations will follow, but do not expect them to convert from traditional donors to social/mobile donors overnight.

5) Test. Social media and mobile are really direct response mediums. They are testable, segmentable and trackable. A 65-year-old donor and 25-year-old donor may require different messaging, different frequency of outreach and different channels to reach them.

For example, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) was trying to gain members from a segment where it lacked deep credibility: female veterans. The organization created a subsegment called She-Serves, along with a stand-alone website as the hub for its marketing activity.

Facebook was used as the primary driver to establish a new community, and a small sample of enthusiastic and passionate female veterans were used to spread the word about the initiative. Email was used as follow-up, and the ongoing communication outlet was an e-newsletter. The goal was to re-establish credibility with the group and simply get females to join the Facebook community. In year two and forward, the goal was to drive female membership after a year’s worth or relevant communication.

Traditional direct mail was used as the driver to convert the engaged social media users into VFW members. The result: 400% increase in female members in years two and three of the campaign.

By taking it slowly, testing and adjusting content based on feedback in year one, the VFW was able to take its findings and convert more prospects into members by using social media in a way that was engaging and meaningful to its target audience.

So, go ahead, add social and meaningful mobile to your donor and prospective donor mix. You will be surprised by how much great feedback you’ll get that will help not only with your communication outreach, but also with your donor/member growth—just by taking the time to discover what your constituency wants.

Grant A. Johnson is the Ambassador of Fun at Brookfield, WI-based Johnson Direct.