This morning I participated in one of the Chronicle's Live Chat Discussions that was billed as "How Can Charities Figure out How Much Time and Money To Invest in Social Media." The transcript is here.
I logged in 30 minutes before the discussion began and there were already a dozen questions that required some thought in answering. I can type and think fast, but the discussion still ran over an hour. At times I was sorely missing the ability to ping someone in my network to answer the question. I love the Chronicle live discussions, but would love to see a design that integrates a networked approach versus Expert Q/A.
Despite consuming a lot of coffee, I wasn't able to answer all the questions. So, here's an analysis of the questions by topic. I've given a twitter like response and a few links in each section. These questions could generate at least two months were of blog posts! As you can see, there is a wide range - from those related to the topic of effective social media use as well as those more about tools and tactics.
- Are there any benchmarks as a result of social network giving?
No social media benchmarks on giving (yet). Last May, NTEN, Common Knowledge, and The Port implemented a nonprofits and social networking study. Recently, Case Foundation released a reflection paper on the America's Giving Challenge (I co-wrote it with Allison Fine) In addition there is a nonprofit blogging benchmark, the List of Change. KD Paine has also just launched a benchmarking service.
- How can we measure ROI on social networking sites?
Yes you can! In the early phases, you'll be looking to reap insights about to improve your strategy. Remember, goals drive metrics and metrics drive results. Results are the way you can determine if something provided value.
- We read a lot of social media success stories and metrics from the corporate world, as well as from large and/or grassroots-oriented political nonprofits. How can we apply these stories to smaller nonprofits, or those that do not involve grassroots advocacy or widespread volunteer opportunities? How can we adjust their metrics of success to compare to our own?
Find other similar organizations and set up your own benchmarks. Make sure that you set realistic and tangible goals give your capacity to implement and audience. Recently, Case Foundation released a reflection paper on the America's Giving Challenge (I co-wrote it with Allison Fine) and many of the winners were smaller organizations.
- What are the donation conversion rates for fans and followers acquired via social networking? Where can I find metrics to validate an increased investment in platforms like Facebook and Twitter?
I wish I had that information too. I don't think we're there yet, but KD Paine has just launched a benchmarking service which should get us closer.
- Do we measure successes on each social network separateley? Do we count by followers/friends or by reposts or interactions?
If your goal is relationships, there are special formulas to measure relationships and engagement. See this post and be sure to read KD Paine's comment.
- One of our goals for using Facebook/Twitter is to inform our members and the general public. How do we track an ROI for this type of goal? Or can we?
Yes you can. Read KD Paine's 7 steps to measurement success.
- We dove head-first into the web 2.0 world and are now at the point of measuring results and progress. We are considering focus groups as a means of gathering constituent preferences and qualitative data to figure out if these new channels are where we need to be focusing our efforts. Especially as print publications are under more financial and budgetary scrutiny. Do you have any insight into focus groups and how best to utilize them for measuring alternative communication vehicles like the social media sphere?
A focus group for social media is no different than focus group about football. Same for surveys. You might also want to incorporate a social media channel to do some research as well. There's a terrific example from Nina Simon about how the Smithsonia used Twitter as a focus group. I'm using my Facebook Fan Page as a focus group right now.
- Should an organization require that its employees create individual facebook (or like social media) pages as a way of spreading information about the organization. It it blurring the lines between work and home. I have read about asking volunteers to talk up the organization on their sites, but we are conflicted about having paid staff do it.
- How do organizations encourage staff (all staff, not just communications or development staff) to use these social networking tools? And if these program staff are using social networking tools for outreach, what are the costs and benefits? For instance, one perceived cost is the increased amount of time staff spend on facebook doing non-work related things. How do you measure the overall benefit of social networking tools?
- Your blog this morning featured an article on the Red Cross and had a link to their social media handbook. Do you have any other examples that might be good for a company to reference in order to develop their own policy?
- Do you know of any examples of social media policies that work well around an organization's use of facebook, twitter, etc.?
All these questions are answered in my blog posts on policy
- What are the "good sense" rules about posting personal information on our organizations web or social networking site?
The answers can be found here.
- As a follow up to the staff policy question, do you feel that organizations are more willing to engage in social media if management feels the policies in place for staff will prevent them from public negative comments? Feel free to address that all in one question if you want. Thanks!
- My question relates to liability issues and the posting of private content or inflammatory material on a social networking site. Is the institution that sponsors the page responsible for the content of the posts?
I'm not a lawyer. Can't answer. Anyone want to take a crack at this?
- Are there any real life success stories where younger early adopters(geeks)connected with and taught older generation of non-techies?
- Do you find that having good online policies for staff helps curve negative feedback about your org, since employees should abide by company policies, or do you feel it's a similar issue as with the public?
YES! But don't take it from me, ask Wendy Harman from the Red Cross.
Capacity: Work Flow, Staffing
- What is the best place to incorporate social networking into staffing positions in schools and youth organizations?
- First, how do groups devote paid staff time to social networking tools, either through one paid staff person or spread out among different staff?
- When considering creating a position within your organization for a person to manage your social media info, where might a person be able to obtain a sample job description?
- We are increasing our social media presence by involving multiple members of our team. Each has their own voice/style. We want people to participate in a way that is authentic for them but also furthers our brand. And we definitely don't want to sound fake. Any thoughts on how to best do this?
- One of the toughest things about social networking media is the number of services out there. Facebook and Twitter are the big deal now, but given how quickly things change in technology, how many outlets should we, as a university, truly have? We have students, prospective students, donors, alumni, faculty, administrators and other groups to consider. What's the best solution? Is there a best solution?
A couple of points here. If you have limited time and resources, don't have a presence everywhere. Be very selective. Engage deeply in a few places where your audience is and relates to your goals. See Tweeting 9 to 5 to get a sense of the job tasks in a social media job description. To find job descriptions, search for them on LinkedIn or other employement sites like Monster or the job listings that Jeremiah Owyang posts. BTW, there are many social media mavens from nonprofits on Twitter - let's ask them to share their job descriptions. Here's some advice about managing multiple twitter accounts. Some food for thought from Shannon Paul about social media job descriptions.
- Do we need to interact with followers/friends every day? Is that expected?
Yes, deep engagement requires daily feeding and tuning of your network. It doesn't mean that you engage with single supporter every day in great depth - but you need to cultivating and building relationships. It's open-ended work, so to make it less overwhelming - time box it.
- I feel like it is better to let our social networks grow organically, rather than do a big "get us to 2,000 Twitter followers today" kind of campaign. I tend to see this as a quality over quantity issue. Do you think that is accurate? Does social media only work when you have a significant mass?
I agree. Quality over quantity. And, I also agree that it isn't about campaign, a flip that switch on or off. It's going relationship building.
- Are social media connections becoming something that donors and advocates expect from a non-profit or are they still a nice frill, but not necessary in the same way that having a website has become necessary to appear credible? Has there been any research on this yet? Is there a risk that too much social media presence can turn donors or advocates off?
This is a great question and an area for more research.
- We are a little different from a direct service nonprofit. We are made up of funds established by donors. Those funds distribute money to the nonprofit community. Our current campaign is to encourage donors to think about the future of their favorite charities and create a bequest through their will that will ensure those charities receive revenue in perpetuity. Do you think there is any room for this kind of message on Facebook?
Don't ask me. Test it out on Facebook. Although, I sort of skeptical that such a delicate conversation is appropriate to conduct on a social network. You may need to have this conversation face-to-face or in a private area.
- I work in development for a university trying to specifically increase black alumni donors by engaging our black alumni mainly through facebook. The desire is to have major gifts (for programs) that would benefit black students versus just having donors give for scholarships?
Do some listening first and see what your stakeholders have to say.
- What type of relationship building is needed to create long lasting relationships with donors via social networks?
Read this report from Charelene Li
Strategy: Effective Listening
- One of the challenges of being part of a membership organization like YMCA's, which share the same mission but operate independently, is that using searches and keywords to listen to our communities in external sites doesn't necessarily yield accurate results. We are often known as "The Y" or "my YMCA", for example, and not the "Lake View YMCA" or "Buehler YMCA". So as we evaluate engaging in social networking, I don't have any good ideas on how to measure our success on sites we do not control (ie Twitter vs. Facebook groups). What advice do you have to streamline our listening strategy and tying it to measured our success so we are wisely investing our staff time in effective social networking, based on data for our Association and not as a tiny percent of the 2,800+ YMCA's across the country?
I answered this question first and in greater depth in the transcript. I hope it helped Judith! Ask this question of Alistair Croll or Amber Nashlund on Twitter. They're listening geeks.
Strategy: Audience Identification
- Our organization that deals with both young people and older, well connected investors; however, we are concerned that these investors aren't necessarily interested in social networking programs such as Facebook and Twitter and that it would not be a good way to dedicate our time. Our facebook pages are mostly targeted at youth for the moment. How would we transform that page to reach out to an older, more sophisticated audience with different needs. As always, we're looking for financial support here... we're a fresh start-up in Seattle.
Here's a link that will take you a lot of freely available information on the demographics of social networks.
- For an organization who is new to the idea of social networking where is the best place to start?
- The small organization I work with is just venturing into the social marketing world. I would be interested to hear suggestions on how we evaluate the success of our efforts and any tips learned already on what to do and not do when using the online systems. Also, what realistically should we expect from our use of these systems? Thank you.
- As part of an organization that is starting to venture into social media, what are some hurdles we need to watch out for?
- How would you recommend we get started on Facebook?
- Before we have any data how do we get started or if we are to guess where do we start? Facebook? Facebook and twitter? Others?
- How can a small school,with little to no public relations budget, best utilize social networks? Also, how can we use Facebook to get in touch with Alumni with out seeming like a stalker?
- I'm finding that nonprofit clients are nervous about diving into social media tools because they don't have the manpower to manage them. What is your advice on starting small? Should they start with a blog to create a voice for themself, make sure staff is on LinkedIn and updates it regularly, or create and mantain a facebook group?
You'll find lots of answers in the WeAreMedia Wiki
1.) Listen before you talk
2.) Allocate enough time
3.) Set measurable objectives and how you'll track your success
4.) Be prepared to experiment and learn and adapt
5.) Quality over quantity - don't spread yourself too thin
6.) Read about what other nonprofits are doing in social media and what they are learning - there are terrific nonprofit social media bloggers out there - recently I hosted a guest bloggers program - over 40 - all really smart and savvy
- At my organization, we're discussing the benefits of expanding our website capability/content v. delving into offsite social media such as Facebook. How have you seen member organizations/affinity groups use social media technology most successfully?
- Our non-profit is just starting to use a few social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, East Villagers, etc.). What successes can you point to in stimulating the growth or awareness around an organization or cause?
- Can you provide some concrete examples or case studies of non-profits that have significantly improved their visibility as a result of online social networking?
- I understand fully that social media is about engagement and relationship building. However, are there case studies about NPO's who have converted or leveraged relationships into tangible support?
Tons of case studies at WeAreMedia Wiki. Also, check out the case studies from various panels that I've moderated == many success stories. You'll find them here. I also pointed to a bunch of examples in the transcript.
Next Big Thing
- It seems like we are always looking for the next big thing when it comes to social networking tools. Twitter is hot now, but what do you foresee being the "next big thing".
- Is twitter just a passing fad? Is it worth investing time in expolring this avenue of communications?
- The wisdom now seems to be that Facebook Causes are out, Facebook Fan Pages are in for nonprofits, because of the flexibility of the latter. What are best practices to move people from Causes to Fan Page or have the two interact for future fundraising?
- With so many social networking sites like facebook, etc...many of whom are recently considered "past their prime", which social media sites are best for small non-profits looking to communicate with its participants?
Honestly, unless your organization's stakeholders are early adopters or your mission is about that - I'm not sure I'd worry about the next shiny object. You want to be looking and watching when the technology reaches the plateau of productivity Here's some tips on how to find the next new thing http://www.louisgray.com/live/2009/05/early-adopters-and-finding-next-shiny.html
Tools and Techniques
- My question is--beyond purchasing ads (which we've done)--do you you have any suggestions about how to interact in a way that will increase the likelihood we'll go viral? In other words, how can we use FB, Twitter, and YouTube to get outside of our bubble? What makes postings, pages, videos, etc...more likely to get spread virally, perhaps as part of the same campaign?
- We are considering using Facebook to reach a wider audience. Two concern brought up during a recent meeting: 1-how to handle the potential for negative commentary by fans/friends; and 2- possibly embarrassing situation if we create a FB presence and show few fans/friends for a while. Do you have suggestions on ways to handle these two issues?
- Several employees are using a personal/business Twitter account to engage with supporters in a more authentic way. Do you have any recommendations for how we can aggregate employee "connections" with our stream to glean a more holistic view of our "results"?
That's why god created hashtags!
- Can you offer suggestions re: how to best use social media to enhance fundraising events?
- Is the stigma of having fans or cause supporters with 'questionable' Facebook profiles true? Does it make the organization look too lax or less professional? We are a workforce development organization, and my superiors think it could be misconstrued.
- Talking about time, is there an application which would post an update on all main Social Networking Sites at once? I know of some but they would pick my Facebook personal profile instead of the Organization's Page I am admin of.
- How often should an organization post to Twitter or send out updates on Facebook? Is there a fine line between sending too much that's irrelevant vs. useful information?
- I would like us to get our organization on twitter, but i'm afraid that if i only "tweet" about fundraising events, people will tire of it quickly--any thoughts on this? other content i might want to tweet about?
- What are some best practices on Facebook to generate followers and turn them into donors? Also everyone says that Twitter wont' raise any money. Is that true?
- What is the best process through social media of finding new organizations/individuals interested or working in your arena of social issues and connecting with them? I usually do simple Twitter searches and @replies, comment on blogs, but are there better ways or a general hierarchy of effective strategies?
- I just begun a new job and part of my responsibilities are social networks. In the past, the Facebook site, (a group not a page) has been run by lay leaders. What is the most effective way to make the switch to a page and get people to join us there instead?
- We have blogs and forums on our site, but have a hard time getting people to comment or post anything in them. Although our members will comment and post on our Facebook and Twitter... how do we get them to jump from those sites, onto our site and start discussing there?
- What tips or suggestions can you offer for partnering with FaceBook or LinkedIn to leverage their brand as a communication platform for alums, and the private companies policies for not sharing alumni data with the higher ed institution?
I'm crowd sourcing this last group of questions -- answer in the comments - thanks!