The most current "hot topic" in the realm of social media is an article entitled Confessions of a Social Media Strategist. Although it may not be readily apparent, this article contains some great insights - and lessons - for those working in nonprofit social media strategy, as well as other professionals working for social ventures and other social change agencies.
One of the strongest comments about social media engagement - and the one that's receiving the most attendtion - is this particular paragraph:
The underlying issue is that social departments place too much value on engagement. Those “likes,” “comments,” “shares,” “re-tweets” and “pins” are the metrics that social content creators use to 1) judge success and 2) dictate what future content looks like. Here’s the catch. The people who are engaging with that content are predominantly worthless. Seriously. That’s not to say that all users on social are worthless. But the ones who mindlessly “like” a brand’s Facebook post because an overt call-to-action told them to are. And wouldn’t you know it, those are the users who are dictating a brand’s social content strategy. This is why the last five years have brought an influx of mindless social creative like “SHARE this post!” and “RT if you love Brand X.” They get engagements, and engagements supposedly equal success. And the vicious cycle keeps on turning
For non-profits/social ventures/other social change entities, this has been the primary focus - building "awareness" of your brand (read: cause) is paramount over engagement. For many Chicago-area nonprofits/social ventures/other social change agents, this has been a primary focus - to build awareness, often because they have minimal marketing budgets (or perhaps because that's what many social media consultants - myself included - have been advising them). But the disadvantage to this approach (as the article states), is that it ignores one of the most critical - and valuable - resources that social media provides....and that is networking and connecting with potential advocates.
Relationship building is paramount in both individual and organizational networking, and expanding reach is critical - not just to maintain current relationships, but allowing nonprofits, social ventures, and other mission-driven organizations to engage a broader audience base....
....but it means being smarter with creating unique content and sharing with a core group of key influencers. Social ventures and social entrepeneurs may have a perceived advantage in the former (most startup business activities may be experimental in nature), and nonprofits may have a perceived advantage in the latter. (Many nonprofits have strong word of mouth). But the solution isn't to focus solely on "engagement", but to look at the overall impact on an organization's business goals)
(Yes, I said business goals. This applies to you, too, Chicago-area nonprofits)
It means deciding what the overall return on investment (ROI) is for social media, and integrating social media outreach into an overarching marketing and communications plan.. It also means determining both current and potential audiences, and moving towards encouraging them to action that moves beyond "liking", "sharing" or "commenting". It also means shaping social media outreach
towards a more "authentic" stance, focusing less on messages that repeated well-worn memes....and focusing on establishing a voice and being authentic while maintaining a mission-driven perspective.
(As far as how nonprofits and social ventures can do this.....we'll be covering that in a few weeks' time. Consider that a teaser for the blog)
But driving social change in Chicago is more than just using a handful of social media channels - it also means building an audience of advocates. I have to confess that the Digiday article has me reconsidering how I've approached social media in the past....and how I can better use these tools for myself and for clientele. At the very least, it should foster some further conversation....which you're always welcome to share via the comments below. You are also very welcome to visit and join us on our Facebook page , and if you want to contact me privately, my contact information is located on the About page.
And as always, thanks for reading!