Social Media Engagement Changes Everything. . . Except Engagement

I regularly get asked about social media donor engagement strategies as if social media (facebook, twitter, Google Buzz, etc.) is somehow so different from other mediums of communication so as to change the fundamentals of human-to-human interaction.

True, the social media technologies provide free, powerful tools to reach, inform, interest, and engage almost endless numbers of people.  But engaging people is still engaging people.  Let’s think about the Five I’s of Development:

  • Identify – or finding prospects with capacity
  • Inform – or inviting them to learn more about our work
  • Interest – or gaining an understanding of what parts of our work may be attractive to them
  • Involve – or inviting them to participate in the life of our organization
  • Invest – or encouraging them to respond to our work with financial generosity

We know that working with donor prospects through these Five I’s – these “stages” – by asking thoughtful, well-framed questions and seeking their involvement in our work will most often lead to receiving high levels of charitable support.  I remain of the opinion that moving prospects through these Five I’s occurs most efficiently and effectively in person.  However, as organizations utilize social media they must recognize that as powerful and exciting as facebook and twitter are, they do not change the reality that prospects still need to work through these stages.

Case in point:  Leyl Master Black , a Managing Director at Sparkpr, recently wrote for Mashable an article entitled:  “4 Easy Ways to Engage Your Facebook Fans.”   It’s an easy, helpful read and I encourage you to do so, but here are the Cliffs Notes:

  1. Ask Their Opinion;
  2. Test Their Knowledge (Which, of course, is a fun way to Ask Their Opinion);
  3. Combine Promotions (Asks) With Content;
  4. Thank Them.

Does anything (read: everything) on this list look familiar?  Of course it does.  Yes, social media is new, exciting, free, and powerful.  Yes, it can help you connect with and engage more donors and prospects with methods we didn’t have even 2-3 years ago.  But no, it won’t fundamental alter the processes of donor engagement.  Human engagement, after all, is still human engagement.


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