Traditional Media vs. Social Media: Which One Delivers More Upside to Non-profits

“We’ve always done it this way.”

That sentence is one of the fiercest enemies of progress and success, especially for non-profits. Unfortunately, when it comes to marketing and communications, many organizations miss out on some big opportunities to grow and thrive because they are hesitant to invest in social media at the expense of traditional media, such as direct mail, magazines, TV and newspaper.

Part of this reluctance to embrace social media is due to a lack of information. So what exactly is the difference between traditional and social media and what does it have to do with your non-profit? Take a look:

Viewership

The number of people who use social media has skyrocketed in the last few years and it keeps rising. The number of people who go to social media for their news has gone from 39% in 2012 to 50% in 2013. On the other hand, there’s a downward trend in the number of people who go to traditional media for their news. Newspaper has gone from 29% to 28% and radio has decreased from 33% to 23% between 2012 and 2013.

Times are changing and your organization should probably take note. You can reach more people with social media than ever before and its quickly rising past traditional media as the go-to source for news and interacting with the world.

Data Collection

You can painstakingly plan, create and execute a traditional media strategy, like a direct mailing campaign, but it’s extremely difficult and expensive to know how many people tell their friends about your organization because of it, how many people renew their membership because of it or even how many people really even take five seconds to look at it. The opposite is true with social media

Non-profits can extract reams of data from their social media efforts. From how many people are looking at your tweets to the number of people (and their age, gender, etc.) who are engaging with your Facebook post, social media has it all. You can use this data to make your organization better, provide more value to your community and grow your non-profit. The best part of social media data is that it’s cheap. There are, of course, expensive tools that chart the most minuscule patterns, but useful data can be gathered for free from various sources, especially since Twitter Analytics became accessible for everyone in August.

Engagement

Traditional media is a one-way conversation. You can put out an ad, an article or a testimonial in traditional media, but unless you gather your intended audience in a room or call them up on the phone, you’ll never know how they have reacted to it, if they have any questions or give them a chance to share it with their colleagues or friends.

Social media is different because it’s a two-way conversation. It allows your members or community to comment, reflect, share and further engage in any content you post. You can answer questions in a YouTube video comment section or encourage conversation on a Twitter post. Engaging your community increases value for your community and creates an environment of inclusiveness that makes people want to come back again and again.

Frequency and Timing

Time is often of the essence and social media understands that. You can post multiple times a day to various platforms to get your content out to your members or community. If something happens that suddenly that affects your members, you can take to social media to let them know. You can promote an initiative or event several times a week if you that’s your plan. The same cannot be said for traditional media.

There is a limited number of times you can publish material in traditional media and it takes time (not to mention money) to get in contact this way. There are are countless opportunities you can your members can miss because the timing of material in traditional media is even slightly off.

Control

Many people are worried that social media is actually just a different word for chaos and risk. This fear is uncalled for. The truth is, social media gives you more control over a message than traditional media. You can explain yourself on social media, delete or edit a post, offer apologies, control who you follow and who follows you and moderate comments on almost every platform there is.

Traditional media doesn’t offer you the same luxuries. Once you send it out, you can’t take it back, you can’t moderate it and you can’t chip in with your thoughts or follow-up. Taking control of your message and your future is easier with social media than with traditional media.

The Issues That Matter Most To Association Executives And How Social Media Can Help

The one issue that matters to association leaders, above all else, is lobbying and advocacy, according to a study by Association Adviser and Naylor LLC.

Informing the government, media and general public about an industry and its members mattered more to association leaders than any other duty, ahead of such topics as member news, industry best practices and networking, in the survey of 910 executives.

While the responses to the survey showed a wide range, all the top issues had one element in common; they can be addressed, in part, with a great social media strategy.

We took a look at the top five most important topics for association leaders and how social media can give each area a boost.

Lobbying and Advocacy

The Naylor reports explains the ascendancy of the issue of lobbying and advocacy like so, “…it’s because there’s a great deal of ‘misinformation—even fabricated information’ presented to legislators that it can easily turn into bad legislation. ‘This increases costs to consumers…'”

We detailed how social media can help the lobbying and advocacy efforts of associations a couple months ago, so we’ll highlight some of the key takeaways from the post that address how being social can help dispel myths and aid advocacy.

Social media platforms, like Twitter or Facebook, make it easier for your association to stay on top of all the latest news, trends and comments. Having a strong presence on these platforms allows your association to have a conversation about falsehoods or misinformation that may pop up online. Blogs, YouTube, Twitter and other platforms can also act a rallying point for members to join an advocacy campaign by your association and a place to shine the spotlight on member achievement where thousands of people are paying attention.

And when a city, a country or the world takes notice, so too, do politicians.

How-To/Best Practices

How-To/Best Practices came second on Naylor’s list, just slightly behind advocacy and lobbying. Just like the previous section, we’ve covered how social media can help you create and promote a how-to for members. Here are some of the finer points of our explanation:

Social media is a storyteller’s dream and that’s what a how-to is all about. If you can tell a great story, explaining how to go about an activity in the best way can be engaging for members. A video on YouTube or an infographic tacked onto Pinterest, a blog, Twitter or a website will give your members a visual to go along with your story.

Social media also provides members a place to ask questions about the how-to or interact with experts in the field who have published an article about best practices. Sometimes an article, video or explanation is not enough, but social media is there to save the day and give members the more in-depth knowledge they need and want. Host a Twitter chat, monitor the comments and plan a follow-up webinar to your how-to/best practices posts.

Industry News/Trends

There’s no denying it; people go online to get most of their news now-in-days. Your association’s members are no exception.

Being online and on social media will help your association connect members to the news and trends that will benefit them in their profession. Like we mentioned earlier, social media is a great way to keep tuned to all the latest news on a particular industry, particularly with tools such as Paper.li and hashtag monitoring. Spreading the word to members takes an engaging tweet and a little digging on which articles are the most timely and helpful.

News comes in all shapes and sizes and so does social media, which makes it a match made in heaven. You can write a blog for more a more in-depth look at news or to promote the latest technological trends, for example, or take to Instagram to document the latest about association programs, services and events in bite-sized chunks. Promoting your association’s magazine or newsletter on social media allows a much wider audience to find value in your organization’s services and makes them more likely to invest in the association in the form of membership.

Career/Professional Development

Think of the career development resources your association offers members and you can probably come up with at least a handful of examples before you finish reading this sentence. Most of them can be promoted and made more accessible through social media.

Events are a hub of learning for members and social media can add a tremendous amount to any conference, meeting or webinar, such as live-tweeting, daily recap blog posts and YouTube interviews with speakers. We’ve also detailed, at length, the newest form of education and career development taking off right now called Meetup and how it could help your association and its members.

Other programs, such as a mentorship initiatives, accreditation courses and awards programs, lend themselves beautifully to the kind of storytelling social media does so well. Tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos and infographics can capture success stories and can make people in the industry aware of the programs when they might otherwise not have known they existed.

Statistics and Data That Help Them Do Their Job Better

Social media is a goldmine of helpful stats and data that help both association leaders and association members do their job better.

Social media provides a wealth of information about an association’s members and non-members and recent developments have made it even easier to access this data. Twitter analytics became open to all Twitter users in the last month and the data to be gleaned from the available numbers could be a game-changer for association leaders. Executives can now measure which issues get the most engagement, which trends members are paying attention to most and what topics are receiving the best response from the general public. And the best part is that it’s free! There are not many resources that are better than Twitter analytics for conducting research into the behaviour, wants and needs of membership.

As for relaying the stats and facts that members want to see, well, we’ll just leave this right here. It about sums up the giant role of social media in presenting the relevant facts to the right audience.

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The most important issues for association leadership are constantly changing, but what will continue to stay the same is social media’s ability to lend a helping. From advocacy to statistics, social networking platforms can bridge the gap between problems and solutions in a cheap, effective way for many an association executive.

 

Building a Content Calendar for your Non-profit or Association

A content calendar is essential to successfully managing an organization’s social media platforms. A content calendar is a day-by-day, week-by-week or month-by-month schedule detailing the type of content you will be posting on social media.

A content calendar is a lot of things, but its main draw is that it keeps you focused, efficient and effective. A content calendar keeps you focused on the articles, issues, programs and announcements that are most relevant to your community. A calendar helps you to be more efficient so you’re not sitting at your desk for hours every day thinking of content to post about. A calendar also helps you monitor which topics are most popular as well as which posts are most engaging.

Below, you can find an example of the seven most common forms of content that a non-profit might tweet about and an example of how thee types of content might fit into a weekly calendar. But before you check that out, here are a few ground rules to remember when creating your own content calendar:

Ground Rules

- Don’t marry your content calendar. Be flexible. If breaking news affects your organization’s community, make room in your calendar for a post about it. If a member does something worth noting on a particular day, recognize it, even if it’s not in your original plans.

- Keep track of its effectiveness. Once you have a calendar in place, keep an eye out for which topics, which days and which times get better engagement. Tailor your calendar to this data and, once again, be ready to be flexible.

- Consult colleagues and members when building your content calendar. Ask them if there are any issues that you should focus on or if there are any members doing anything notable in the near future.

The Seven Types of Non-profit Content and How to Fit Them Into Your Twitter Content Calendar

*This content calendar is based on 17 tweets per week (three per weekday and one each on Saturday and Sunday).

Recognition

Recognizing members is crucial to your organization’s success. After all, helping members succeed is what your organization is all about, isn’t it? Show your members you care and show the world that your members achieve great things by frequently recognizing your members.

Recognition Calendar

Events

Twitter is a great platform to promote your organization’s events, whether it’s a fundraiser, a conference or a networking meet up. A content calendar will help you organize your thoughts on the event, remind your members without annoying them and target different demographics by generating fresh perspectives.

Event Promotion Calendar

Organizational Promotions

Your organization probably has a whole lot of programs, initiatives and benefits you want your members to take advantage of. Tweeting about them is a great way to not only let people know about these initiatives, but also how your community can access them and benefit from them. Highlighting these promotions in your content calendar helps you pinpoint the right promotion to showcase, at the right time, in the right way.

Organizational Promotion Calendar

Media

When we say media, we mean pictures, videos, infographics and the like. Visuals have been shown to help boost engagement and can be added to a tweet about an event, a how-to or member recognition to give it more oomph. Sometimes media takes a while to source, as you may have to comb through several resources, like followers who are members or YouTube, to find a perfect fit. That’s why scheduling media will help you save time and still be aces online.

Media Calendar

Original Content

Original content is content that your association or non-profit has created itself and is not from another source, such as an organization’s blog, an open letter from the president, a newsletter, etc. Original content is absolutely crucial to engaging your community and getting the most out of social media. Original content drives traffic to the website, gets people talking and shows your organization in action. Developing the right timing for posting original content is part a great social media strategy, which why a content calendar can be your best friend.

Original Content Calendar

Industry News

Sparking engagement and creating value for members is all about providing relevant content that will be useful to your organization’s community. Tweeting about the latest news, trends and techniques in your association’s industry will definitely help you stay relevant and valuable to followers. Finding the most relevant material and fitting it into your content calendar ensures that your members receive the most timely news from the best sources without overloading them with information.

Industry News Calendar

Fun Stuff

You’re organization’s Twitter account is informative, engaging, promotional and helpful, but it has to let its hair down once in a while. Your members will appreciate some fun, relaxed, but still relevant content on your Twitter account every so often. Show your members they can have fun by following your account; it could lead to a lot more loyal followers and increased engagement.

Fun Stuff Calendar

And there you have it, a complete week’s worth of content all mapped out!

Remember, a content calendar is important to effective, efficient tweeting, but also remember to have some fun with it and be ready to change things up if current events drop from out of the blue.

Which Stats Really Matter to Your Non-profit’s Social Media Community

Class is back in session after the summer break and while the members of your organization’s community have probably swapped lockers and backpacks for offices and briefcases, they still have a desire to learn.

Education is one of the biggest reasons why people join an organization. Access to specialized information was the number two reason people joined associations in 2013 and education came in at number 5, according to a study by Greenfield Services.

Your community wants to know about the latest trends in the industry to further their careers or how to initiate change to address a certain social issue. Social media is a prime channel for your organization to provide its community with this information, but it’s crucial to know which facts and figures will benefit members the most and which ones are just fluff.

Here are four stats that your community will want to know about and tips for doing it through social media:

Salary Survey Stats

Many associations conduct a salary or compensation survey to track the industry environment and professional development of their members. The stats that come from these reports usually include average salary, benefits packages and vacation pay. The survey usually includes comparisons with past years, geographical locations and sizes of the organizations where members work.

The data that is collected from these surveys are definitely what your members want to see and your association wants to share. Salary surveys tell members how they are perceived by employers and what their value is to an operation. It also provides a glimpse of what the association is doing to increase awareness of the role of members in an industry and their importance in that industry. Both these things go a long way to improving the professional lives of members and growing support for your association.

The Road from your Pocket to Impact

When a donor contributes to a cause, they want to know where their money is going and how it gets there. A good non-profit knows how to be accountable and showing these types of stats will help your organization stay transparent, trustworthy and engaging.

To give your donors a vision of how their money is spent and how it makes an impact, illustrate where every cent of a donated dollar goes, if possible. Track it from the pockets of your donors to the organization, to the travel and finally to the person, people or project that it was sent to. Track stats that quantifies the donation, such as one quarter equals one brick. Don’t forget to tell stories that take the numbers and make them personal. Your donors will appreciate knowing where their money goes and will feel like they have been on a journey with your organization.

Member Benefit Advantages

Almost every association offers tangible, financial member benefits from discounts on events, access to exclusive articles, insurance breaks, cuts on travel expenses and the like. And almost every professional in your industry knows about these benefits. What they may not know is how it affects their lives. This is where the stats come in.

Simply telling members and potential members that they will save money in their professional and personal lives by joining your association is not enough. You can’t just answer the question, “How?” but also “By how much?” Calculate the costs your members could save by taking advantage of programs. Present the data separately or all at once to show how much of a difference it could make in a year. Some benefits of an association aren’t quantifiable, but for those that are, exposing them to your members is a must.

The Problem and How to Solve it

Not every problem is in your face and out in the open. That’s part of the reason your organization needs a communications team; to increase awareness of an issue and encourage people to join in an effort to solve the problem.

But people want to know more than that. They want to know how big a problem is, who it’s affecting and how it can get better. Stats are a great way to let people know the scope of an issue and how it is or could affect them. Facts and figures on solving the problem, such as how many supplies your financial contribution equals or how many hours it takes to build a facility, act as a call to action. These statistics empower people to not just know about the issue, but act on it as well.

How to Serve Your Stats on a Social Media Platter

We have one word for you: infographics.

Infographics are a great way to present information in an engaging and visually appealing way to your organization’s community. Not only are they great to have as a blog post or as a supplement to one, they can also be tacked onto a tweet, made into a pin on Pinterest or added to a Facebook post or album. Visuals rule right now and there is no better way to capture your audience’s attention, and participation, like an infographic.

Which Stats are Best #1

An example of using stats to appeal to an association’s potential members

 

Which Stats are Best #2

An example of using stats to appeal to potential donors.

Remember, stats aren’t everything. People want to see a human side of your organization. Combining the statistics we’ve talked about in this post with one or more stories of how it has affected a real human, whether it’s a staff member, donor, member, etc., is a potent way to use social media, strive towards your goals and encourage others to join you on that path.

Hot or Not: Answers to Social Media FAQs for Non-profits

There are a few frequently asked questions we receive when we talk to non-profit or association executives about social media platforms. But instead of just explaining the ins and outs of each question, we’ve gathered five of them and enlisted the help of the fashion magazine staple; hot or not. Here they are:

Responding to Retweets and Favourites: Room Temperature

We’re going to walk the line between hot and not for this first one because there really is no right answer. Many people give a small shout out to those who retweet or favourite a post from your organization. It’s definitely a nice touch, but it’s not 100 per cent necessary.

While it’s not improper etiquette to just let these interactions be, it doesn’t take a whole lot of extra effort to write, “Thank you for retweeting us! Glad you like the article/tweet/question. Let us know if you have any other feedback,” or something like that. Who knows, it could even start a nice conversation that might lead to a very happy member, donor, sponsor or volunteer!

Posting Every Two to Three Days on Facebook: Hot

Social media is a fickle beast. Some platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, want you to pay attention to them every single day. Others, like Facebook, are okay with having your attention every other day.

While it’s definitely important to check Facebook several times a day to monitor discussions and track statistics, it isn’t at all necessary to post a status every day. Actually, it can grow quite tiresome for some people to see content from an organization clogging their newsfeed, even if it’s from a non-profit or association they care about.

Save your best content for Facebook so people aren’t skipping by your posts that are only there because you thought you should post every day. Make it fun, engaging and worthwhile. Of course, if something is happening, say a big event or a breaking news story that affects your community, it’s okay to post something two days in a row. It’s all about measuring the content’s relevancy and timeliness to your audience. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing!

Having a LinkedIn Company Page Instead of a LinkedIn Group: Not

This is actually a bit of a trick question, or rather a trick answer. You shouldn’t be deciding if it’s one or the other, you should be creating both. A company (or ‘Organization’) page is great and has many benefits. Your organization can share news, company information and helpful pieces of content, like blog posts, through company pages.

Groups, on the other hand, can be thought of as a place for individuals to have conversations. While your organization can’t run groups, you can as a representative of your non-profit or association. Groups are a great way to get discussion going and be more inclusive. They often have a broader focus, such as issues affecting a certain industry or issue, and encourage those who may not be connected to your organization yet to participate. From there, the participants are only a few steps away from engaging with your organization.

Using ROI Stats to Justify Your Social Media Efforts: Not

Using social media these days is the equivalent of being in the phone book back in the 1980s; if you’re not investing in a spot, than you’re not going to get noticed. It’s no longer a matter of if you should be on social media, but how.

Many people, mostly skeptics, will point to hard-to-come-by statistics on the financial return on investment for social media, but the benefits of social media don’t always come with a dollar amount attached to them. Rather, social media should be looked at a means to engage and communicate with your community, providing them with service and value in order to encourage them to invest time, money or interest in your non-profit.

You’ll likely never get a phone call from someone saying they joined your association or donated to your cause because of a tweet they saw or pin they liked, but exposure to consistently great content, over time, will cast your organization as an expert that prides itself on communication, transparency and hard work to achieve a goal for members. This should be the real gauge of how well your social media efforts are doing.

Encouraging Offline Events Through Online Platforms: Hot

Online and offline efforts are not in competition with each other. It is not social media’s intent to destroy face-to-face interaction and it’s not the tradition meeting’s aim to shout down Twitter, Facebook and the like. They actually complement each other quite well.

For example, if you develop a strong Twitter following, try organizing a tweetup at your next conference or fundraising drive. A tweetup takes the best of the old school and the new school and combines them into a great networking and learning opportunity.

We’ve mentioned before in this blog that the social networking platform Meetup is a great way to promote face-to-face small group continuing education online. It lets people connect who may not have ever connected before and plan a localized event that they find immense value in. Tying you organization to one of these events will only endear you further to your members or community.

4 Things Non-profits Can Learn From The Food At The Canadian National Exhibition

The days are getting shorter and back-to-school commercials are starting to pop up on. That can only mean one thing; the Canadian National Exhibition is in town.

The CNE is the annual end-of-summer fair that takes place in Toronto and includes midway rides, carnival games and countless other attractions. And one more thing; food, lots and lots of crazy food.

‘The Ex’, as it has lovingly been called, has become quite infamous as a testing ground for weirder and weirder food combinations, year after year, like deep-fried butter and cronut burgers (a hamburger with donuts taking the place of the buns). This year is no different. Some of the new items available at the CNE in 2014 include spicy peanut butter sriracha rolls and butter coffee.

cronut burger

The cronut burger was the talk of the town at the CNE in 2013. The Ex has plenty of zany food options like it. (photo via observer.com)

You’re probably more than a little hungry by now, but you might also be wondering what this has to do with social media and non-profits/associations. Here are four things that organizations can learn from the wacky, greasy, shamefully-delicious food selection at the CNE.

Create An Experience Like No Other

Part of the reason any sane person would ever eat a cronut burger or deep-fried butter is being able to brag to their friends about it. That’s the reaction you want from your members/community. When you make your social media efforts part of a unique experience for anyone involved in your organization, they will keep coming back and they’ll bring friends who can’t resist being a part of something extraordinary.

Devising and implementing an experience like no other is not an easy task, but the best way to get the creative juices flowing is to answer a few key questions, including; What does your community need? What solution can you develop to include as many members/people as we can? How can you make it easy for these people to share this experience with others?

Something as simple as a great Twitter chat, a Pinterest board mural or an Instagram scavenger hunt can go a long way to getting people involved in your organization because you have provided something they rarely get anywhere else.

Give Them Lots of Variety

There aren’t just crazy, over-the-top food options at the CNE; there’s lots of choice when it comes to picking something for lunch or dinner. The options range from Canadian comfort food (poutine and back bacon sandwiches) to Japanese (sushi) and everything in-between (pasta, perogies, curry, etc). The point is, there is something for everyone and it’s never boring.

The same concept should be applied to your non-profit/association’s social media strategy. It’s great to publish a comical story about your industry, such as a hilarious YouTube video, but it’s not especially wise to make this a daily occurrence as it doesn’t really help members or progress your organization’s goals. It’s necessary to tweet about new services your offering, success stories from your non-profit fundraisers, editorials on current events, findings of the latest surveys or reports, peer-reviewed articles and many other forms of content.

This goes for all platforms. Mixing it up every so often will allow you to provide frequent value for member, donors, volunteers, staff, sponsors and other involved in your organization.

Passing Inspection is Key

There’s been a lot of talk about the cronut burger in this post and for good reason. It was one the most talked about foods at the CNE over the last few years, for both good and bad reasons. In the early days of last year’s fair, the cronut burger was the biggest food adventure, but only a couple days later people began to get sick from the glazed delicacy. It turns out the cronut burger stall in the Food Building didn’t exactly pass health inspection with flying colours.

Your organization’s social media can learn a thing or two from the cronut burger fiasco. First of all, have a plan. Poor organization and lax guidelines make for nightmares down the road. If you have a plan and stick to it most of the time (barring any breaking news and appropriately light-hearted spontaneity) than your social platforms will run like a well-oiled machine. Creating a content calendar is good place to start and can be a big help with running your platforms effectively and efficiently.

You should also give your social media a health inspection of its own. Review the performance of your organization’s social media performance regularly and update your strategy. Don’t only look at the numbers, such as clicks, comments, retweets, follows, likes, etc. Ask your staff, members, donors and the rest of your community what they like and don’t like about the current strategy and update your plan accordingly.

Consistency

The CNE has been around for more than 100 years and food has always been a major feature of the event. Generations of Torontonians remember their first ice cream waffle sandwich or their years of sampling Tiny Tom donuts at The Ex.

food building cne

The Food Building has been a popular staple at the CNE for generations. (photo via BlogTO)

Your organization’s social media strategy needs the same kind of consistency as the food at the CNE. It is crucial that posts are regular. For example, if you create a blog for your non-profit or association, make sure to evaluate your resources (monetary, time, etc) before you start publishing. This will help you determine how often you can realistically post a blog with consistency. Otherwise you may publish three blog posts in three weeks, hit a busy period at work and not post for two months. Your community will become disillusioned and will be less likely to be loyal followers of your blog and other platforms.

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Your organization’s social media platforms need to be consistent, organized, unique and varied to appeal to your community, much like the food at the CNE. So next time you’re stuck in a rut online or are looking to venture forth on a new platform, remember these four tips and you won’t go hungry.

Facebook vs. Twitter: Which Social Media Platform Does Hashtags Better

It’s the age of the hashtag.

The little symbol has stood in the spotlight of late-night TV, started revolutions and become synonymous with being connected and in-the-loop.

The use of the hashtag in social media started on Twitter, but has since spread to Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. But which platform does it best? Which one should non-profits and associations use if they’re hashtag savvy?

We pitted two of the internet’s biggest social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook, against each other to see which one has more clout when it comes to hashtags.

Twitter, Facebook Hashtag infographic 2