How many nonprofits do you know that have incorporated social as part of their overall strategy, or even their communications strategy? Let's go further: How many nonprofits really have a strategy?
Apart from the largest nonprofits, the list is painfully small. That’s too bad, because here's what happens when strategy is not at the heart of your organization’s actions: on a good day, you bounce around from putting out one brushfire after another. On a bad day, the fire wins.
At the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference, my Socialbrite partner Carla Schlemminger and I will be leading an interactive session titled, "You Need a Strategy, Dammit, Not a Twitter Account" (with the Twitter hashtag #12NTCDammit).
Our message will be: Folks, it doesn’t have to be this way. Be proactive instead of reactive. Create a Social Media Strategic Plan to help your nonprofit get aligned, begin working as a cohesive unit, and achieve real-world impact.
Every organization will take a different journey to get there, but you must start with a plan. Too many nonprofits begin with the tools – and as much as we love Facebook, Twitter and Google+, the tools should flow from the strategy, not the other way around.
The Strategic Plan is your blueprint, the animating force that connects goals to actions.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to hire an outside consulting firm to create a social media plan for you. You can have someone in-house add five to 10 pages to your annual communications plan – assuming you have one. But the plan needs to be cross-departmental and include development, fundraising, and programming in the discussion alongside communications and marketing.
A social media strategy should support the overall organization, not just a single department.
What goes into a Social Media Strategic Plan? Lots. Begin with a 360-degree assessment of your nonprofit’s current social media capabilities. What are you doing well? Where are you falling short?
Then move on to the heart of the matter: spell out your organizational goals, seen from not only the executive director level, but from the vantage point of key stakeholders and decision-makers in the executive and extended leadership teams. Where do you want to be six months from now? A year from now?
Tie your goals to metrics. You can create a separate metrics plan, but at a high level, you should identify the goals you want to track and how you’ll measure them.
Include an assessment of your online community. Identify who they are and how they might want to be involved – and don’t be afraid to ask, using online survey tools like SurveyGizmo or Wufoo. Remember that you don’t have a single online audience but a myriad of audiences: constituents, partners, funders, and supporters with varying levels of passion for your cause.
Only now, after you’ve laid your foundation, should you include in the plan an outline of which social tools and platforms can help you reach your goals and create impact in the community.
You might also include recommendations on expanded capabilities you’d like to see. Do your team members feel well equipped to tell stories, to share updates, to post photos from live events? If not, a series of training sessions on storytelling, mobile, or social media might be in order.
Finally, a Social Media Strategic Plan sometimes includes a competitive or peer analysis, a look at how you’re doing when assessed against others in your sector. Don’t be afraid to steal good ideas. You think everything Steve Jobs or Bill Gates did was original?
That covers only a small portion of what we’ll be presenting at NTC. Hope to see you at "You Need a Strategy, Dammit, Not a Twitter Account"!
J.D. Lasica, one of the earliest social media strategists, is a consultant to nonprofits as well as Fortune 1000 companies, mid-size companies and startups. He is widely considered one of the world's leading authorities on social media and the revolution in user-created media.