This month’s SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you) is that if you don’t take care of your social media it’s going to pee on your floor, tear up your furniture and chew up your shoes. No fooling.
Social media is like a puppy. Everyone wants to play with the cute, cuddly puppy. But then it grows up. It needs to be walked. It needs to be fed. If you’re gonna get one, you gotta care for it or it’s gonna die. It takes time, attention and dedication. And just because you have one or two (perhaps named Twitter and Facebook) that doesn’t mean that adding a few more (named Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn) and caring for them is going to be a piece of cake.
Full credit: I’m nowhere near the first to make this analogy (see e.g., Is Your Social Network a Puppy or a Dog? by Jay Bear; Free Puppies by David Bowman; Social Media is Like a Puppy, and Surviving social media marketing: A puppy owner’s guide).
What’s your current status vis a vis puppies? Will you get one? Everyone else seems to have one, no? Your board members say you should get one, yes? Maybe even a whole litter! Or do you have a couple of puppies tucked in the corner, but for whom no one has claimed responsibility? Some days they get played with, fed and walked; other days, not so much?
If you don’t have time, resources and inclination to take care of a puppy right now, then do what you need to get ready. If you can’t nurture the puppies you’ve got, don’t adopt new ones. If your puppies aren’t thriving, then consider whether to give them over to someone else (hire or outsource) or seek a trainer (consultant). Social media, like puppies, can be extremely rewarding. Social media, like puppies, can become your best friend. But rewards and friendship have their costs as well as benefits.
Puppies and social media are decidedly not free; just like friends, they require care and feeding. [See infographic on How Much do Small Businesses Spend on Social Media?] A puppy is a living, breathing animal; not a toy. Similarly, social media is a living, breathing two-way communications channel; not just a shiny plaything. If you just toy with it, it may bite back!
Time to stop fooling around with social media.
7 Tips to Take Social Media Seriously
1. Embrace social media as the essential communications medium that it is today. Today it’s one of the principle ways folks find out about and interact with brands. Get yourself and your entire household (aka organization) excited about the prospect of truly bringing something new into your lives.
2. Clarify your different social channels, understanding that different people use different networks for different purposes. (see Guy Kawasaki’s top ten social media tips for nonprofits). Figure out the places that make the most sense for your constituents; then go there first. It’s a much better strategy then simply adopting the same puppy your neighbor owns. If you’re not a poodle organization, get yourself a Labrador retriever or a Chihuahua. Spend a bit of time figuring out your personality and that of your constituents before you leap in. You wouldn’t go to the pet store blindfolded and just ask the clerk to give you any old dog. Don’t do that with social media. All channels are not created equal.
3. Get, and keep, everyone involved. Don’t make social media the province of just one or two departments. It’s not just for I.T. Or marketing. Or development. Involve program staff. Involve the C-Suite. Involve your volunteers. Everyone must be on board if you’re to become a truly connected, relevant social business for the 21st century.
4. Really play the game. Don’t just buy a board game and keep it in a box. Participate enthusiastically and strategically. When folks comment, respond. When folks retweet your posts or ‘like’ you, thank them. Engage. Remember the ‘social’ in social media. Make a relationship. [See 6 Ways Your Nonprofit Wins the Game of Social Media].Make a best friend.
5. Take the village to heart. Remember the adage “it takes a village?” Trust in the power of crowdsourcing. You absolutely have to share. Make every piece of content shareable. Think about linking from one piece of content to another; from one channel to the next. Don’t think about anything in isolation. [I’m reminded of being in college. My roommates and I used to keep the NYT crossword puzzle on the kitchen table all day; as we came in and out of classes, we’d each add a little bit. When we’d come back later in the day, there’d be something new added that helped us figure out something that had previously eluded us. By the end of the day, working together, we’d have the puzzle figured out].
6. Test things. It’s a version of trial and error. If you throw a ball and your dog doesn’t chase it, then try a new game. Do the same with social media. Don’t just give up and decide your dog/constituent doesn’t like to play. Find what motivates your particular audience. You may learn that posting a video raises more money than a photo, or vice-versa. You may find that a 7 word subject line does better than a 3 word subject line, or vice-versa. What works for everyone else may not work for you. Pay attention; then tweak your system.
7. Track and report on what you’re doing. This will keep you focused on your ROI and also keep everyone in the organization involved and informed. How’s your social media impacting your fundraising, volunteering, advocacy, public relations? Is this what you wanted to happen? If not, how can you refocus?
When you bring a puppy into your life it makes demands on you. Be prepared. Also embrace how much meaning and joy social media can bring to you and your village. After all, you’re all in this together.
Philanthropy is fundamentally social. I encourage you to check out the SPECIAL GUIDE: 7 CLAIRIFICATION KEYS TO UNLOCK YOUR NONPROFIT’S FUNDRAISING POTENTIAL. It includes easy-to-follow worksheets and exercises to prepare you to become an effective social media adopter and philanthropy facilitator in the 21st century.