Creating a Social Networking Strategy (Part 0) | npENGAGE

Creating a Social Networking Strategy (Part 0)

By on Apr 22, 2009


For a while now I've been talking with a lot of nonprofits about
using social media and social networking in their organizations. I
thought it would be useful to blog about how to create a strategy for
using these channels.

Before starting to create a strategy it makes sense to set a baseline. Where are we today? What's going on? Haven't we seen this before? Why does any of this matter? This is Part 0. Phase 0. Let's go…

Déjà Vu All Over Again
Web 2.0 in 2009 reminds me of Web
1.0 in 1999. Lots of talk. Lots of uncertainty. Lots of buzzword bingo.
Lots of new vendors. Lots of tools. Few experts. Few owners. Few
results. Many of the same questions are being asked. Will people
give online? Will people give through Facebook? How can we use email?
How can we use Twitter? Who owns the website? Who owns the blog? I've seen this movie before and you probably have too. Don't use the same thinking, structures, or processes as you did with Web 1.0. Don't repeat the same mistakes. This is evolutionary ― not revolutionary.

Silo Syndrome
And just like with Web 1.0, many organizations are initially focusing on using social media as a communication and awareness tool. I recently had a chance to discuss social media strategies with members of our Target Analytics Customer Advisory Board. Many of them expressed concerns that there is not an organization-wide strategy for using social media, and that in the absence of ownership there are more data and interaction silos being created. Don't fall into the silo syndrome trap. Learn from the mistakes of the past. Ask questions about the total relationship with the supporter now. Is that MySpace friend an activist? Is that LinkedIn connection a donor? Is that Twitter follower also on the direct mail list? And don't invest in solutions that only create more islands.

The Illusion of Control
Web 1.0 was about controlling the one-way message. Web 2.0 is about
engaging in two-way messages. The only remaining control is the
illusion of control. You can avoid having a conversation. You can even
pretend the conversations aren't happening elsewhere. Good luck with
that approach. I'm sure it will work out just fine. This is just as
true as when I first blogged it. If you want to succeed using Web 2.0, then you need to give up some control. Control of the message. Control of the messengers. Control of the control. Lose control. Find success.

Friendraising Not Fundraising
If the reason why you want to use social networks is just to raise money, then stop now. It doesn't work that way. An article in the Washington Post notes that "fewer than 1% of those who have joined a cause have actually donated money through [the Facebook Causes] application." The premise of the article misses the point and ignores a fundamental principle of fundraising ― you need to build to build relationships with people before you try and raise money from them. Later in this series I'll go into some reasons why the thinking and practice around these kinds of applications are flawed. Focus on friendraising first. If you do a good job, then the fundraising will follow.

Hope from the Hype
So why does social networking matter? It's not merely just another communication channel. It's the most human channel.  In the book People to People Fundraising, I talked about the "Changing Nature of Community" and how "never before have people been able to transcend the
physical boundaries of location, language, or other limitations to connect with one
another in such powerful ways." Communities matter. Social networking matters. The other important aspect is that social media represents a cost effective way to engage potential new supporters in large numbers compared to traditional channels. And it is the lingua franca for dealing with Generation Y and younger-minded supporters. There is still a lot of hyper-hype, but the opportunity and potential is very real.

The First Step
Get a champion in the organization. They don't need to understand the latest techno widget or the nuances of StumbleUpon vs. Digg. They don't have to be social media butterflies, but they need to have influence and support in the organization. Your champion is going to make some of the choices and challenges ahead of you a lot easier to overcome. Who's your champion? Find one now before Part 1 begins.


Steve MacLaughlin is the Vice President of Data & Analytics at Blackbaud and bestselling author of Data Driven Nonprofits.

MacLaughlin has been featured as a fundraising and nonprofit expert in many mainstream publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA Today, The NonProfit Times, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bloomberg, and has appeared on NPR.

He is a frequent speaker at events including the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), American Marketing Association (AMA), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), Direct Marketing Fundraisers Association (DMFA), Giving Institute Summer Symposium, National Association of Independent School (NAIS), Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC), Institute of Fundraising National Convention (United Kingdom), Civil Society Conference (Netherlands), International Fundraising Congress (Netherlands), Ask Direct Fundraising Summer School (Ireland), and a keynote speaker at several conferences across the social good sector.

Steve previously served on the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) Board of Directors and is currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University.

He is a frequent blogger, published author of a chapter in the book People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities, and is a co-editor of the book Internet Management for Nonprofits: Strategies, Tools & Trade Secrets. His latest book, Data Driven Nonprofits, became a bestseller in 2016.

Steve earned both his undergraduate degree and a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University.

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