No matter how trustworthy or respected your organization’s brand is, nothing gets a donor’s attention more than a referral from a friend, family member or peer. That’s why having an active, engaging social-media presence is so vital.
Donors are having conversations about your organizations and others on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and everywhere else social. They’re recommending causes they think their friends should support or would like, and warning each other of ones that forgot to thank them or misused funds (at least in their minds). Your organization must have a presence there to join these conversations and do everything in its power to make it easy for donors to share your messages and stories in social channels.
A recent study by social-media marketing referral platform provider SocialTwist showed that users of its Tell-a-Friend widget saw significantly greater clickthrough rates when messages were shared via social networks.
“What we’re seeing is that social referrals, word-of-mouth, has always been a very important channel,” says Vijay Pullur, CEO of SocialTwist. “When a friend talks about something they’ve used and they like it, the tendency is to go and check that out, buy the same product or donate to the same cause.
“With social media coming in, what’s happening with the whole word-of-mouth is now it’s easy online. People love to share stuff on Facebook, Twitter. They want to talk about things that they like or things they think their friends would be interested in,” he adds. “Word-of-mouth has been a concept for a long time; it’s not new. What has changed in the last few years is that social media has made this whole conversation come online very easily.”
Pullur offers three things every organization must do to effectively integrate social media into its marketing mix.
1. Be exciting and inviting. “For any conversation to happen, you’ve got to find out what is interesting for people to talk about. That’s the fundamental thing about actually getting yourself engaged in social media and having users have a conversation about you,” Pullur says. “Make people think that this really is something unique and that it’s talk-worthy, if you will.”
2. Make the process easy. “People may want to talk about it, but only a very small percentage of people will go out of their way to talk about something. If you make it very easy and if you provide the tools, like Tell-a-Friend and others, at more than one touchpoint, then the conversations about your organization start increasing,” he says.
3. Know what you want out of these conversations. “What do you expect from social media? How does it tie back into the goal that you wanted to achieve in the first place?” Pullur asks.
An example of a strong social-media campaign that hit on all three things is the Save Our Tigers initiative, a cause-marketing partnership between mobile company Aircel — big in Europe and Asia — and World Wildlife Federation-India. The cause itself is exciting and inviting, a unique mission of saving tigers in India. It’s easy to share the Save Our Tiger message online via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, Digg and StumbleUpon with the “share on” widgets on the page. And the goal is pretty clear: to garner donations and support to save the tigers.
“Aircel and WWF-India created a very interesting and engaging campaign for their users, and they encourage users to refer more friends,” Pullur says. “It gets a very huge number of referrals on a daily basis. That’s a very, very strong way of connecting with users.”
The big mistake
According to Pullur, a common mistake organizations make when it comes to social media is putting a lot of dollars, time and energy into trying to acquire a large number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers, with a certain number in mind.
“Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is as much as social media is an important channel, it’s also easy to click a 'like' button and join a fan group, but a fan group add does not mean that you’re really a fan of the product,” he says.
The key is to distinguish the real-life fans — the people who actually support your organization, donate, volunteer; people who talk about you and bring in more donors — from the number of overall Facebook fans and Twitter followers. It’s great that you have 50,000 Twitter followers, but how many of them actually support your cause and spread the message? Those are the people you really want to engage and target.
It all comes back to No. 3 above: Know what you want out of social media.
“One of the real pitfalls of social media is not knowing what to do with it,” Pullur says. “Who are your real fans? How are you going to engage them? Just acquisition itself does not mean anything.”
The real secret to the high clickthrough rates and enormous engagement potential of social media lies in what Pullur calls the human-filtering aspect.
“When people are talking about a product or organization online, they’re going to people who are like-minded, so there’s a human-filtering aspect, which is making it more effective,” he explains. “In other types of communications, you’re using analytics and deploying algorithms to decide if this particular user could be interested in this offer or not. In this case, if you wanted to go and refer something, you know people in your social circle (or social networks) who would be more interested in that product or organization or event than the others. Those are the people you’re going to share that with.
“The human-filtering aspect that’s playing out in the social-media world is what is generating this kind of clickthrough rate and engagement that’s unheard of. Social media brings in reach and helps filter the right user targets,” Pullur adds.
Pullur says that marketing is going through a transformation much like online did a decade ago. Social media is becoming a very important channel, one that’s becoming expected, the way every organization — from the biggest international and national nonprofits to the small, local charities — is expected to have a fully functional, easy-to-navigate website.
“Social media is becoming a very important channel, and it’s very effective because it’s identifying the right target,” Pullur says. “You can go campaign to campaign and start seeing success with it, and always use the learning of each campaign to make the next one better.”