Every institution that my firm, Gonser Gerber, works with has the same question when it comes to social media:
How can facebook, Twitter, Google+, and other social media help us raise more money?
Truth is, we are spending more time with our social networks – keeping content fresh, moderating discussions, etc. – and the energy and resources we are using to “do” social media can add up. We need a social media ROI that makes sense.
The promise of all social media is that it allows our institutions to converse with and to engage a mass of individuals quickly and relatively easily. If we ask good questions and develop ways of online listening, we have an opportunity to tap the interests, desires, values, and energy of large numbers of our constituents. Additionally, we have the opportunity to spread our institution’s message to an ever-broadening group of prospects who may share our values and resonate with our mission.
But, there is so much “noise” (as Seth Godin likes to say) already out there. Every company, every educational institution, every non-profit, every group, is tweeting, updating, and enlarging their stream. But much of it is just “noise.”
“Noise” is all of the content, data, stories, communications, etc., that does not interest us. Think of all of the stories that show up on your iGoogle homepage. Think of your Twitterfeed. Think of your facebook feed. Sure, some of it is interesting, but to keep up with all of it would be more than a full-time job. And, the reality is, a lot of it – a whole lot – is not of interest. It is just plain noise.
A key mistake that institutions make with social media, then, is that they contribute to the “noise.” The push every news release via social media. They link to other stories that mention the institution. They re-tweet everything tweeted by another constituent. They “communicate” without asking questions and listening. They treat their social media fans and friends to a steady stream of “noise” – the electronic version of a bullhorn. And you know how annoying a bullhorn is.
Instead, I think institutions would be far better served developing a “point of view” that resonates – not with everyone in the known universe because that is impossible – but that resonates with people who are aligned with the mission, vision, and values of the institution. And once you develop a point of view that furthers the institution, you stick to it. Daily. Every tweet. Every facebook status update. Every Google+ stream addition. Stay focused on your point of view and don’t deviate.
The value of social media is not that it gives you a platform to be a louder town crier. People walk right by the town crier and do their best to ignore him. The value of social media is that it allows you to publish, listen, and engage people from a specific, important viewpoint.
Staying true to a “point of view” social media strategy creates an environment in which people choose to come back for more. That’s how social media helps you raise more money.