I feel compelled to respond to a post by the amazing and insightful site Nonprofit for Good, which I follow religiously. Because I completely disagree. In the post, 12 Not-So-Great Realities About Nonprofits and Social, the author lays out a dozen negatives that many nonprofits (and businesses for that matter) have to deal with every day on social media.
Here’s my big problem with the post.–it offers no solutions to these problems, which does a disservice to readers. Anyone who has worked in social or uses it for their nonprofit or business knows that social media, like many other business activities, has negatives and positives and the best way to mitigate the negatives is to find solutions. I felt it was overly pessimistic and I’m worried the post will dissuade nonprofits and libraries from investing in social media. So let me offer some positive feedback on the points in the post.
Nonprofits have spent years promoting Facebook and get rewarded with a 3% organic reach. True. Businesses have had the same experience. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, my friends. As Joe Pulizzi says, you should never build your audience on rented land. Unfortunately, many nonprofits and libraries fell into that routine and now have a very hard time changing course. Facebook, like every other social platform, has every right to change the rules whenever they want. It’s their platform. As Joe further points out, you should operate under the assumption that, when you wake up every morning, the rules of any or all the social media platforms may have changed. So what do you do? Create a social media strategy. Armed with that, you’ll be able to focus your efforts on the social platforms that will work best for your audience, set performance goals, and keep your workload efficient. My library has clear objectives for what each post should do. And we meet our goals more than 90 percent of the time.
Nonprofit social media managers are bombarded with depressing content and nonprofit social media managers have to deal with weird, random, mean people on Twitter. So does everyone else. And it is manageable, as the post mentions in passing. You can’t control what everyone else is doing… you can only control what your organization is doing. Focus on the positive. Hug your haters.
Nonprofits have to pay full price for advertising on social media. The author and I agree on this point, although the cost of ads for Facebook and Twitter is relatively inexpensive and totally worth it to get to the targeted audience–the people who will really want to see your message.
Instagram and Snapchat have no tangible ROI. They will if you have a social media strategy. Also, as marketing expert Jay Acunzo points out, the constant need to seek a tangible ROI may be the downfall of marketing strategies. Building a loyal audience takes time and sometimes can’t be measured by traditional means. The bottom line isn’t always the end of the line.
You are not a videographer or broadcast reporter, but to be good at the Next Big Things you have to be. Not necessarily. There are, without a doubt, some people in your nonprofit or library who are naturals on camera. If you’re not comfortable with that role, find people who are. They’ll shine, it’ll build morale, your cardholders will get a chance to get to know your staff better, and your videos will be memorable. It’s not hard to learn the basics of video production these days, thanks to Lynda.com and YouTube. I suggest you subscribe to Amy Schmittauer’s fantastic channel, which is all about video and social and easy ways to incorporate both into your library marketing strategy. There are also a number of free webinars with great pointers on how to create videos. You can turn to Social Media Examiner‘s blog, podcast, and YouTube channels for inspiration and practical tips. Finally, as a former broadcast TV journalist, I can tell you that practice makes perfect. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
Nonprofit social media managers live, work, and play social media 24/7. That’s easily manageable. And not necessarily true. Most social managers I know do go offline once work is finished. Unless they love social and stay on all day. Then, good for them!
Social media often distracts nonprofits from other more important, more ROI-producing online tools. Here we are with the ROI again. If you have a social strategy, this isn’t a problem for you anymore. I do agree with the author about targeted email messaging. I’m a huge fan of email marketing, also done within a specific strategy.
Your nonprofit doesn’t have the budget to invest in social media staff or premium social media tools. Tools are not that important. my library spends a couple of hundred bucks a year for a Sprout Social account. If you’re really strapped, you can use Tweetdeck. It’s free. Use Twitter Analytics, also free, to help you figure out the basics on engagement. Expensive tools don’t make for a good social media outcome. A staff is important. Even if you don’t have the money for a full-time social staffer, I bet there is someone within your organization who is willing to help. Or get an intern! Then empower that person to post the right content. You don’t have to pay to do that. You just need a strategy! I may be banging the drum repeatedly here but it’s important.
Posting on social media day after day can become monotonous and boring. It’s clear the author isn’t really a fan of social and doesn’t have a passion for it. He or she might want to consider another job.
Going viral only exists for the .0000001%. Which is why this should never be your goal. Going viral is a lightning strike. It rarely happens to anyone. Please get a social media strategy and, armed with that, you’ll never have to worry about winning the lottery because you’ll build your social audience, driving them to your owned properties, and that, my friends, is job security.
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