February 15, 2012

The 7 elements of a Strategic Social Media Plan

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This is the second part of a two-part series on creating a strategy for your nonprofit or social cause. J.D. conducts two webinars a month on “6 Steps to Create a Powerhouse Social Strategy for Your Nonprofit” at CharityHowTo.

Target audience: Nonprofits, foundations, NGOs, social enterprises, cause organizations, brands, businesses, government agencies.

JD LasicaHow many nonprofits do you know that have incorporated social as part of their overall strategy, or even their communications strategy? Let’s go further: How many nonprofits really have a strategy?

Apart from the largest nonprofits, the list is painfully small. And that’s too bad, because here is what happens when strategy is not at the heart of your organization’s actions: On a good day, you bounce around from putting out one brushfire after another. On a bad day, the fire wins.

Sound familiar?

At the Nonprofit Technology Conference in San Francisco on April 5, my Socialbrite partner Carla Schlemminger and I will be leading an interactive session titled You Need a Strategy, Dammit, Not a Twitter Account (with the Twitter hashtag #12NTCDammit).

And our message will be: Folks, it doesn’t have to be this way. Be proactive instead of reactive. Create a Social Media Strategic Plan to help your nonprofit get aligned, to begin working as a cohesive unit and to achieve real-world impact.

Your strategy must be extend beyond one department

Every organization will take a different journey to get there. But you must start with a plan. Too many nonprofits begin with the tools, and as much as we love Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, the tools should flow from the strategy, not the other way around. The Strategic Plan is your blueprint, the animating force that connects goals to actions.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to hire an outside consulting firm like us to create a plan for you – you can have someone in-house add five to 10 pages to your annual communications plan, assuming you have one. But the plan needs to be cross-departmental and include development, fundraising and programming in the discussion alongside communications and marketing. A social media strategy should support the overall organization, not just a single department.

What goes into a Strategic Plan? Some of these are strictly optional, but here are seven elements Socialbrite often includes in our clients’ plans:

1Overall assessment. Begin with a 360-degree assessment of your nonprofit’s current social media capabilities. What are you doing well? Where are you falling short?

2Goals. Move on to the heart of the matter: Spell out your organizational goals, seen from not only the executive director level but from the vantage point of key stakeholders and decision-makers in the executive and extended leadership teams. Where do you want to be six months from now? A year from now?

What are your organizational goals? Where do you want to be six months from now? A year from now?

3Metrics. Tie your goals to metrics. You can create a separate metrics plan, but at a high level you should identify the goals you want to track and how you’ll measure them.

4Assess your community. Include an assessment of your online community. Identify who they are and how they might want to be involved, and don’t be afraid to ask, using online survey tools like SurveyGizmo or Wufoo. Remember that you don’t have a single online audience but a myriad of audiences: constituents, partners, funders and supporters with varying levels of passion for your cause.

5Consider the tools. Only now, after you’ve laid your foundation, should you include in the plan an outline of which social tools and platforms can help you reach your goals and create impact in the community.

6Assess internal capacity. You might also include recommendations on expanded capabilities you’d like to see. Do your team members feel well equipped to tell stories, to share updates, to post photos from live events? If not, a series of training sessions on storytelling, mobile or social media might be in order

7Assess the competition. Finally, a Strategic Plan sometimes includes a competitive or peer analysis, a look at how you’re doing when assessed against others in your sector. Don’t be afraid to steal good ideas. You think everything Steve Jobs or Bill Gates did was original?

That covers only a small portion of what we’ll be presenting at NTC. Hope to see you at You Need a Strategy, Dammit, Not a Twitter Account!JD Lasica, founder and former editor of Socialbrite, is co-founder of Cruiseable. Contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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4 thoughts on “The 7 elements of a Strategic Social Media Plan

  1. Greetings, J.D.

    These points make very good sense. And, yes, tools and media have to serve a strategy, which follows from clear goals and objectives. Often, we see organizations jumping on whatever bandwagon passes by with enough people in it to make a bit of noise. It’s not about the horse, it’s about riding. It’s not about the car, it’s about driving. And it’s not about social media, it’s about communication – and, ultimately, it’s about engagement.

    Thanks for a helpful post and a terrific website.

    Mark McGuire

  2. Great article! I find that most of our clients pick too many of the social media platforms to start posting on from the very beginning. With posts lacking consistency it limits the conversion of potential readers to permanent readers.