Thursday, June 02, 2011

10 Things you need to know about Social Media

"Statistics could be improved with a planned social media presence that included blogging, facebook and twitter applications that would drive people to the website."

This sentence consistently prefaces the monthly Google Analytics Reports that I receive, on several not for profit websites that I am the volunteer webmaster for.  Social Media is the new buzz word in business circles as well.  Robin is a CGA and receives the CGA Canada magazine - The May/June issue is all about using Social Media for your practice or your business.

Last winter I was clueless about how to use social media to its best advantage but I took a webinar from Idealware and I learned some important things about social media.

Ludites need not apply...

1.  Social Media is "free" so any organization, or business can engage in it for the investment of time.  Forget the "time is money" myth for now.  There is a payback for engagement in social media.

2.  The impact of social media can be measured using free on-line tools such as google analytics.  The return on engagement can be seen by the number of people that interact with your website or blog, the length of time they stay on your site, the comments they make on your posts and an increase in the number people that email your organization, attend your concerts or visit your Etsy site.

3.  Social Media engagement should be planned and consistent.  There are a lot of messages out there and you need yours to be out there and looked at -- if you want to have an impact.  You don't want this handled by a volunteer, but by someone who is as passionate about your message as you are.   For each social media product that you use -- you should invest 2 hours a week.  So 2 hours a week blogging and responding to comments, 2 hours a week interacting on your organization's Facebook page, 2 hours a week sending and responding to Tweets, and 2 hours a week on email mail outs and email responses.  This is over and above your website maintenance and updates.  Does it sound like it should be a staff position?  Of course you should have a very good webpage, too.

4.  Webmaster and social media flunky are different skill sets.  I am a volunteer webmaster and I'm learning as I go.  I got the job (currently webmaster for 4 not for profits) because I had created my own website for Joybilee Farm.  I'm not a professional webmaster -- they are expensive hires.  I am learning as I go -- and the text book keeps changing.  Webmasters need design skills, software for website creation and upload, a photograph cache, and the ability to read and write html code as well as CSS (I'm not there yet but I'm working on it).  In some of my volunteer work I also have to know how to edit sound bytes and upload podcasts.  Webmaster skills involve a bit of design but mostly technical savvy.  Social media engagement, on the other hand,  requires writing ability, awareness of trends, creativity, photography skills, a computer with high speed or satellite Internet connection, a good digital camera, time to invest in the community and an awareness of what your message/mission/purpose is, plus the ability to consistently communicate that brand to others.

5.  Every organization must develop a social media culture.  Social Media has changed the way we interact with each other.  There is a conversation going on about you, your organization, your business.  You need to be part of it.  There needs to be a move away from "Facebook is a waste of time.  Facebook is blocked on work computers." to "We will engage in social media to help our constituents/ customers and to get our message out in a more effective way to a broader audience."

For instance, I am using social media on a tentative basis for my church -- I started a blog, set up a facebook page and then tried to get the church members involved by asking them to "like" the church page on facebook.  After several months of the message being posted in the church bulletin to no avail, I asked the pastor to announce it on Sunday morning.  He did.  He said that he wasn't on facebook, but however you 'like' the church page, if you are on facebook, you should.  Bombed!

Our church doesn't have an inviting social media culture.  There is a "Facebook is a waste of time" mindset.  Its culturally desirable to have less technology, less computer savvy,  and less expensive equipment in my church community.  But the "more with less" philosophy comes at a cost. We, as a church, are not engaging a computer savvy, technologically intelligent and socially engaged demographic.  Are we becoming culturally irrelevant?  First a social media culture needs to develop with the staff before a social media plan can be implemented. It may be a long trip.

6.  Every organization, whether nfp or business,  should have a social media plan that includes how the organization will engage in social media, what the organization will do when the impact is negative, what tools will be used and how the impact will be measured, what goals will be set for each campaign and what will constitute success.  Setting up the social media plan should involve the key players -- the webmaster, the person(s) who will post on Facebook, upload photos to Flicker, take spontaneous videos and upload them, blogger(s), follow up, and administrative oversight.  And the social media plan should be in writing, subject to periodic revisions.

7.  Social Media engagement has a life cycle that includes specific campaigns followed by maintenance.  Lots of organizations use Facebook when they are doing something that demands a social response -- "Come to our concert on Friday night"  or "Give to the xyz nonprofit for the Japanese Tsunami crisis" --  but then drop the engagement in between campaigns.  Active engagement in social media during the maintenance period gives a consistent message that grows the conversation and develops an online culture supportive of your message for the next campaign.

Right now I have a "campaign" to educate my "friends" about locally produced clothing and textiles and the aesthetic pleasure that a locally produced natural dye palette can bring.  I hope to engage these friends to take a new look at sustainable clothing production and perhaps volunteer to collaborate with me on a fashion show, a clothing line, or even to create from natural wool, or linen a garment or accessory for themselves.  I'd like to have reskilling days at the farm on a regular basis -- once a month -- but there is a mental roadblock because I live in a remote, rural area -- so I'm hoping to engage people who live closer to me within a 90 min. drive.  In between (the maintenance period) I talk about my farm, recipes, and my lifestyle to make friends and hopefully to help make someone's life happier, more fulfilling, more productive.  I don't really have a social media plan but I'm working on it.

8.  It matters when you post.  Studies have been done on Facebook return-on-engagement that show that posts made to Facebook on a Friday generate a higher number of responses than posts made on other days.  That's why the online games always have something new released on Thursday night to Friday morning.  Posts made on a Monday often don't compel much response likewise, many weekend posts.

9.  It matters how often you post.  Some organizations post daily to Facebook or several times a day and some organizations post only 3 times a week.  A greater impact is seen when Facebook posts contain relevant content and when an organization invests at least two hours a week in interacting on Facebook.

One nfp organization that I am webmaster for, set up a facebook page, on my advice, after seeing their google analytics log for their website.  They have 7 followers -- which is too few to generate facebook stats -- 30 followers is the minimum.  They made two initial posts after setting up the page and haven't posted since.  Build it and they will come doesn't  work with social media.  There needs to be consistent posts, and tweets to keep the audience from being drawn away by other messages.

10.  Content is King.  Blog posts, Tweets and Facebook posts should contain relevant content -- but what is relevant content?  Do you know your audience?  What information will enhance their life, improve their day or their business, or entertain them?  What niche are you trying to fill?

For Joybilee Farm -- our niche is organic, sustainable natural fibers, natural dyes, teaching the textile arts, and creating and selling beautiful garments and accessories that embody the organic, sustainable lifestyle.  Our audience for this blog is other fiber artists and those who also are interested in organic food, sustainable and ethical farm practices, and eco-friendly clothes and accessories.  Sometimes my family members read this blog, too, but I don't write for them, and they never leave comments to let me know they've been here. (hint:  leave a comment)

The niche for a church is different -- a church has a message of hope that those in emotional and spiritual pain need to hear -- and won't if the church stays within its 'more with less' community clique.

The niche for an arts organization should embrace the entire community of performers, artists, and their audiences with relevant content to improve their skills, or their marketing or their enjoyment of culture.

Your turn:
What's your niche?  What social media platforms do you use?  Can you see a way to make your social media engagement more effective?  What hinders you from effective social media engagement?
Tell me in the comments, please.


  1. Chris "WELL" said! Social Media is a important free tool that anyone can use. I feel for you with your struggles at that Church... ;) Maybe they find it too scary to take their head out of the sand and be open to change.... LOL
    Keep it up! Great Job.


  2. Thank you for taking the time to put these thoughts down in such a clear way. I am definitely part of your audience as you have defined it, and I really enjoy reading about your work. My biggest challenge in using social media effectively is devoting good quality time to the writing process, instead of sitting down late at night and staring at a blank screen. Occasionally I will quote a link to an inspirational site such as yours, and consider it part of the process of building an online community, but I understand that without original and engaging content my connections will not flourish. I am going to work on defining my niche as you suggest.

  3. Thanks for your input, James. Yes, I think you are right about the fear factor. With any organization that uses volunteers as the backbone for work, its difficult to get a consistent message out. That's why I advocate that the social media flunky be a staffer. But it is very new (less than 10 years old...) and budgets aren't easy to break into for new technology.

    But I'll keep working on it.
    Have a great day. The rain has finally stopped here.

  4. Hi, Cloverleaf
    Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I agree that investing the time in social media is a challenge, especially for busy, creative people. Passing on links to other sites on your blog is one kind of article. What helped me, was changing from thinking of the blog as a "Dear Diary" vehicle, to thinking of it as a magazine that needs articles. Then I asked myself, who is my audience and what do they need that I can help them with.

    I started reading some blogs about writing blogs, too. One helpful one is


    I love that blogging, unlike a magazine, is a conversation. I love that I can post an article and come back later and see responses in the comment section, finding out if I helped someone or bombed.

    And learning new skills keeps us young, right?

    Have a great day,