Internal Vs. External Tools: Determining the Best Approach to Social-Media Marketing
A June 2009 study from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Center for Marketing Research found that 89 percent of nonprofits are using some form of social media, and these organizations now are outpacing businesses and even academic institutions in their adoption of social-networking tools. With more than 400 Web sites and tools out there, according to research conducted by David Nour, managing partner of consulting firm The Nour Group Inc., how do nonprofits and associations know where to start? How do they to determine what components fit into their social-media marketing strategy? This article will offer some information on internal versus external social media tools and how organizations can take advantage of them, to maximize their marketing efforts.
Launching an internal social-media tool set
Technology is constantly evolving, and what was difficult and expensive yesterday is much easier and affordable to execute today. Many nonprofits and associations are building their own internal, online communities to collaborate and communicate with their contained audience.
By offering social-networking capabilities on their own Web sites, organizations can maintain their branding while deepening their interactions with donors and members. Allow supporters to log in, organize their own events and communicate in forums; it can increase their sense of connection to the organization. Develop a personal blog from the CEO through which the target audience, as well as staff, can relate. Open up parts of the Web site so that content, such as videos and photos of events, can be uploaded and shared.
Nonprofits and associations can quickly and easily garner participant feedback, discuss relevant issues and develop interest groups, with the help of an internal social-media tool set. The features also can help to increase Web traffic and search engine optimization, and be tied to an organization’s CRM system so that it can be easily administered and kept fresh.
Using external social-media tools to their advantage
Although first hesitant to use external social-media tools, nonprofits and associations have been adapting to this newer communications channel. Organizations can use Web sites, like Twitter, to raise awareness by providing not only dedicated followers and staff — but also a global audience — with real-time organization updates.
Nonprofits and associations should use Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, as a place for potential donor and member research, and bear in mind that these sites are not a magic bullet for fundraising, in particular. Don’t just set up a group and get a few friends to join — the sites won’t achieve much on their own. Instead, use these social-media outlets to build relationships and connect those with similar interests.
The majority of external social-media tools allow nonprofits and associations to display their branding, and direct potential donors and members back to their home pages. Make sure that all of the sites are kept updated, and that they highlight the appeals, initiatives and needs of the organization.
When it comes to both internal and external social-media tools, don’t forget to bear the 90-9-1 rule in mind — that is, for every 100 registrants to a social-networking site, 90 will read through the content, nine will add occasionally to the discussions, and one will participate often to the initiative. Nonprofits and associations should encourage staff to make regular contributions, without overpowering the thoughts of donors and members. This way, organizations can maintain enough registrants to keep both internal and external social-media sites looking active and to refresh their content on a consistent basis, in order to tempt visitors back.
Leveraging the perfect combination of social media
According to Joe Tyler, president and CEO of e-marketing firm Informz, e-mail and social media (both internal and external) are like peanut butter and jelly — they make the perfect combination.
“As 2009 comes to a close, nonprofits and associations should look to use each marketing channel to its fullest, complementary advantage over the next year,” Tyler says. “Social media can be used to build brand awareness and share information, while e-mail can help organizations maintain those conversations and market to donors and members.”
When thinking about e-mail campaigns, and how organizations can get the most for their marketing dollars, one thing should come to mind — leverage exposure. With the increased adoption of social-media marketing, the promise of exposure for nonprofits and associations is tenfold. So, how can organizations leverage all of the tools available to complement one another?
Integrating internal and external social media, especially with an e-mail strategy, allows nonprofits and associations to develop more personal relationships with their audience, resulting in more successful marketing campaigns. Tyler offers a few ideas on how organizations can best utilize e-mail — the driver to a nonprofit’s or association’s social media pages:
- Include links to all of the relevant Web sites in every piece of e-mail marketing sent. Also, be sure to use the standard, social-media icons to make the links recognizable.
- Add e-mail opt-in links to the social-networking pages. Always provide a clear and simple way for new readers to subscribe to e-newsletters or other forms of online communication.
- Look for content for e-newsletters on the social-media sites. Organizations can find some great trends and pass on a summary of the online discussions to their readers.
- Allow e-newsletter subscribers to share the mailings to their own contacts on social-networking Web sites, like Twitter or LinkedIn. All it takes is one click — followers can take care of all of the viral marketing, making it effortless for nonprofits and associations.
E-mail marketing should come into play when planning the launch of a social network (whether developed internally or using Web sites like Facebook and YouTube) and supporting that network once it is live. Nonprofits and associations are becoming better educated on the power of these marketing forces working in unison. Over the course of the next year, organizations that focus on using a combination of internal and external social media tools — as well as complimentary marketing techniques — will benefit significantly.
Robin Fisk is the fundraising technology expert at Alexandria, Va.-based Advanced Solutions International.