Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Federation
As social media grows in popularity, one fact cannot be ignored: if used well, it can generate impressive amounts of traffic and increase engagement around your cause or organization. If ignored, however, it can lead to tears of anguish and people punching their computers.
I spend a lot (and I mean a lot) of time trying to figure out how to use social networking, bookmarking and news sites to enhance the National Wildlife Federation's online presence. The beauty of it is that the work I've been doing with my large non-profit can be translated to even the smallest message.
There are several key techniques for dispersing information effectively. These overall strategies aren't anything new in the marketing world: social media is just a new way to do old business. The tools have changed, but the need for knowing your audience, having an end goal, testing theories, and acting on lessons learned remains the same.
Know Your Goals
Good goal: "Increase inbound links by 200%."
Bad goal: "Make things go viral!"
Social media may be new to your organization and hard to put into tangible calculations, but you should attempt to approach it like any other part of your job. Reaching your goals doesn't involve magic. It involves method, just like anything else.
My co-worker, Anne Keisman, recently came to me for advice on how she could get started using social media to promote web content. Anne is the online media coordinator for Green Hour®, an NWF program geared toward getting children outside in nature.
The first thing we did was figure out what she wanted to see happen on www.greenhour.org, the program's microsite. We looked at the site's stats over the last year and made the goal: double the site's traffic in the coming year.
Be Out There
Anne was excited, but still wary about how much of her job she could actually commit to this social media stuff. I told her just to try it and see what happens.
I set her on the path to join all of the major and up-and-coming social media sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Delicious and Mixx. She created profiles as both herself and as the Green Hour brand, depending on what made the most sense.
She has already increased brand awareness for Green Hour and every day reaches new and different audiences. She started seeing the pay-off, too. Within weeks of Anne joining StumpleUpon and bookmarking her pages with this tool, she saw a steady increase in traffic and was able to find like-minded "stumblers" looking for content tagged in categories like "parenting."
Form Mutual Relationships
As Anne became familiar with the various social media sites, I pushed her to try to identify good "friends." So much of social media is dependent on the support of others (votes, thumb-ups, diggs, etc.).
Seek out like-minded people -- who will be interested in your content -- as well as the most active users -- who are great to reach out to for advice -- and form a mutually-symbiotic relationship where you help them as much as they help you.
Anne is having a lot of success at doing this on Green Hour's Twitter page. She "tweets" various tips for getting kids outside, links to new Green Hour blog posts and information on events and more. This micro-blogging tool puts her in contact with warm and welcoming "mommy bloggers" who repost her stuff. She provides a resource. They support the content they like. Everyone wins!
Track Referrals and Traffic Trends
You should see bumps in traffic fairly quickly once you venture into the social media world. While the numbers might be small to start, they will help you identify what's working and where you should spend your time.
Blogs, social networks, social news and bookmarking sites are easy to monitor through RSS readers. I also make it a point to monitor referrals to find traffic spikes. Once you identify these spikes, you can not only focus more attention to the source of them, but you build relationships with the people linking to you.
Tip: Did you notice a spike in traffic from any particular blog? Follow up! Comment on the post and thank the writer for the mention.
Test for What Works
The social web can be a fickle place. But generally speaking, content that does well usually fits under the categories of "resourceful" or "funny." The best way to determine what works is to test everything. The responses usually lead you down the path of the correct way to label and distribute your content.
Save Yourself Time
Spread your content quickly and easily by downloading helpful Firefox add-ons that speed up the posting process. Sign up for niche bookmarking and networking sites to get the attention of a specific audience.
Currently, NWF's top social referrers are the following. Though they are valuable for different reasons, some of the sites drive high numbers and the quality sites may drive less people to your site but they will be there longer as they are more likely to like your content.
If you are serious about driving traffic to your site, I recommend (if you haven't already) checking these out.
High Traffic Drivers (Highest referrers)
Quality Traffic Drivers (Longer time on site)
* This is my favorite because it drives quality traffic in high numbers.
If you'd like to friend me or NWF on any of these sites feel free to email me at brigidad[@] nwf.org