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Dear Non-profit Funder – Please fund my social media strategy!

June 25th, 2012

An Executive Director of an non profit organization program asked me for a some ideas on what a social media strategy might look like. She was preparing for a meeting with a government funder and wanted to be ready for questions about her plans to develop and implement a social media strategy.

I sent her a quick email giving her an overview of what I believe is an effective approach to developing a social media strategy. On reflection, I decided to write up an expanded version of my response as a blog post. I thought it was a good example of how an everyday communication can be re-purposed. Posting my response in my blog also helps me solidify my thinking as I narrate my work.

What’s a Social Media Strategy? (my expanded snapshot response)

You can think of your social media strategy as your organization’s online communications strategy. Within your organization, you have your services, users, staff, funders, partners, supporters, different departments (if you are a large organization) and general visitors to your site.

When you develop your social media strategy you look at all parts (above) of your organization and strive to integrate your social strategy into your operations within and outside the organization. Your overarching social media policies and goals you create are the foundation for developing and driving your social media strategy.

I emphasized that your social strategy is much more than promoting (marketing) your agency although increased awareness can be an indicator that connects to the goals you are trying to achieve. To help her see how goals are the foundation of your social media strategy I provided a few examples.

With Your Social Strategy You Want to: (your goals)

  • Increase your audience and reach of your organization so that your online funding campaigns connect with intended audiences and result in an increase in the funds received from donors, partners, supporters and government funders;
  • Increase or improve the quality, efficiency and quantity of the services you deliver so your target communities are better served;
  • Increase and deepen your relationships in and outside the organization to attract and retain highly motivated and skilled staff which in turn adds to long term sustainability of your organization;
  • Increase your capacity to be an open, transparent organization that listens to stakeholders and engages them in meaningful dialogue so services are improved;
  • Increase your organizational capacity to innovate and respond to complex challenges by: encouraging listening, sharing, collaboration and innovation with social tools and fostering (rewarding) a culture that promotes staff innovation, critical thinking and problem solving;

So with those goals – social media is not just a strategy but a mindset about how you relate to your work and how you want to improve the outcomes of your your work.

The social media tools you employ are important but the thinking and planning – which you do so well as a Non profit Executive Director is what makes your social media strategies work.

Also, your social media strategy (and your own learning) is always evolving as you test, learn and make sense of what’s happening as you communicate with your audiences.

Your social media strategy is a central part of this process and is designed to reach those goals. You (as Executive Director) need to think in terms of how Social Media will accomplish or contribute to your organization’s goals.

So many organizations slap up a YouTube or twitter channel and don’t think through why or what they want to accomplish or how they will measure or know what’s happening or even worse, who is going to put up the content for my social media and respond to questions and comments that follow.

That was a very quick overview of what I think of when it comes to the question “what’s a social media strategy”. I’d love to hear what others think about the starting points for a social media strategy.

In closing, I’ll give huge props to “Social Media ROI – Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization by Olivier Blanchard. His book helped me dispel so many myths and assumptions about social media strategies for businesses and non profits. Also, Harold Jarche’s writing on personal knowledge management informs me everyday about the importance of narrating your work.

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