Some of the key steps on how your organisation can benefit from Social Media are listed below:
1. Understand the concept of Social Media
Social media is an online channel that involves engagement, conversation, sharing, and creating relationship with beneficiaries, donors and other key stakeholders. Therefore, engaging your organisation on social media is not about ‘you have to be there’, rather ‘what can you do there’ and how can you use it effectively and efficiently to the advantage of your organisation and your audience. As a result, your social media effort should not be considered either as an add-on or a stand-alone social marketing and promotional channel for your organisation, but rather as part of your multi-channel social marketing and communication approaches operating consistently in alignment with your organisation’s main communication and social marketing strategy.
2. Understand social media tools
As social media is increasingly becoming popular and appealing to different types of users, equally, different type of social media sites that allow users to generate their own content have also emerged. Understanding these channels enables you to find what works, what spread your message the most effectively and also engaging with the right audience at the right place. To give you quick and better understanding, I have grouped these channels into eight main categories:
- Social Networking Sites: On social networking websites, community members socialize, create profiles to represent themselves, share photos and videos, comments on each other’s walls, add fans, tags photos, invite friends and form groups etc. Examples of mainstream social networking sites include Facebook, Myspace and Linkedin, Freindster.
- Social News Sites: On this site, community members are allowed to submit blog, news stories, articles, post videos, and photos. The submitted item with the highest votes by community members appears on the front page of the site. Social media sites are great for driving traffic to your website especially if your submitted piece appears on the front page. Digg and Reddit are the most popular example of social news sites although there are other niche social news sites such as Kirsty, NewsVine and PopUrls etc.
- Social Sharing Sites are great places for creating online buzz around your organisation’s activities, events, and campaigns. Community members on these sites share videos and photos, and tag photos. YouTube and Flickr are the most popular social sharing sites.
- Social Events Sites: Sites like Meetup, Eventful and Yahoo!’s Upcoming provide handy tools to let the world know about your event either physical or virtual event. Some of these sites especially Upcoming allows you to integrate photos and videos from flickr and yahoo and share with other community member.
- Blogs — Allows creators to generate and publish contents about their thoughts, ideas, photos, interests, opinions. It is a great tool for NGOs to reach out and share their works, thought and opinion to interested audience. WordPress, Blogger, and Typepad are examples of free blogging sites.
- Microblogging — this differs from traditional blogging because the content consists of a short message (usually 140 characters) often sent direct from your laptops or mobile phones. Twitter and Plurk are examples of microblogging sites.
- Forums and Message Board — Forum and message board are the forefathers of social media where community members engage and hold conversation around a specific topic and brand in the form of posted messages. Members ask and reply to questions, post discussions, read and response to post by other members.
- Wikis—allow visitors to easily create content and share their knowledge, expertise on any topic. It’s a great way to drive traffic to your website by creating a wiki around your organisation’s product, activity or service, but its involve a lot of work to verify information, keep members active and control spam. Wikipedia is an example of wiki.
3. Define your Target Group
A good marketing manager is someone who can clearly identify their customers by age, name, and even tell you what they do, where they live, their income level and their likes and dislikes. Therefore, equally like offline marketing, understanding who your target audience is , what they do in the social media space and where they hang out do not only helps you choose the right social media tools but also saves your organisation resources, time, and money when implementing social media strategies. It also helps you get positive ROI (Return on Investment) because you will be engaging in conversation with the right audience in the right social media space.
Forrester’s six distinct groups of social media users (Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators, and Inactives) and groundswell’s profile tool are a good starting point to identifying where your target group is in the social media space. Secondly, carry out research to enables you know where your audience is and what they are doing.
Please research, research and research! Bypassing this step of your social media planning is a serious mistake any organisation will make. Unlike physical community, members in the virtual community are dynamic—they either move from one site to another or belong to different communities. That is why continuous researching is very important. In addition, as I mentioned above, research helps you identify who your target audience is and where they hold conversations. Research also enables you to continuously modify your strategy based on your target audience actions on different social media platforms and further guide you to know what your competitors are doing and discover new techniques and tools that will make your campaign more profitable.
5. Analyse Your Competition
Online competitive landscape is different from the offline, you might say that we are the only NGO providing clean water in a particular community, but it is not true in the online space. Take some time to search and see who are your potential competitors, what are they doing in the social media space, how are they engaging their audience, what are their strengths and weaknesses, what are they lacking and what can you do better to engage your audience and benefit from your effort? A good place to start is by using keywords or phrases that you think your target audience might use to find you online using search engines. You can also use social media channels (e.g. twitter, facebook, youtube etc) to search for your competitors.
6. Set Goals
Most social media channels owned by organisations are overly promotional rather than conversational; this is because they don’t have clear goal or vision why they are in the social media space. It’s a mistake to make social media as a goal in itself, remember it is not the question of we need to be there but rather what can we do there and how can our organisation benefit? Setting clear and concise measurable goals helps you evaluate the success or failure of your social media effort; goals also serve as guides to check the success of your strategy, and save time and resources for your organisation. In addition, your social media goals assist your organisation’s goals and objectives, therefore, your social media goals have to be clear and concise and in consistent with your organisation’s goals and values.
Unlike offline channels, goal setting for social media campaign is complex because different social media channels appeal to different users, therefore, you cannot treat all social media channels the same; your goals and messages have to be different for each channel. A good starting point for setting your goals is to first research to find what works for your organisation, what spreads your message faster, identify who your target audience is and what social media channel are they hanging out and then set goals based on those channels.
7. Get Your Strategy in Place
Once you have a clear understanding of the concept of social media, you have visited and review some of the social media tools, and you have a well-defined target group and concise goals or objectives, you are ready to set your social media strategy.
An organisation without a social media strategy is a like a fisherman without a compass navigating on the high sea. A well formulated Strategy should operate consistently with your main marketing and communication channels. It serves as an overall guide to determine why your organisation is in the social media space, how you can engage your audience, what relevant and engaging content you should provide for your audience, what channel you should use, what you want your audience to do once they join the conversation, and how you should evaluate your success or failure. A good point of departure is to determine how your social media strategy should support your main communication and marketing strategies and also taking into consideration your social media goals, target audience, potential online competitors, resources and choice of channels.
8. Get your Social media policy in place
Social media policy is equally important like your strategy, because the success of your strategy highly depends on your social media policy. I recommend you work in collaboration with your legal department or organisation’s lawyer to set rules and regulations of providing contents and engaging with your audience on the social media platforms. Make sure that every departments or individuals producing contents and engaging with your community members either during or after working time must abide by the rules of engagement specify in your social media policy.
9. Get your Website in order
Once you have your social media strategy in place, the next step is to make your online office (website) ready to accept your visitors. Your website is the main power house for the success of your social media effort. Largely because most of your social media activities have to be linked to either your home page, landing page or specific pages on your sites based on the intended action you want your audience to do once they come to your website. Therefore, avoid flashy website design and complex functionalities; keep your website design simple, easy to navigate and rich in valuable content to your users. Customise your landing pages, use Images and other multimedia tools, but avoid flash video. Although flash video is a great way to communicate your message, it’s unfriendly to search engine and often limits your search visibility. In addition, one of the most parts of designing your landing page is ‘call to action’, this will prompt your visitors to take action once they are on your sites. Therefore, always make sure that you include call to action for example join us, donate, join the campaign, become part of the solution her and so on.
10. Select Your Social Media Tools
There is a common perception that social media is free, easy and quick. It may be true for creating of your social media sites and posting of content, but real success of your social media campaign may not come over night, it’s quite demanding. It needs time, resources, and valuable contents to keep it running and actively engaging your followers. That’s why spreading your organisation across all social media platforms is not a good idea, it’s advisable to examine your available resources, time, and the ability to produce an engaging content on ongoing basis before selecting your social media tool. Do not go for sites that you cannot maintain even if your target audience is actively engaging on them. I recommend you start with sites that your resources can maintain. After increasing a compelling online presence then you can add more sites if you have the resources.
11. Maintain Brand Consistency
Avoid a strict separation between your brand (organisation) website and social media sites. Consistency of your brand identity (e.g. logo, avatars, colour, and brand related theme) across your social media platforms and main brand website builds confidence and trust and make your visitors feel at home once they are on either your brand website or social media sites. In addition, make sure that all marketing or branding messages communicated online and offline are consistent, so that you will not fall victim of reaching your target audience with different messages from the same organisation.
12. Maintain Honesty and Transparency
As I mentioned above social media is about sharing, and engaging in conversation, as a result community members are interested to connect and engage with real and honesty people in your organisation whom they can share their ideas, feelings, emotions and everything about your organisation or services. Therefore, in order to earn respect and gain more credibility with your followers, it’s recommended that: 1) you inform your audience right from the beginning who you are and why are you joining the community, 2) complete your profile by filling all necessary information about your organisation and personal information about the person handling the account, 3) maintain brand consistency, 4) engage with your audience in way that positively reflect your organisation, and 5) do not trick your audience with positive fake review, tweet, or blogging about your organisation activities.
13. Engage in Conversation not marketing
Most organisations think social media space is just a place for push marketing, events promotion, or fundraising campaign, rather than building conversation and engaging audience around information related to their organisation activities. If you have this thinking in your mind, my rule of thumb for you is that ‘engage first and all other activities such as marketing, event promotion and fundraising will come later’. For tips on how you can engage your audience profitably, watch out for my upcoming post title: Triadic Strategy for positively engaging your audience on social media.
14. Set monitoring Platforms
Unlike offline community, members on online community are dynamic and the discussion about your organisation or services happens with or without you. Therefore, in order to garner your organisation some type of return on your effort and also secure your brand on social media platforms is to listen to conversations. You start by monitoring keywords of your brand, services, work, activities, and events. If you do not have enough funds, you can start with the free version of monitoring tools such as Google alert and Twilert. In the long run you will consider using other industrial paid version (e.g. Radian6, Techrigy and HootSuite etc.) for better result.
The success of NGOs on social media platform is by no means limited to these steps. Please share with us if you have more important steps.