This Is Your Organization on Social Media
That fried egg. And the tagline, "This is your brain. This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?"
For decades, that egg and the one smashed by actress Rachael Leigh Cook in a later version of the iconic television commercial were the most recognizable drivers for The Partnership for a Drug-Free America's public outreach.
Now, thousands of people find the Partnership through its social- media outreach efforts. On Facebook alone, the organization has nearly 4,300 Causes members. Here, Joe Keenan, executive vice president and director of digital product development for the organization, shares insight on how other nonprofits can leverage social media for increased awareness.
FundRaising Success: What prompted this social-media strategy? What need was the organization trying to address?
Joe Keenan: Social networking is a tool that can help nonprofits with branding and building awareness, service delivery, events, volunteerism, advocacy, and fundraising. At the Partnership, we look at social networks and media as digital outputs where we can participate and interact with our audience, and we also look to host our own house networks, building communities of interest and engaging parents around our programs and services.
FS: How does this social-media strategy address volunteerism concerns?
JK: The majority of our volunteers are parents — many who have personal experience with teen substance abuse. So our social-media strategy began with establishing a parent advisory board of volunteers to collaborate with us on program development and communications.
For example, many of these parents contribute to our blogs. We are broadening this successful initiative to establish a larger group of parent ambassadors who will spearhead outreach, networking, fundraising and events at the state and local level. These ambassadors will have a tool kit that includes a significant emphasis on using social-media tools to help increase awareness about our cause, and drive attendance and volunteerism at events and other program activities.
FS: How does this social-media strategy address the changing face of nonprofit work? What other channels are integrated into the effort?
JK: We look at social media from the perspective of content strategy and implementation. In other words, plans and objectives for the social-networking ecosystem (digital outposts and hosted networks) are driven by a multichannel marketing, communications and content strategy, which is designed to increase awareness about the disease of addiction and how people can help prevent, intervene and get help for loved ones in trouble with drugs or alcohol. We look to leverage and package content across channels per the strategy.
Social media really helps us connect to parents who are looking for answers and support. It is a natural bridge that allows us to directly and immediately listen and respond to their needs — previously not possible without significant investment.
FS: What advice can you provide others looking to implement a successful social-media strategy?
JK: There are a lot of great strategy and tactics resources out there; many vendors' sites offer access to case studies, whitepapers, research and strategy decks (registration [is] often required to access resources). We recommend doing the research on best practices and case studies, then begin planning and defining your social-networking ecosystem. Some organizations would benefit greatly from working with a social-media partner.
We engaged Digital Brand Expressions to help guide the Partnership through the social-media adoption process and found that their knowledge and experience made the process easier to move through. The bottom line: Find your targets, and make choices about where to focus.
FS: Can you provide some social-media tips for nonprofits that are either starting their efforts in this channel or want to optimize their current efforts?
JK: Start the planning process by looking at your programs, services and marketing objectives, not by looking at the social-media channels. Are there specific objectives that can be met by leveraging social media? Take the time to explore these questions. Then, look at the landscape.
FS: How well is your audience receiving this social-media strategy? What sort of results are you seeing?
JK: Our initial social-media strategy involved building two dedicated WordPress blogs — one focused on parenting teens and the other focused on early intervention (for alcohol and drug use by teens and young adults). The early intervention blog, called Intervene, has been very well-received based on the conversations between our contributors and the parents. Our goal was to create a dialogue between experts and parents, and we achieved that. We also saw this as an ideal tool to add to our existing resource. The blog is a cultivation tool to build deeper engagements with parents and lead them to get involved in other ways with our cause.
We began networking on Facebook Causes because it's a popular platform for nonprofits to build awareness and fundraise online. It was an opportunity for us to build community and connect with people who want to make a difference. Our Causes community has been very supportive, and many members have taken an active role in recruiting their friends, spreading awareness in their status messages and reaching out to see what more they can do to help. In response, we are in the process of developing opportunities for our active online members.
FS: What unexpected lessons have you learned through your social-media outreach?
JK: It's fairly easy and inexpensive to start, but you still need a plan. You need real budgets to fund staff to maintain and leverage content across channels. Fortunately, there are many built-in metrics at hand to measure success and drive optimization. Again, this is dependent on dedicating staff to the effort.
Relevancy is key. Are you targeting the right people? Does your community care about the content? The bottom line is: If you're connecting with people who care (and know other people who care) and sharing information and resources that they want to know, then your community will grow naturally. FS