You might think that we are so deep into the social media age that every advocacy organization, policy think tank, news media outlet, political campaign, university, association, charity and foundation already fully embraces social media and optimizes their use of it across their organization. This is not true. While some organizations have developed a full-scale, enterprise level social media program that leverages all of their assets and the available tools, many more have created some portion of such a program and some are still dragging their feet to get such a program off the ground. Regardless of how far your organization has gone in this direction, you can still take it to the next level.
The hallmarks of an enterprise social media program include:
- A fully built-out and staffed brand-level social media channels
- A robust participation of staff experts and spokespeople using their personal social media channels to advance the work they and their colleagues are doing
- A system for coordinating brand and staff channels to create reinforcing engagement that reaches a wide range of audiences in a compelling way
- A suite of tools for using social media to mobilize supporters to take action and give money
- A suite of tools for measuring the impact of the organization's social media program
- Full integration of social media sharing tools on the organization's website
- A coherent, organization-wide social media policy, and most important
- A clearly articulated enterprise-level social media strategy and tactics for implementing it
Enterprise social media programs, as laid out above, require the dedication of resources, both financial and staff, to make it work. For many organizations, it is very easy to find excuses not to commit these resources. They rationalize their lack of commitment by saying things like,
- We do not have enough staff
- We do not have the budget
- We do not have the right staff with the right skills
- We have more important priorities
- We do not have time
- We do not understand why social media is necessary
- Our audience is not on social media
But the reality is that organizations cannot afford not to have an enterprise-level social media program, and here are the 6 reasons why you need to take your social media program to the next level:
- Social media is your primary point of contact with your audience - Sure, you have sunk thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars into your website. But the truth is, you will ultimately engage with more of your constituents via social media than via your website. And while, on average, according to The 2015 M+R Benchmarks Study in 2D, the average nonprofit organization still has slightly fewer social media followers than email subscribers, each social media follower is a potential messenger to another few hundred people, so the multiplier effect is huge. But looking beyond the average organization, those that dedicate the necessary resources to building an enterprise program will flip this balance and have more direct social media contacts than email subscribers. If you take social media seriously, you will very likely ultimately engage with more people via social media than through all of your others channels combined. Given this reality, social media should be your HIGHEST priority communication channel.
- Your constituents expect you to be on social media - Social media has become so main-stream that your constituents will look for you on social media when they first learn about you. If they do not find you there, they are less likely to take you seriously and more likely to move on to other organizations in your sector who seem to be operating in the 21st century. This is very much akin to what we went through in the late 1990's, when organizations that did not have websites lost ground to those that did. In the political realm, the first Congressional campaign website was for Diane Feinstein for Senate in 1994 and the first presidential campaign websites were launched in 1996 (Bill Clinton and Robert Dole, though comedian Pat Paulsen beat them both by a month or two). Today, no presidential or congressional campaign would dream of launching without a website. In fact, already none launch without social media, either. The upshot is that to be credible, an organization must have a strong social media presence.
- People trust your people more than they trust your brand - While many organizations have developed very strong brands, by and large, people trust the people at those organizations more than they trust the brand itself. The annual Edelman Trust Barometer consistently finds that people are more trusted than organizations. Among people, experts and "a person like yourself" are twice as credible as your CEO. So while creating and maintaining a strong organizational social media presence is essential, it is even more essential to get your organization's experts on social media and share their posts via your brand channels. That means getting your professors on social media if you are a university, your reporters if you are a news outlet, your policy experts if you are an advocacy group or think tank, etc. And they need to use social media well. Further, it is imperative to build an audience of champions outside your organization among ordinary citizens, for they carry more weight than your brand and your CEO with other citizens.
- You cannot influence the conversation if you are not part of the conversation - People are already talking about your issues on social media. They are also very likely to be talking about your organization. If you do not believe this, search your issues and brand on Facebook or with a social media search engine like SocialMention, IceRocket or Topsy. If you want to influence that conversation, you have to join it. Otherwise, you are just sticking your head in the sand and hoping your point of view prevails and your reputation remains untarnished.
- Social media fundraising tools are getting better and better - New tools and better practices for social media fundraising are being developed all the time. So while you may have heard that social media is not good for fundraising that is based on past data that includes lots of organizations doing it poorly with weak tools. Consider just one relatively new social fundraising tool called ikeedo. Ikeedo allows people to automatically donate to a cause whenever something specific happens on social media. For example, a campaign could be set up so that whenever a GOP presidential candidate tweets "Planned Parenthood," people who have signed up automatically donate $1 to Planned Parenthood. Disruptive, innovative technology like ikeedo can take your social media fundraising program to the next level.
- Getting your whole staff involved with social media will break down internal organizational siloes - If people across your organization use social media to share their work and if your brand channels selectively amplify your people's posts, it will be easier for everyone in your organization to stay in tune with what is happening in other departments. Sure, you can have staff meetings and send around email, but using social media to complement those efforts creates a more fluid, real-time connection among your people. And it has the added benefit of simultaneously letting your external stakeholders know what your organization is doing.
These are some of the most important reasons why your organization should take your social media program to the next level. It is why I have dedicated my career to helping organizations that I like build out enterprise social media programs. Social media is a powerful and indispensable tool for creating social change for good. The better we use it, the better we can make the world.