by guest blogger Andrew Rogers
Effective fundraising through social media tools like Twitter and Facebook is an elusive goal. It’s possible to be tempted by exceptional cases (disaster relief, celebrity-endorsed campaigns by big-name charities), into believing “social” is all you need. But exceptions are exactly that. For most organizations, social media is part of a well-built donor-communication plan, not the cornerstone of it.
Bit by bit, though, smart marketers are finding new ways to put social media to work. The Hilborn Charity Info blog reports on one technique where Facebook has generated promising results: campaigns where donors approach friends and family on behalf of a cause (Facebook and peer-to-peer fundraising: pair them up to raise more money).
The post reports on 25 such campaigns in the US and Canada that found 15% to 18% — in one case, 33% — of donations came through Facebook. Additionally, donors who could log in to campaign sites with their Facebook IDs “raised on average 40% more than those who used traditional registration.”
Earthshaking? Maybe not yet. Something to keep in mind? Sure. One key point is that social media was one element of the campaign, not the complete strategy. As more and more charities start to get a handle on how social media can strengthen their ties with their donors, we’ll start to find more ways to make social-media fundraising success less exceptional.
If your organization is bad at direct mail fundraising, you are in a tough spot, as you probably know. But it’s worse than you might have thought, because you don’t have a lot of options. If you’re bad at direct mail, don’t think you’ll find a refuge from your shortcomings by focusing on social media marketing.
Both are about being interesting. Both are about putting your audience first. Both are about give and take. If you aren’t getting those things right in direct mail fundraising, you won’t be magically good at it in a new medium.
In fact, if your direct mail is ineffective, your social media will likely fail even more spectacularly than your mail does.
Let me show you how not to do social media marketing with this tweet that came up in my Twitter feed recently (revised to protect the tweeter’s identity):
It’s 50 years since we were founded, and we’re tweeting 50 of our top achievements.
(There was a goofy #hashtag that no human will ever search, even if we continue to exist for the next trillion years.)
Then, over the course of a couple days, they actually tweeted fifty accomplishments. None of them had anything to do with donors. All of them were about the heroism of the organization and its insiders.
That’s crappy, boring, self-centered, and tone-deaf. It would fail badly in the mail, and it will fail on Twitter.
Social media can’t rescue that organization from its inability to connect meaningfully with donors. It won’t rescue you either.
The smart way to learn social media marketing is to learn traditional marketing first. Then transfer what you know to the new situation.
Here are 5 Myths About Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations from the Good Counsel blog:
- Social media is a great way to fundraise.
- Social media will get people to do something for us or drive more traffic to our website.
- A nonprofit’s ‘follower’ numbers directly translates in to memberships, dollars in the door or increased event attendance.
- Social media will fix all the problems, and is a great strategy for nonprofits.
- Social media is a fad, and we can just ignore it until it goes away.
I half-way agree with #5. Actually, for fundraising purposes, social media is largely a fad (actually several rising and falling fads), but it would be foolish to just ignore it. Social media in some form is likely to become much more than a fad, possibly even a great medium for raising funds. Pay attention, because the switch is likely to be subtle and quick.
The Internet is constantly changing, which means you should constantly change the ways you use it to market your products. To do that, you should be sure to keep track of new marketing tips and tricks. Here are some great pieces of advice that will help give your old Internet marketing techniques a boost.
A good Internet marketing tip that is feasible for smaller businesses is to follow up with customers whenever you make a sale. Send the customer an email or phone call thanking them for their business and ask them how they feel about their purchase. This is a great way to make your business seem like it cares.
Increase your exposure and market your products by participating in online message boards and forums. Post and offer answers and suggestions to others comments, ask questions, and contribute relevant information. Many message boards allow a signature on every post, so make sure you link back to your website when replying and posting online.
A monthly newsletter can often be an effective way of increasing customer loyalty and revenue. Several businesses offer affordable, easy to use newsletter software that businesses can email out to their client base. By sharing about new products and services and keeping their name in customers’ minds, businesses who send out newsletters can often see an increase in profit.
Before using flashy, resource-intensive multimedia formats like Flash, make sure that the information you are giving to your website visitors cannot be communicated any other way. Multimedia content demands more attention and patience from your visitors. Make sure the rewards you offer them are worth the extra effort they have to make.
For successful internet marketing, make your customers feel comfortable with you. Consider putting your business address on your website, along with your business phone number. This is much better than simply using a P.O. box address, and will allow your customers to feel better about purchasing from you.
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To network and improve the visibility of your brand, go to real-world internet marketing events. There are several such events every year, such as PubCon, where internet marketers can interact with their virtual colleagues and share ideas on how to make money. If you’re lucky, you can even find a business partner.
You can sell anything online and if you establish an effective internet marketing program, you can sell even faster and more effectively. Taking your business’s marketing efforts online is practically a necessity today. If you take the time to learn the best methods for doing it, you can minimize the time and effort you need to spend to get great results.
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If you have a thick skin, do what The Agitator did recently and say something critical about the use of social media for fundraising: In Defense Of Serious Fundraising Dialogue.
What happens is this: A lot of 140-character shouting. You are an ignorant dinosaur.
Which is too bad, because, as the Agitator notes:
The solid, professional, serious advancement of our trade … is seriously diminished by those who flit about on the channels, all thumbs, no thought. Those who have little idea what fundraising is all about, often because they have minimal experiential grounding in what’s important and why.
Not long ago, I was held captive on a phone conference where a new media expert revealed his grand plan for a nonprofit organization’s bold new future in social media.
Beside the fact that the expert’s entire case for his grand plan was based on anecdotes about dissimilar situations, it also had several fatal flaws that anyone with even minimal fundraising experience would not have made:
- The entire campaign was hidden under a puzzling new sub-brand.
- There were no benefits — just features.
- There was no specific call to action. If the first two problems don’t kill the campaign, this one will finish it off.
The campaign is probably going to fail.
And it’s going to fail because when social media and other new channels became the topic of conversation, everyone’s brain turned off. They willingly chose to be hypnotized by a Dangerously Ignorant Guru who doesn’t actually understand the basics of human motivation.
The end result: After the failure, this organization will likely decide social media “doesn’t work.” Which will only be half-right at best. A better conclusion: When you do it wrong, it doesn’t work. Who knows what might happen when you do it right?
Social media of some kind will probably eventually become important in fundraising. But that’s not going to happen until discussions and plans become based on facts, not noise, anecdotes, or ideology.