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Is It Too Late for Nonprofit Brands to Reap Facebook Benefits?

Posted by on April 13th, 2010
Posted in Blog, Email Campaigns, Nonprofit Fundraising, Nonprofit Messaging, Social Media   

In a brandchannel.com article today it was posited that using Facebook to promote your brand is already a tool that is “over.”

This may or may not be true for consumer marketing mega brands like Coca-Cola and Nike. Those companies are in the business of selling products to people who may or may not want or need them. And people socializing on Facebook may just want a break from their off-line world, a world where they are bombarded with ads, promotions and pitches. Smart marketers will eventually find a way to use social media tools in more clever ways than just blatantly promotional pages. Like everyone, I look forward to seeing how it evolves.

But what about nonprofit organizations and the opportunity to use Facebook for promotion of causes, campaigns and coalitions for making the world a better place? Nonprofits have traditionally lagged behind in adoption of technology. How many of you reading this cringe at the lack of sophistication of your organization’s website, even today? And websites aren’t even new.

The challenge for nonprofits grappling with how to use social media tools effectively is this: Use of these free tools isn’t free. In fact, it’s quite an investment and a big investment if you intend to do it right. Why? Because while the tools are free, the human talent and time needed to maximize the opportunity is not.

Imagine Coke’s marketing head telling a staffer, “Ok, we should see how this whole social media thing works and start using it right away! I want you to devote a few hours a month of your time, on top of your other responsibilities, to this. And come back with some big results!”

That wouldn’t happen at Coke, but it might be happening at your nonprofit now.

Like any marketing communication opportunity, it takes talented, skilled professionals to do it well. Devoting little time, or getting people to do it pro bono doesn’t typically yield the top-notch results you seek. (Did any of you like the website your organization got designed for “free” by the brother-in-law of your board Treasurer in 1998?) Don’t make the same mistake with social media in 2010.

If you want to invest in social media invest in staff who can devote time and talent to doing it right. Even if she doesn’t have a lot of direct experience in social media campaigns (and few do) look for someone with a high level of creativity, analytical skills, strong sense of goal-driven marketing campaigns, and a willingness to work hard and take risks in order to find what works best for your organization. And make it her full-time job.

It’s not free, but social media tools like Facebook still hold tremendous promise for the nonprofit organizations who take it seriously enough to devote resources to doing it right.

Tell us your social media stories! We want to hear what’s working and what isn’t.

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Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one impact coach.

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