Non-Profit Marketing placing a bet on social media?

A couple of days ago, Wailin Wong of The Chicago Tribune wrote an article describing how non-profits are beginning to enter the world of social media. While the article and the marketers quoted in the article make a lot of good points, the biggest benefit of social media to non-profits was missed.

Today, we find ourselves in a world of increasingly decentralized media that makes mass communication a bit of a challenge. (There are more podcasts today than radio stations in the world) Marketing in the social media space is now more about “pull” than “push.” Individuals can consume whatever they want whenever they want. With this challenge of how to reach mass audiences in mind, it will be difficult for non-profits to maintain the traditional posture of using marketing to gain new donors.

While gaining new donors will always be important, the role of marketing and PR in a highly niched world will be more about strengthening the ties you have with your stakeholders and transforming them into organizational evangelists and zealots. While the article touched on the engagement and relationship building aspects of social media marketing, when Wailin Wong describes non-profits as “betting that the Internet’s viral nature,” it is a bit like the guy showing up to the party in a Members Only jacket. “Viral” is so 2005. Social media, today, is about building smaller, niched communities that are passionate and committed to the cause. In terms of “viral”, any strange guy with a goofy song can be “viral,” however, it is the real, lasting connections that will pay off for non-profits in the long run.

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1 comment so far

  1. Nicole Hamilton on

    I also had a chance to read this article, and have to agree with you 100%. I think for any organization to fully understand the value and opportunities that exist in social media it is critical that we look beyond the surface appeal–making a quick buck. You hit the nail on the head, “the role of marketing and PR in a highly niched world will be more about strengthening the ties you have with your stakeholders and transforming them into organizational evangelists and zealots.”

    To piggyback on your thought, the community aspect isn’t anything new—what’s “new” is the ability for us to form these niche communities on a whole different level. More importantly, what we have to understand is that we can’t control the message anymore, what we can do is use social media as a means of making it easier for that conversation to take place. In the meantime, build our credibility and illustrate how, as organizations, we genuinely care what is out there and what is being discussed in our own communities. Why not leverage the extraordinary knowledge base we have within the entire organization and use it to show consumers and members what a great organization we truly are? They will become evangelist because they love and trust us. What I love about working for a nonprofit is that our consumers and members are people who genuinely care about what we are doing, and in turn, they are the ones who want to talk about what we do or what they are apart of. We should rely on the people who are already loyal to us to talk about how great we are because it is genuine and real. Our members and donors are what follow as a result—and I can guarantee they are the ones that stick around.


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