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Is Social Media Right for Your Organization?

Posted by at Sep 14, 2010 03:50 PM CDT
Categories: NPtech, Social Media

Guest post from John Chen, @johnYSchen, DC-based nptechie and nonprofiteer.

It's evident that social media has become ingrained into our daily lives. Social media has the power to bring your organization up in an instant (see Social Media Campaign Gives NBC’s Chuck a Fighting Chance); it also has the power to bring you down just as fast (see Skittles Twitter campaign) if not done properly. Organizations are hearing:

“You need to be on social media.”

“You need to be where your customers and potential customers are.”

“It's time you join the conversation.”

These are valid points, however a bit cliché, but that doesn’t mean every organization is going to, or should, execute them the same way. Organizations need to stop trying to replicate other social media strategies and develop one that works for their specific needs and opportunities. There will be hurdles to overcome for those trying to implement social media in their organization. Here are some things to consider before diving into your organization’s social media efforts.

If your customers aren’t there, why are you?
Social networks, like traditional marketing tactics, has the ability to bring in new clients and customers. It’s a medium, not a golden egg. You need to have a successful product to draw supporters in, not just a social medium. Which brings us to… 

A bad product will always be a bad product
If your reason for not being on social networks is because you have a controversial product, let go. People are going to talk about a poor product, whether you’re involved or not. BP tried to lay low in the early days of the oil spill, and as a result parodies more damaging to their brand reputation popped up. Check out @bpglobalpr, a non-official BP account. Social media can and should be an extension of your organizational brand, but not without the same attention granted to other parts of the brand. 

Have realistic expectations
Not everyone’s social media program is going to look the same – the same way Gap’s website doesn’t look like the Red Cross, which doesn’t look like Bruce Springsteen, which doesn’t look like McDonald’s, etc. Websites reflect staff, resources and the product, as should your social media strategy. If your communications strategy is to control your message and conversation, don’t expect the same social media results as a organization like Nike, Ford, or Target.  

Don't have management buy-in
Social media, like any other communications tool requires buy-in from management. They're the ones that define the organizational culture, dictate the staff time, resources, and budget. A truly successful program should include materials from the marketing department, information from senior management, and opportunities for the public relations department to get involved. But without their support you likely won't have the time, staff, or backing required to effectively implement your social media program.

Lack of staff and/or resources
Regardless of what most people say, social networking is not free. Signing up for a Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, or YouTube account is free. Someone has to populate the content and be at the steering wheel. Building your social media presence is like building your brand; it takes time - and a lot of it.

Your organization wouldn’t implement a marketing plan, or an advertising program without any resources. Why should a social media initiative be any different?

Lack of clear objectives and goals
Organizations should ask themselves before investing in any program or efforts. Why are you doing it? What are you trying to achieve? Are you trying to achieve brand awareness? Generate additional revenue? Drive traffic back to your website? Provide customer service? Answering these questions can help shape your plan and narrow your focus. 

Conclusion
My goal here isn’t to scare everyone away from social media. Organizations need to understand that social media isn’t a solve-all, save-all solution. It’s a tool to be used to achieve a goal. That goal is something that your organization needs to determine before sending your first tweet, posting your first Facebook status, or uploading your first YouTube Video. If you want your social media efforts to succeed, adopt the tool into your daily efforts. It’s not something to be dabbled in or to be done on the side. Ingrain it into your efforts as e-mail is into your daily life and you’ll find it can reap more rewards than you could have imagined – if done properly.

 I’d love to hear what you think, feel free to contact me at @johnYSchen 

Special thanks to @akmcquade and @alexpriest for their help on this post.


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