The Paradigm Has Shifted

The Time is Now
The Time is Now

While most of us in the nonprofit world may still be debating the viability of direct mail (snail variety) versus online giving, statistics have been released indicating social media participation has now surpassed — even email. You cannot ignore the buzz about social media any longer — it’s here, and it’s powerful.

Last month, the New York Times reported that time spent engaged in online communities increased 883% between February 2003 and February 2009. Time spent viewing video online increased 1905% between February 2003 and February 2009. Combine this with NTEN’s 2009 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study revealing that online gifts in 2008 increased 43% over 2007, with total dollars raised online increasing 26%–and you have a reason to pay attention.

Still, with this explosive growth in use of social networks, so many organizations are asking “How do you effectively deploy a social media strategy, and what is the return on investment (ROI)?” The trouble with social media to date has been that it’s difficult to measure results.

No doubt, many executive directors have been heard to proclaim, “We need to get on the Twitter!” But the important question to answer first is “Why?” It’s so easy to fall prey to the “Latest Big Thing” Syndrome, whether you are a nonprofit, political organization, or company. Diving headlong into the latest technology or social media tool without asking those basic questions—Who, What, What, Where, When, How, and Why?—can lead to frustration and failure. That old adage comes to mind, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you.”

Think ROI – Investment divided by return.

And, don’t forget expectation. The return may be only partially monetary. Objectives may include anything from building awareness, getting feedback on project relevance, expanding prospects/followers, or raising money. Here are some useful ways to think about effectiveness:
• Conduct awareness studies—prior to launch and at milestone intervals, such six months, year, etc.
• Track referral sites—identify the “web destinations” of people who respond to your message.
• Track traditional site metrics, such as unique visits, page views, and time spent on your site.
• Monitor your Net Promoter Score (customer loyalty scale of 0-10 that asks how likely you would be to refer an organization to a friend).
• Benchmark the number of friends/fans/followers on a particular social network or community.
• Measure the number of gifts made or dollars raised within a certain time frame or in response to a specific appeal.
• Measure brand visibility.
• And, of course, does it satisfy the boss?

This is not a comprehensive list, but it is a great place to start. The next step is to develop smart ways to integrate your social media combustion into your other marketing initiatives to turbo-charge your impact.

Finally, as you ponder your course, let me remind of the 2008 presidential campaign—not Barack Obama, but Ron Paul. It was a small scrappy campaign. And it all started with the infamous “money bombs,” the initial supporter-driven efforts to raise millions in a single day—Nov. 5th, 2007. Now, that’s a measurable result. This occurred without huge email lists, paid media, or even strategic campaign leadership. The result as $4.3 million raised in a single day. They repeated it later with $6 million raised in a single day. Anything is possible.

Do you have examples or thoughts? Comment below. Or, if you want to begin expanding your social media reach today, contact me — ellagantz(at)