Source: Dollar Bin, Flickr
In February, I'll be co-teaching the "WeAreMedia Live" intensive two-day workshop in San Francisco from NTEN. The goal is to help participants create a social media strategy AND take a deep dive into the tactics and tools of social media.
One of the challenges, of course, is integrating social media strategy with overall communications planning as well as Internet strategy without having the time in the workshop to drill down into those other topics. I've also been looking at examples from the corporate sector like the POST method from Forrester and thinking about adaptions for nonprofit. I've come up with synthesis - a worksheet, how-to points, and resources that would guide an organization to think strategically about social media.
Here's a roadmap and worksheet to do just that! Special thanks to Qui Diaz and Danielle Brigidia for giving this a real world test from the vantage point of a social media strategist in a nonprofit organization. What else might you add or change?
The Social Media Strategy Map and Worksheet
1. Identify Objectives
- What do you want to accomplish with social media?
- Now, restate your objective so it is “SMART” – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based?
- Describe how your social media objective supports or links to a goal your organization’s communications plan?
Set objectives based on a clear understanding of how social media changes the feedback loop between your organization and stakeholders. The key thing that is different with setting a social media objective is that it is not about reaching a mass audience and blasting your message out, it is more about reaching the influencers, developing relationships, having a conversation, and getting insights. Make your objectives "SMART" (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound)
- Listening and Learning: You're monitoring what stakeholders are saying about your organization, your issue, or programs and using the information to support your marketing goals. You're testing different social media tactics and learning what works.
- Build Relationships and Issues Awareness: You’re interacting with key audiences on the social media channel in order to build awareness for your organization's brand. You’re increasing your visibility in the right areas and trying to stick in the minds of others through active interaction on many different levels.
- Improve Reputation: You want to improve how others think about your organization or issue and are responding directly to feedback through social media channels. You may also want to improve your organization's reputation as an expert by being consistently involved in discussions on topics or aggregating information that are relevant to your organization.
- Content Generation and Issues Awareness: You encourage stakeholders to create content about your organization or it's issues and share it with others and encouraging fans to talk about your issues to others (word of mouth).
- Increased Relevant Visitor Traffic and Page Rankings: You're using social media tactics to drive traffic to your organization's web site or newsletter sign up or improving search engine results or using social media channels to spread your web site or blog content.
- Taking Action or Fundraising: You're using social media tactics to spur supporters to action or donate. Remember this objective will take considerable more time and effort to be successful.
Jeremiah Owyang, 50 Ways to Use Social Media Listed by Objective
Dosh Dosh, Social Media Marketing Campaign Objectives and Audience Defintion
2. Identify the Audience
- Who must you reach with your social media efforts to meet your objective? Why this target group?
- Is this a target group identified in your organization’s communications plan?
- What do they know or believe about your organization or issue? What will resonate with them?
- What key points do you want to make with your audience?
- What social media tools are they currently using? If they congregate in certain online locales, what are they talking about in relation to your brand/goals/issues/competitors? Describe based on secondary research, direct observation, or primary research.
- What additional research do you need to do to learn about your target audience’s online social behavior or understanding/perceptions about your organization or issues?
As with any marketing effort, the first step to success is identifying who your organization wants to reach and find out how they are using social media. There is more and more audience research for users of particular social media tools and a lot of it is free. It pays to spend a few hours reviewing the demographic or “technographic” details (what people are doing online).
While secondary research may help inform what general direction you may want to go in, there is no substitute for primary research. And while surveys, focus groups and other services can give you an analysis of what your current audience is doing online, direct observation is works best. For instance, if you are considering a Facebook profile, before you set up an organizational presence - spend some time searching to see if and if anyone has set up a Fan Page or Group to talk about your organization or issue area. Or, if you are considering a blog, find out who the key bloggers are in your topic area. This will allow you to observe what your audience is saying in their natural environment. Some social media strategists call this step “listening” and it is essential first step in developing your social media strategy.
Beth Kanter, “Ten Free Resources for Social Media Audience Research for Nonprofits
Jeremiah Owyang, Social Network Sites Use Analysis - Compilation of Research Facts
Josh Bernhoff, Social Technographics 2008
- How does your social media support other components of your Internet strategy plan?
- Is there an “offline” marketing push that you need to support/connect?
Your social media should be in perfect harmony with your Internet strategy and support or objectives established for your web site and outbound communications.
- Homebase: Home base is your organization's website. But as adoption of social media becomes more "mainstreamed," homebase could be your blog or both. Not everyone needs a web site and a blog - that age old question - to blog or not to blog? Some organizations consolidate. You need to think about how to link or integrate your social media strategy. We are moving towards having the organization's web presence be less static information and more interactive or social.
- Outbound Communication: This includes all your "one-way we're talking to you" tactics. This is mostly email marketing -- crafting and putting out solid email newsletters and communications which includes having an adequate CRM (constituent relationship management) software and email broadcasting software. It also includes search engine optimization strategy and, if appropriate, search engine advertising. Email will probably not become extinct - so it is important to continue to track its effectiveness.
- Social: This is your social media strategy and includes time spent listening, establishing a presence and building a relationship with your targeted audience on social media outposts like Twitter or Facebook, and tracking and adapting your efforts. To prioritize your time, it is better to go deep on a smaller number of outposts.
Remember, social media can also be used to connect people to offline actions and events.
- What Slice of the Internet Budget Pie Should Social Media Get? by Beth Kanter
- Online Communications On Shoe String by Colin Delaney and Laura Quinn
- Message in A Box: Search Engine Optimization
- Message in A Box Email Marketing
- Message in A Box: Web Site Planning
- Sony Bolsters Web Presence with Social Networking Features by PR Week
4. Culture Change
- Once you have an initial strategy, how do you get your organization to own it?
- How will you address any fears or concerns?
- What is the rate of change your organization can tolerate?
As with the introduction of any new technology or anything new for that matter, there are bound to be fears and concerns expressed by others in your organization. Common concerns about social media from nonprofits may include:
- Loss of control over your organization's branding and marketing messages
- Dealing with negative comments
- Addressing personality versus organizational voice
- Not being successful, fear of failure
- Perception of wasted of time and resources
- Suffering from information overload already, this will cause more
To be successful, social media requires a mix of authenticity, openness, transparency and to a certain extent giving up control. This is a different way of working. Change does not happen in organizations unless there is education through discussion. Many nonprofits use different strategies, from adding social media demos to staff meeting agenda or including a strategy brainstorm as part of a staff retreat.
One of the best ways to educate people about social media is find examples of similar nonprofits and present information on how they’ve used social media. Some boards and senior managers may only understand numbers. They want to know what the results are, so be sure to talk to other nonprofits who are using social media effectively to find out how it worked for them. When you can show examples, facts with numbers attached, and insights, it can spark a productive conversation.
Sometimes being a social media evangelist and only touting the benefits can backfire. It is important to explore both positives and negatives perceptions and alternatives. The fear of wasted time and resources also needs to be addressed. In the early stages of social media strategy development and implementation, there will be mistakes because you need to find out what works and what doesn't for your organization. Learning is part of the process. Some key organizational decision-makers may still think of social media as something for teenagers, not understand it, or point to other organizational priorities. To pave the way to successful adoption, you need to have the conversation in your organization about these issues. Be sure to step back and explain social media in a way that others in your organization can understand if they are new to social media.
It also important to have an upfront understanding of what the
organization's staff will and will not do on the social web before
implementation begins. If your organization sets up a blog, you need to
establish a blogging policy first. The process of creating a policy can
also lead to a deeper understanding of the benefits and value of social
If, for example, your organization will be using social networking sites, staff members need to figure out how they will professionally represent themselves with their individual profiles. You also need to determine how your organization might respond to negative comments on the blog or on an online forum or social networking site. What will you do if a fan sets up a page on Facebook that doesn't use your “approved” messaging or branding as in this example from the Chicago Symphony
Colin McKay, The Secret Underground Guide to Social Media for Organizations
Marshall Kirkpatrick, Ten Common Objections to Social Media Adoption
Maddie Grant, Five Fears Associations Have About Social Media
Robin Broitman, How To Sell Social Media To Cynics, Skeptics, Luddites - Tips, Resources, and Advice
- Who will implement your organization’s social media strategy?
- Can you allocate a minimum of five hours per week to your strategy once you've passed the learning curve?
- Do you have the most efficient work flow and tasks in place?
- Do you need any outside expertise?
- Will your content updates depend on any other resource or person?
Depending on your strategy, implementation can take anywhere from a minimum of 5 hours per week to over 20 hours per week. Keep in mind these are rough estimates. As with any new skill, you need to factor in learning curve time. As soon as you have the workflow in memory and have it down to an efficient routine, it will take less time. Most importantly, it is how you manage your online time. Are you staying on task and getting the workflow done for each specific strategy? It is also important to keep in mind that it often takes a few months before you see begin to see results from your social media effort.
It is important to consider who is going to implement your organization's social media strategy. Whether you hire someone new or entrust an existing employee with the role, the person in charge should be comfortable using the tools, passionate about your organization's programs, and should enjoy interacting with other people. It is after all, called “social media.” That said, social media should not exist in a silo and be implemented as a supplemental channel by "a young intern alone in the corner." It needs to be owned by the entire organization.
There are definitely pros and cons to using volunteers and interns to implement your social media strategy. On the one hand, it is a great to begin testing social media without the investment of staff time, particularly when budgets are lean. On the other hand, it may not be an effective in the long run. What happens when your intern moves on? Does anyone staff know how to manage the Facebook Fan Page left behind?
Consider whether your staff may need additional training or could benefit from outside expertise as part of the implementation. Sometimes it may be a matter of allocating work time to the efforts.
Heather Gardner-Madras, Should You Use A Volunteer or Intern To Do Your Social Media?
Nina Simon, How Much Time Does It Take To Do Social Media?
Beth Kanter, 52 Ways To Streamline Your Social Media Use
Beth Kanter, Social Media Strategy Is Everywhere in the Organization - Indianapolis Museum of Art
Beth Kanter, How Much Time Does It Take To Do Social Media?
CC Maine, Tweeting 9-5: The Daily Routine of a Slightly Insane Social Media Strategist
6. Tactics and Tools
- What tactics and tools best support your objectives and match your targeted audience?
- What tactics and tools do you have the capacity to implement?
- What can learn from the experience of other organizations?
There are literally thousands of potential social media software tools available that you could use as part of your social media strategy. For the WeAreMedia curriculum, tools should be selected in the context of five broad tactical approaches. The Social Media Strategy Map offers some overview questions, but in the workshop most of the second day will take a deep dive into these tactics and tools so that participants will have a detailed action plan for the specific strategy.
- What is your original, measurable objective (e.g., # of event attendees or petitions signed)?
- What hard data points or metrics will you use to track your objectives? How often will you track? Do you have the systems and tools set up to track efficiently?
- How will you harvest insights from hard data and qualitative data as the project unfolds? What questions will you ask to generate insights? Who will participate?
You need to pick the right hard data points or metrics that will help you track your objectives. It is important to look at trend movements and changes over time, not just numbers. But hard data points alone won't give you much value unless you harvest insights to improve your social media strategy. For social media, it is also important not to look at a single metric, you will have to evaluate your strategy performance from multiple dimensions.
Avi Kaplan and Stacey Monk - Examples of Metrics for Twitter Campaign (1 2 3)
Rachel Happe, Collecting All Social Media Metrics
Beth Kanter, Using Metrics to Harvest Insights About Your Social Media Strategy
Social Media Metrics Wiki
- What small piece can you implement first as a pilot?
- How will you learn from the pilot for your next experiment?
As many nonprofit early adopters have learned, the secret to social media strategy success is careful, low-risk experimentation. Put another way, "You need to have failures before you can have success." Your initial experiments will be designed around trying out the tools and techniques. What's important is to set up some discovery questions on the front end and keep a constant eye on what works and what doesn't. Understand that you will most likely fail in these early efforts, so don't be risk adverse. Learn from the mistakes and reiterate over time.
The most point is that you set up a system for learning how to improve your social media efforts over time.
Wendy Harman of the Red Cross recommends these steps to planning and designing your first experiment:
- Pick a social media project that won’t take much time and relates to goals
- Write down your successes
- Write down your challenges
- Ask or listen to the people you connect with about what worked and what didn't
- Watch other nonprofits and copy and remix for your next project.
- Rinse, repeat.
Are We There Yet? A Communications Evaluation Guide by Edith Asibey
WeAreMedia: Best Practices for Social Media Experiments
The New Collective Focus Group by David Armano