Social Marketing for Non-Profits, Part 1: Getting Started

I admit it; I’m spoiled. I work for a corporation that has a budget for marketing our products. We never think we have enough money for what we want to accomplish, but then I go to a committee meeting for one of the non-profits with which I’m involved, and I realize how lucky I am. Many small non-profits have next-to-no staff, and very little room to spend money to promote themselves. I’m always talking about the power of social marketing; the importance of building a trust-based relationship and then empowering your customers spread the message. Nowhere is this more needed than in organizations that are trying to change the world on a shoestring budget. Most of them have great stories to tell. I’ve decided to put my time and money where my mouth is and help a few organizations develop their own social marketing strategies.

I’m sure I’m going to learn a lot in this process; in the hope that this could be of help to others, I am going to document the work as it progresses. In this “part 1”, I’m outlining the overall approach I’m going to take for each organization I plan to work with. One is an arts organization, the other is one of the ministries of my church. I will write this from the perspective of a volunteer, and hopefully some of this will also be helpful to marketing or development directors.

1. Establish a team. It’s the nature of non-profits that a lot of work must be accomplished by volunteers, so the first step is to find folks to help. Discuss the idea with the leader of the non-profit, and get an understanding of if/how staff can participate. Let the organization’s  board know what you are trying to accomplish, and ask that they help you identify people in, or connected to, the organization that have knowledge of marketing, web site and/or database technology, and communications. Include a notice in the organization’s newsletter, email updates, and other existing communication channels. Since everyone is a volunteer, it will be important to establish how much time each person has available to participate, and to organize the work accordingly. Identify who will post content, who will monitor and reply to comments and posts on the page.

2. Establish your objective for social media. Unless you know where you are going, you will never be figure out how to get there. Are you seeking to use social marketing to deepen the organization’s connection to those already involved as volunteers or staff? To build the number of supporters? To build connections between those who benefit from the goods or service provided by the organization? To increase awareness of the organization in the community? Each of these objectives are valid and each require different tactics. The team needs to pick the one that is most critical to the organization right now, and focus there. You can always tackle the others after you nail the first priority.

3. Identify key shareable content. Talk to those who are already connected with the organization and find our what they say to others (after all, one to one conversation is the 1.0 version of social networks). Don’t worry about starting small. According to a (somewhat self-serving) study by Ning, “It only takes 20 people to bring an online community to a significant level of activity and connectivity.” Focus on the content that you already know people are sharing with others; ask them what else they would like to know and give it to them. For example, if your objective is to increase the number of supporters/ donors, talk to existing donors and ask them why they give. Better yet, ask them to invite a few friends for coffee, and listen to how they talk about the organization to their friends. This will give you many ideas about how you should talk to prospective donors. Create a calendar of content so that everyone on the team know what will be posted and when.

4. Pick a platform to start with. You don’t have to do it all at once, so start with one thing. One of the the easiest places to start is by creating a blog on WordPress; your blog can provide the basic infomation about your organization and provide a consistent “landing page” to which you can point other communications. Or you could just create a page within a social network such as Facebook and Twitter (and with Google+ on the horizon).  YouTube might also be appropriate if you have lots of video content. Twitter is organized around interests, and having authority on a certain topic matters. If real-time information is important to your audience, Twitter is a place you will want to be. With Twitter, you will often need to link elsewhere, so you should only choose Twitter if you already have a web site or blog to which you can link. Facebook is centered on connecting with friends and family; because it is so widely adopted, it gives you a good chance of having your content shared with others. If the organization doesn’t already have a web site, you could consider starting a social community site from scratch using a partner such as Ning. There may be a niche social network that is closely related to the work of your non-profit or to your geographic area. The choice depends on your objectives. Gather at least a dozen stories, photos, videos to use as your initial content, and then:

5. Create your presence on the social network of your choice and say hell0 to the world. Contact existing supporters, staff and volunteers in whatever way you can  – by phone, mail , email, posters at gatherings, announcements at meetings. send an email letting everyone know of your presence and asking them to “like” or “follow” the organization. Ask them to post pictures, write stories, tell their friends.

6. Listen! Ask! Answer questions, respond to requests. Show them what the organization is doing to achieve its mission. Encourage the community to create the content themselves. Encourage them to invite others.

Non-profits are created by folks that are passionate about wanting to make something happen. Social Marketing is the perfect way to harness that passion and spread the word to others. If you are working in a non-profit, let me know about how you are using social channels to accomplish your mission!

Building A Facebook Fan Base

So you want to build your brand’s Facebook fan base? Before I get there, a few disclaimers: 1. Size doesn’t matter. It is more important to have a few very engaged fans than a thousand who “like” your page once and never return. 2. Size does matter. The more like-minded people you have in your fan base, the more likely they are to engage in conversation and develop a living, breathing community in the context of the brand. 3. Facebook doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Facebook publishing and advertising tactics are only part of what a brand should be doing to build connections with their consumers. I can’t express this any better than John Jantsch already did on his blog: Facebook is Not the House.

As John points out, Facebook can be a “front porch”, an effective place to begin a relationship with a consumer, a place where they can get to know the brand. So if you have decided to start inviting people to come over to your front porch for a glass of lemonade, here are a few pointers to maximize the number of RSVPs:

1. Target cost-efficient Facebook Marketplace ads to consumers most likely to like your brand. The most obvious group of these prospects is the friends of those who are already friends of your brand. Use key words that are directly related to your product, category, or usage occasion to increase your chances of delivering a relevant ad to the right person.

2. Concentrate on the simple “Page Like” ad format. A Video Like unit or a Poll unit gives the consumer something else to do, which is great if you want to drive engagement. But if you want to build your fan base, keep a single-minded focus in your ad formats, and stick to “Page Like” units.

3. Start your campaign using multiple variations of image, copy and title, and eliminate lower performing units as the campaign proceeds. High contrast, simple images tend to work the best, given the white background of Facebook pages. Keep the text short and witty.

4. Start your campaign by using multiple, narrowly defined targets. Monitor the results from each target, and eliminate those groups that don’t respond.

5. Support the Page Like ad units with Page Like and Page Post Sponsored Story units, targeted to friends of your existing fans. For more detail, have a look at my previous post about Sponsored Stories.

6. Not everyone will click on the “like” button in the ad; some will click on the title and land on your brand page. Make sure that the landing page gives them an idea of what to expect from your brand, and why should “like” your page. You could have them simply land on the your brand’s news feed. If that’s your choice, take time to think about the default setting for your page: would it be better for them to see just the brand status updates, or is seeing recent posts made by all your existing fans more compelling?  As an alternative, you could develop a custom landing page, to allow you more control about the “first impression” your brand makes. Think about which approach will help them decide whether they do indeed “like” your brand.

Building your fan base is a continual process; Facebook is so widely adopted that it’s unlikely that a single campaign will reach all the potential fans for your brand. Maintaining a steady rate of fan growth provides a solid base that can be leveraged to support campaigns focused on fan engagement and  deeper brand experiences online and offline.

A Brief Guide to Facebook Sponsored Stories

Facebook advertising is one of the most easy and accessible advertising platforms ever developed, and according to EMarketer and  ComScore, advertisers have made Facebook the #1 publisher of display advertising on the internet. By providing a self-service platform, Facebook allows businesses small and large to develop and monitor highly targeted ad campaigns within minutes. And by creating Sponsored Stories ad formats, Facebook has created a way for brands to increase the likelihood that a brand’s content will be seen by their target audience. And by providing a “social” layer to the ad, the chances of engagement go up, since a consumer is more likely to notice the action of their friends. When combined with standard Facebook display advertising, sponsored stories can drive brand awareness and engagement beyond your existing fan base.

There are several formats for Sponsored Stories, but they boil down to two basic types: one format (the Page Post) is targeted to your current fans, and all the others are targeted to the friends of those who have interacted with your brand’s content. For the latter type, this added layer of “social endorsement” can result in higher ad performance; for the campaigns with which I have been involved, this extra endorsement provided more strength to ads for a more well-known brand compared to a less-well-known brand.

When running Sponsored Stories ads using the self-service platform, there are three formats to choose from: The Page Post, the Page Like, and the Page Post Like, with variations of each for Applications or Domains.

  • The Page Post Sponsored Story is directed to your current fans. It takes the brand’s post and delivers in an ad format to existing fans. It may seem strange to use a format like this: you may be saying to yourself: “why wouldn’t my fans just read my post in their news feed – why would I spend money to deliver my post as an ad to them?” There are two reasons: (1) Your post won’t be published at the same time that all of your fans are online, so your post will move down in their news feed as time passes. (2) Facebook uses an algorithm to determine what content is displayed in the Top News feed of each Facebook member. If a fan is interacting with your brand less often that with their other connections on Facebook, they may not see your post in their news feed at all. The Page Post Sponsored Story is a way to be sure they see your post.
  • The Page Like and the Page Post Like is directed to the friends of your fans. A Page Like story lets friends of current brand fans know that one of their connections “liked” your brand page. This story can be published when they like your page directly from Facebook and also when they use the Like box on your brand’s web site. A Page Post Like story lets them know that one of their connections “liked” on one of your brand posts.  As with the Page Post sponsored story, you may wonder why you need to pay to create an ad for this: a “like” action will show up in the news feed of their friends. The answer is the same: these ad increase the likelihood that the action will be noticed.
You can use these formats to promote a brand Page, a Place, and Application, or even a website that is external to Facebook. Ads can be generated when a friend plays a game, uses or shares an application, checked in at a brand place, liked or shared a piece of content on your web site, or pasted a link from your site into their status update. Sponsored stories only happen when a consumer takes an action, so it makes sense to run standard Facebook display ads to increase the rate of consumer activity at the same time you are running sponsored stories.
Facebook’s own guide to sponsored stories provides more detail and links to additional content for developers and analysts.