For social media success, write, then IGNITE. Here’s how.

I recently did some volunteer work for a national charity and provided counsel on their social media strategy. The PR Agency started the meeting by listing all of the “messaging” being developed to support a major fund-raising push in 2012. The list looked something like this:

  • Press releases
  • Podcast
  • Promotional video
  • Slideshow
  • Photos and videos from local events
  • Clips from local TV stations

They’re off to a good start because there is the potential for a lot of interesting content here. But ultimately the effort will fail as merely a blip on the radar because nobody in the organization is working on the network strategy. Developing content for the social web is a waste of time if it just sits there like a bump on a Heinz dill pickle. It has to go some place if it is to attract attention and eventually compel people to do something.

To ignite a social strategy, you must ignite your content.

So to be successful, you must aggressively develop the “human pathways” that will carry your content to the world … not just write press releases that you HOPE will be buried on a community events calendar somewhere. And the larger — and more engaged — the network, the better the chances for success, so get started NOW!

Here is an action plan I provided to this charity that would result in long-term success … and it can ONLY be long-term success because it takes TIME and CONSISTENT EFFORT to build a relevant and engaged network that will share your stuff!

1) Identify all the passionate advocates of the charity. They are a powerful and critical first step in building an engaged network.

2) Explain to them why you need their help and the benefits of helping — you’re connecting many small networks to create an enormous network.

3) Teach them how to proactively and aggressively build a targeted network and a social media presence so that you have hundreds of “beacons” for your brand.

4) Give this group tips on how to effectively share, connect, and network on their favorite social platforms.

5) Assign a central resource to “corral” real, passionate stories, videos, photos from the field to share across the ENTIRE network. Unleash the content! This will provide a constant drip-drip-drip of interesting content every week.

6) Make the content easy to share. Have easy-to-find social sharing options. Use Linked Within (like I do at the bottom of each post) to highlight similar stories of interest (this increases my page views by about 8 percent). Highlight other content of interest on the site.

7) Institute free, simple monitoring tools like Google Alerts and saved Twitter searches to measure the effort and identify the most successful networks and content. “Buzz” is a leading indicator of donations. If the buzz is going, up, up, up, the donations will eventually follow.

I care about this cause so I’m going to try to shepherd this as best I can. Hopefully it will work. Does this make sense to you? What other advice would you give this worthy cause?

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  • It does make sense… Leave it to you to come up with something that involves PEOPLE before content. I’m still amazed at the number of people/agencies that still rely more on the content and distribution strategy. I’m going to start telling peeps to not be the bump on a pickle – highly effective comparison 😉

  • So funny. I think my third grade teacher you say that pickle thing. It just came out! Any way, so many people overlook the network piece of the strategy.  It’s so important. Glad this resonated with you Tony!

  • I’m always amazed at companies that don’t look within for “ambassadors”. Whether it’s non-profit or for-profit… the best people to tell your story are the ones that live and breathe it. It can’t just be left to the one or two people in “marketing”. 

    Bump on a pickle… I think that’s my favorite thing you’ve said in a while. Actually, sounds like something that would come out of my mouth! 😉

  • I share your sentiment about igniting advocates. Seems like a natural thing to do but so often overlooked. Oh well, I guess that is how I add value, but pointing stuff like that out : )   Many thanks for taking the time to comment Kristen!

  • I can see myself in this. I’m not the most social person in the world, preferring bassets and content creation to developing connections and chasing advocates. People before content. That should be up there alongside “Show, don’t tell”.

  • Boy are you singing from my hymnal! I worked at a non-profit for disadvantaged inner-city kids several years ago and this is definitely the approach we used even though it was before social media existed. Everything we did followed much of this idea – find your key advocates and get them to help you spread the word.

    Our best fundraising/outreach event involved our board members and strong advocates buying tables and bringing their colleagues and friends to meet the kids and hear their stories. Every time we could get people in front of our kids to hear their stories they were hooked.

    Now, instead of having to be present at an event, the reach can go so much farther. I can only imagine what a social media could do for that charity. You’re absolutely right – good stories spread. 🙂

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  • I’m with you there, Jon.  I’m not a natural networker either. Maybe that is why we get along so well!

  • Great story Laura. An amazing opportunity for non-profits! 

  • GREAT post Mark!

    One thing that I most appreciated was the fact that you pointed out that ” it can ONLY be long-term success because it takes TIME and CONSISTENT EFFORT to build a relevant and engaged network that will share your stuff!”

    With charities,  the most overlooked  ‘passionate advocates’ are the volunteers or staff. Often it is they who are the  internal *spark that gets the community engaged and active online.

    Sadly some charities still have the mindset that “We already have their money, why should we waste time to  engage with them online.”

    Your points of long term success  for a charity touch on a new generation of donors that value social engagement and recognition.

    Thanks for the post. As always, valuable content!

  • Danielle, it is SO NICE to see you in the comment section. After all, you were one of my very first Twitter friends!  

    I concur with your point. I see this all the time too. I use some non-profit examples in my blogging classes and it is amazing how many sites are all about them. Where are the stories? Where are the volunteers?  Interesting dynamic!

  • This is a great post,

    I will have to share this with members of my fraternity for our annual philanthropy, Ski for Cancer.  I tried to corral people into a similar set of strategies but failed to do so as of some preconceived notions about social media.  I think #4 is especially important, if people think they know how to use a platform they will likely ignore every tip that you give them.  In my case people were talking at people instead of trying to facilitate a conversation.

  • Anonymous

    I think this works for all businesses and organizations. It’s essential to have
    someone viewing your content for it to be effective. I have seen a few businesses
    spend time and energy generating content without focusing on the “human
    pathways.” This almost always results in the CEO deciding that social
    media isn’t a good fit when in reality the strategy wasn’t a good fit. 

    Number 3 was my favorite tip – However when I try to do that it sometimes falls on deaf ears people often get caught up in the specifics and decide the task seems to big to attempt. Do you have any suggestions on how to teach others to build a targeted network and socail media presence?

  • Very interesting point Jon.  You’ve got me thinking on that one! 

  • Boy, that’s a big topic. Maybe you can start by sharing this blog post! : ) 

    It’s a tough challenge. People can understand content. It’s familiar. We have had websites for years now. But moving the content is an unusual and difficult notion for many people to grasp. But there are so many rewards for those who do! 

  • Mark,

    This is an excellent post…

    What I would add is have the NFP create simple Landing Pages that brand advocates can send potential donors to when they are Offline.

    Or custom landing pages that brand advocates can link to in Email Signatures… Basically some high converting pages that brand advocates can use in non-social situations…

    Other than that.  Great stuff.

    Thanks

    Ryan H.

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