While no longer new, social media continues to be misunderstood by many who seek to use it for their organizations. Whether your goal is to reach donors to support your mission, connect with people in need of the services you offer or sell your products to new customers here are a few misguided beliefs that could lead you astray:
1. Social Media is Free
I can set up free social media accounts and instantly reach thousands of people and build my brand – for free! As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Signing up for an account may be free, but “free” stops there.
There is a learning curve for each social media platform and creating a presence on any of them takes time. Whether that means your own time, a junior staffer’s time or a consultant’s time that time costs money. And no matter how you slice it, maintaining an active presence on any platform will continue to take time. The number one pitfall among new and experienced users alike is underestimating the amount of time coordinating social media will actually take and how much that time will actually cost.
2. If You Build It, They Will Come
There may have been a time when building a Facebook or Twitter page and regularly posting engaging content was enough to gain followers – but that time has passed. Building an amazing page will not do you any good if no one can see it. Social media platforms are for-profit corporations and they know exactly how valuable their services are, which is why they each come with their own marketing tools. When used correctly those tools exponentially increase your odds of having your material seen by the exact people you are targeting. A well-crafted post advertised to the right people will get you further than any click-bait gimmick, especially when you are first building your social media presence. And while not free, these tools can garner impressive results for very little cost.
3. More is More
Not every organization needs to be on every social media platform. Too often we are conditioned to look only at the big picture and we weigh decisions too heavily based on the larger scale. It sounds logical that the more social media platforms you are on the more people you can reach, and the more followers you have on every platform the more effective you are. Unfortunately focusing only on that big picture can lead to a massive waste of everyone’s time.
You need to start by defining who exactly you are trying to reach, what message you would like to deliver and with what medium. It is important to remember that your target audience is not the Internet at large. For example, if you are trying to sell a product to men over 65 you probably do not want to invest time in creating an Instagram account because only 31 percent of Instagram users identify as male and only 8 percent are 65 or older 1 . Similarly, if you do not intend to regularly create new video content you probably do not need to create a YouTube Channel. You can literally buy Twitter followers online 2 , but having more followers does not mean anything if they are not the people you are trying to build relationships with. The total number of followers and the reach of your content are important, but what is more important is understanding who those people are and how you can connect with them so that you can meet your communications goals.
4. Some content is better than no content
Some high-quality content may be better than no content at all, but no content at all is definitely better than bad content. “Bad” may be a subjective term, but a good guideline is to verify that your words are spelled correctly, your images are attractive and your message is reflective of your brand and meaningful to your viewers. It is better to take more time to make sure every aspect is polished than to rush out something sloppy to meet your own arbitrary deadline. You should plan ahead with a posting schedule that you can realistically meet and always value the content more than your schedule. This means you also have to recognize when your schedule and/or expectations are unreasonable and adapt accordingly.
Each social media platform is unique so how often to post varies. If you can only commit to one or two posts per week then do not bother with Twitter or Pinterest but instead focus on Facebook or Instagram. Use scheduling tools to post consistently, and monitor your analytics to post when your followers are most active.
5. Instant results!
You cannot expect instant results from social media. The hard truth is that whether you are doing it in person or online building relationships with people takes time. It is not realistic to expect to see the end result of more sales or donations in a week or a month. The more strategic you are in managing your social media accounts the more likely you are to see positive results, but you should still expect this to take time. Bottom line – social media is not a magic bullet for fundraising or sales, it is a medium to connect with people and build relationships. If online relationship building is not a priority you want to work towards then you may not need to include social media in your marketing plan.
If you are not able to invest the time and resources needed to regularly share quality content on social media then social media may not be for you, and that is okay! A better approach may be to produce a monthly electronic newsletter for your clients, to advertise on a specific website or to focus on print advertising in relevant publications. Social media is just one of many tools available to help you communicate with your clients. Whether you are already on social media, just getting started online or headed in a different direction JTE Communications would love to work with you to craft and implement a communications plan that meets your specific needs. Click here to get started with a free 30-minute consultation.