Posted by: erinjoneil | February 25, 2011

It all starts with a plan.

“Alright, I have a twitter.com account, now what?”

You may have used Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other social media outlets for personal use in the past and are thinking, “this can’t be too hard, I’ll just start posting status updates and videos and tweets. No problem!” Problem. Using social media for your nonprofit organization is much different than using social media for personal use. When using social media for nonprofit organizations you need a plan of attack, a goal to attain.

The first question you must ask your organization, among directors and major supporters is, “what is our goal?” What do you want to achieve by involving your organization with social media? Fundraising? Event promotion? Volunteer recruitment? Awareness of issues and services? All of the above? Most mainstream social media outlets can be used for all of these functions but you must utilize the resource in a strategic way to achieve the results your organization desires. It might be wise to start with just a couple outlets at first to get a feel for their different functions and capabilities before extending your reach to take over the whole world wide web.

Your plan should be short-term and long-term. How will you make a good impression, attracting followers, friends and avid readers early on and how will you maintain that relationship as time goes on? What content will you produce right away and what content will you save for a rainy day? How will you engage your online community? Through discussion boards and retweets? Create a plan that has concrete ideas, creating consistency throughout the website’s lifespan but also allowing for new additions and improvements.

Justin Bieber has 8,298,360 Twitter followers. How many will you have?

Now, how will you measure the results of your efforts? Facebook likes and Twitter followers? Amount of money raised through online campaigns? One of Justin Bieber’s highly coveted retweets? If you don’t have a plan for tracking your progress, you’ll never know whether or not your social media efforts are working. I suggest using a free service like Google Analytics to uniformly track your progress across all social media outlets. Google Analytics will provide you with detailed statistics about the visitors to any website, including what search engine terms they use to get there, what links they click on while they’re there and how long they linger. By using Google Analytics you will be able to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your social media campaign. The beauty of social media is that nothing is static and can be improved upon at any time.

Social media will give to your organization what you put into it. The more effort you make to control your image online, the better your image will be.  Although free of cost, involving your organization in social media is an investment in the future of your organization and it all starts with a plan.

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