Last week a study came out that said small to medium sized nonprofits were not gaining much from using social media. I believe it, and here’s why: 1) Most nonprofits are still at the dabbling stage. When they should be integrating their social media campaigns into their primary communications and development plans, they still tend separate social media from traditional media and marketing. 2) Many nonprofits just are not properly trained to utilize social media. A common mistake is to assume that because a person is “young” and has been using Facebook for years to stay in touch with friends and family, then they must be good at using social media for branding an organization. Wrong. So wrong. 3) The vast majority of nonprofits don’t know how to monitor or measure ROI [Return on Investment]. Most nonprofits are experimenting with social media, but few can or are measuring its impact.
I have been doing the social media thing for almost 4 years and I took granted that most nonprofits are doing the basics in terms of measuring ROI, but recent polls I presented on Twitter speak otherwise. So, let’s get back to basics in terms of measuring social media ROI and if you can, try to put these strategies in place before the end of the year fundraising/giving season is in full swing.
1. Monitor your website traffic.
During the Era of Web 1.0, nonprofits were very keen on increasing website traffic. They spent relatively large amounts of cash on SEO and invested many hours is getting listed on portals. E-mail marketing took off and promotional materials were loaded with plugs to “Visit our website!”. Website traffic was the number one indicator to measure ROI.
Today, I think most nonprofits that are not monitoring traffic would be surprised by how little traffic their website is actually getting. Of those that are monitoring their traffic, many are not aware that “Unique Visitors” is the number to watch and that “Hits” are meaningless. Those that are not monitoring traffic are just completely in the dark about the effectiveness of their web campaigns.
Every website out there has stats to monitor. How many unique visitors by day, month, year? Exactly what pages are visitors viewing? How long are they on your website? What websites were your visitors on right before they visited your site [Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace]? Every nonprofit should be monitoring this data.
Furthermore, if your traffic has not increased significantly from social media, then you are doing something wrong. Are you correctly using the “Links” and “Static FBML” Apps on Facebook? Are you putting a “http://” in front of all website links in Facebook Updates? Are you building community on Twitter or just pushing out press releases and blog posts [that in time people start to ignore]? Do you have an account on Bit.ly to make sure that the links you are posting are actually interesting to your Twitter community? If not, you may be surprised what people click and what they don’t. Having an account on Bit.ly is a must to Tweet successfully!
On average, my website gets about 5,000 unique visitors a month. Nonprofit Tech 2.0 averages about 15,000 (WOW). And it’s not “empty traffic”. It’s traffic that leads to new clients and new Webinars attendees. If it wasn’t for social media, I’d be getting less than 1,000 and entirely dependent on my e-newsletter, referrals, and search engine results. So, I think this poll is very telling:
POLL: Is your nonprofit monitoring your Website stats to see how much traffic is coming from Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn Groups, etc.?
Most nonprofits are not even monitoring stats. Those that are monitoring stats are split on whether social media has increased website traffic. If you are not getting traffic, then your mission and programs just might not be sexy enough for social media (for lack of a better word), and it may be time to re-evaluate.
Or, and in my experience, those that are not getting much traffic from social media need some training. A bit harsh, but true. Overconfidence in one’s social media skills can be a problem when it comes to social media ROI. Even the most self-proclaimed social media maven, expert, guru, miracle worker, etc. could use training from time to time. Me included. Good social media training is essential.
On a final note, many nonprofits will be launching mobile websites in 2010, and much of the traffic on those sites will be going to or from social networking sites. Social media has gone mobile and that will be an entirely new set of data to monitor and track.
2. Poll your donors.
Another very telling poll:
POLL: Does your nonprofit poll your online donors about what communication tool inspired them most to donate on your Website?
81% answered no. 81%! You can’t judge your social media fundraising success from how much has been donated to your Facebook Cause or a fundraising widget. It’s pretty clear that online donors do not yet trust these new tools, and why would they when more than half of fundraising Causes and widgets have a great big $0 on them? [Donate to your own Cause and widgets to get the ball rolling!]
My guess is that we will be pleasantly surprised that many online donors that are following you on Twitter or Facebook will indeed go to make a donation on your website during the year-end fundraising season. I know my giving has changed dramatically. I now give to smaller nonprofits I never heard of 2 years ago. I watch them on social media sites, and then when I have the cash to give, I go to their website or donate to them on Change.org. Not only do 40% of folks fan brands on Facebook, but 34% of those folks then go visit their website before purcahsing or donating. And yet, as many as 81% of nonprofits are not tracking this behavior!
So, how about after someone makes a donation on your website, you ask them on the next page to answer a poll about what message prompted them to donate and where did they read it? End-of-Year print appeal, e-newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Linkedn, YouTube?
3. Ask people to subscribe to your email newsletter and mobile lists.
Just having an e-mail newsletter and mobile list sign up box on your Facebook Page or MySpace does not work. You have to ask people to subscribe. Post a Tweet or a Status Update:
Text NONPROFITORGS to 41411 to receive text alerts (2-3 monthly) from Nonprofit Tech 2.0!
Sending out my Web 2.0 Best Practices e-Newsletter on Wednesday. To receive a copy, please subscribe: http://bit.ly/2VeW7A
Over the years I have been consistently surprised by how many people will subscribe once asked on a social media site, but not until I asked. I have tabled a number of events over the years asking people to sign up for e-mail newsletters. The number of subscribers I get from social media trumps tabling any day of the week.
4. Ask people to become volunteers.
The study listed above argues that social media is worthless to small and medium sized nonprofits because they aren’t getting any donations or new volunteers from social media campaigns. The flaw in fundraising ROI I have already discussed. Personally, I have a hard time believing that nonprofits are not getting volunteers from social media campaigning. I get asked at least once a week by random strangers if they can volunteer for me. So, I know potential volunteers are out there.
Are you asking that they volunteer for your organization correctly? Make sure you are using social media to ask, to call out for volunteers. Don’t just assume they are going to click on a “Volunteer!” link on your Facebook Page and then ask to be signed up. You have to ask them. Do you have volunteer testimonials on your website? Are you mentioning that your organization would be good a good reference? Are you pitching the social aspect of volunteering with your organization (meet new friends online and offline)? Are you giving them good reason to want to volunteer with your organization on your website, and then using social media sites correctly to drive them to that page?
Now that I think of it, in four years of using social media 40-60 hours a week… I never seen one nonprofit message me on Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace asking me to become a volunteer. Something to ponder.
5. Plot fans, followers, friends, subscribers.
I think 1-4 are much more important than this, but plotting your fans, followers and friends on an Excel spreadsheet will at least give you a sense of how quickly or slowly your social media communities are growing. Create a spreadsheet. On the far left column list the social media sites you are using, and then create 12 columns on the right… one for each month of the year. Then on the first day of every month post the number of current friends, followers, fans, and subscribers. Combine this with monitoring your website and e-mail/mobile sign up stats, how your online donors and volunteers found you, then you are well on your way to successfully measuring your social media ROI.
One final note. I give social media webinars that focus on detailed, How To… not just big picture “Social media is great!” webinars. My primary audience is small to medium sized nonprofits, and my goal is to make sure they know how to use social media beyond the obvious [90% of nonprofit social media campaigns that I see are not operating beyond the obvious]. The New Organizing Institute and NTEN also give webinars on social media. I have never taken one from them, but they both have a good reputation.
That said, I have taken a number of social media webinars and the vast majority are really big picture, based on case studies of large national and international nonprofits with massive resources [even worse, the Obama Campaign!]. Completely not relevant to small and medium sized nonprofits. When it comes to training, just because you take one webinar and you don’t get much from it, don’t think that they are all the same. They are not. Seriously. I haven’t really said this much before because I didn’t want to appear as self-serving, but good social media training is essential, particularly for small to medium sized nonprofits on a budget. Without it, many nonprofits will be disappointed by lackluster results (as mentioned in last week’s study).