Guest blog alert: In my past life as a staffer for a Girl Scout of the USA affiliate, I met Suneil Singh, the then Chief Communications Officer for Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan (for those of you with limited Michigan geography like me, think Detroit). When he told me about their wildly successful Facebook page launch, my jaw dropped. Now he’s sharing the story, strategy and why he thinks some organizations aren’t having the social media success they want.
This is all very simple. If you think it isn’t, you’re just making life harder for yourself.
- In the summer of 2009, I joined the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan (GSSEM) as their Chief Communications Officer. At that time, there were more than 300 separate Girl Scout pages on Facebook. GSSEM was not one of them. We had no Facebook presence whatsoever.
- Three months into my gig, I created, launched, and marketed GSSEM’s first Facebook Page. It was very simple. No videos, apps, or flash.
- Within one month of launch, GSSEM’s Page had garnered 1,500+ members. Within two months, we were the second largest Girl Scout Facebook page in the world. Our members posted, commented, and interacted at higher levels than any other Girl Scout page out there.
Convio recently contacted me to write about my social media successes, particularly within the realms of online engagement. I think they were hoping I’d reach into my nonprofit toolbox and pull out a couple of my top-secret formulas to Web 2.0 success. You know, dole out a few tips, a few tricks. Viola!
The truth is the entire time I crafted GSSEM’s social media strategies, I didn’t do one thing out of the ordinary. Nothing special, nothing unique. When it came to GSSEM’s Facebook Page, all I did was follow the Online Relationship Building 101 rulebook. You know, the one you’ve heard countless times before.
I researched all my target audiences for GSSEM’s Page. I found out what they wanted and needed.
I then crafted the Page, giving it the appropriate format and environment which fostered those wants/needs.
When it came to marketing GSSEM’s Page, I promoted it in places where I knew my audiences would be.
It was that simple. No secret formulas, no ingenious tips. I just educated myself on the set of e-strategies that had worked for others in the past…and then I applied them to my job.
I say all this to emphasize two facts:
First, it’s not 2005 anymore. Social medias might be ever-evolving, but they’re far from new. There are plenty of resources out there, all of them pretty much saying the same exact things on how to craft a successful online campaign. These frameworks have been crammed down your throat at nearly every nonprofit conference or seminar you’ve attended. Really. Online engagement is not difficult anymore. If you understand it, it’s almost like painting by numbers.
Second, it’s 2011. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if your nonprofit doesn’t understand how to successfully engage your audiences online by now, it’s probably time to admit to yourselves that you’re messing up an easy deal.
When dealing with achievable pursuits, organizational failure occurs because either a company doesn’t understand the task at hand or they simply don’t care. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise. When it comes to online engagement, there are only two reasons why you’re not obtaining the obtainable. Either your nonprofit doesn’t understand how to engage their audiences online or it doesn’t want their attention bad enough.
The solutions are simple though.
If you don’t understand how to create a successful social media platform, then ask for help from someone who does. That sometimes means paying a professional to come and teach you how to do it. (And no, that doesn’t mean having them DO the work for you. It means having a consultant help you UNDERSTAND how to do it yourself.)
If you personally don’t care about spending the time to understand online social engagement, that’s fine too. Just find the staff in your organization who do care about it. And then give them your full support. Let them run free with their knowledge and expertise. You’ll be surprised how much more productive your online campaigns will be when you give them to someone who actually feels passionate about social media.
Now this is the point in the blog where you all heavily roll your eyes and say “Gosh, this is all so elementary. You’re telling me stuff I already know.”
Are you sure? Do you really know it?
Let me make this as clear as possible. Online engagement isn’t rocket science. It’s easy and uncomplicated…and like everything else in life, you’re either going to succeed or fail at it. If you’re succeeding, then good for you! This blog post wasn’t written for you.
But to all of you who missing the mark and just don’t know why? Well, this isn’t about some strange, newfangled medium that’s just too mysterious or allusive for your nonprofit to conquer. This is about your organization not coming to terms with the fact that it doesn’t know – or want to know – how to follow directions.
Chief Executive Officer
Community Network Services Fund
Cheryl again – Suneil gives great suggestions about research, promotion, resources, etc but he ends on an interesting point: when we do poorly at something is it because we don’t know how to do it or because we really don’t want to? I’ll be honest, I do terribly every time I “train for a 5k” partially because I’m disinterested. When an organization isn’t succeeding in a particular area, like social media, is it because it’s an area they aren’t as interested or invested in? Or is it something else? What do you think?