There's something important to realize about all of the touchpoints we talk about on the web, and in business.
We often cite these things as our goals for participation in social media, for marketing, for communications of all kinds.
- Brand Awareness
- Relationship Building
- Thought Leadership
But while they might be *a* goal, they are not *the* goal. They're merely a point on a path toward the main objective, which is to grow our business by having people choose us instead of someone else.
So things like brand awareness, community, relationships... all of those are good things in and of themselves. But if you stop there, you don't have a viable business. Think of them as nodes in a symbiotic network. They're all loaded with potential, but only when they're combined and leveraged to create something bigger.
Whether or not we're comfortable saying this out loud, our ultimate goal - nonprofit or otherwise - is to sustain our organizations so that we can execute on our purpose. That means revenue. That means assets and resources so that we can do more of what we do, whether that be create a product or deliver a service. We can't do anything of value without the capital upon which to build.
That means that while brand awareness itself is awesome, brand awareness ALONE nets you nothing. If people are aware of you but don't eventually buy from you, donate, or encourage someone else to, the awareness itself is meaningless. Brand awareness is one of the means, but action is the end.
Likewise with something even like "community". We build community to build trust. We build trust to distinguish ourselves as more worthy than the guy down the street. We want to prove that worth so that when it comes time to do business with someone, those who trust us will likely do it with us, or recommend that someone else do so.
Thought leadership? We want to demonstrate expertise so that we can distinguish ourselves from other organizations that do what we do, in hopes of showing that we see the bigger picture a little bit better. We want this so that when someone chooses to give their money to us through purchase or donation, it feels like sound investment.
It is not dirty to say that you are building all of the elements of community, relationships, and otherwise so that the eventually, network and the affinities will yield benefits and build your business. In fact, it's vital. That's the way it works.
And don't make the mistake of interpreting this as "the only point of social media is sales". That's far too simplistic.
What we're doing differently now - or better, maybe - is that we're carving out lots more paths to the end goal, with many more reassurance points along the way. We're creating webs of non-commercial touchpoints so that the eventual monetary transaction feels like a natural culmination and even a desirable one. See how that works?
Bu it's naive to think that you're just building community for community's sake. Or that you're building "relationships" because they're simply intrinsically valuable. (Unless you're doing all of these things without ever hoping to make a nickel from your organization, or planning to always fund the budget from your own pocketbook.)
Relationships ARE valuable. You can want them simply because they're fulfilling. But in the context of business, that relationship eventually needs to move something forward, somewhere, that builds, accelerates, or yields. And all of the impact points we're creating throughout the web are designed to work together and do just that.
In short, all roads lead to Rome. It's time to get comfortable with that, and start treating our social media strategies accordingly.