Social Media Marketing: The Essential Tool for Shaping Your Message

Posted by Paul Brindley
on August 05, 2015

Here is an article I wrote for The Nonprofit Page of the August 4-17, 2015 edition of the Long Beach Business Journal.

The page is curated by the Long Beach Nonprofit Partnership.

Social Media Marketing: The Essential Tool for Shaping Your Message

What they do and the way they get to the bottom line may be different, but there are many similarities to operating a forprofit business and a not-forprofit business.

To survive and be effective, nonprofits strive to exceed the objectives and needs of their various stakeholders in a timely fashion as small businesses do with their customers and clients.

The vast majority of nonprofits and small businesses must carefully manage limited funds in order to meet goals within budget.

The importance of effective and efficient human resource management is just as important in the nonprofit sector as in private enterprise.

I could go on but it is clear that the time, money and team management challenges are the common denominators of most businesses regardless of their stripe.

If there are common challenges, then it follows that there should be common solutions. One of the common solutions is the relatively new and sometimes perplexing universe of social media.

Relatively new? You may ask. Isn’t it old hat? Absolutely not. Social media marketing is less than 10 years old, and many business people are still coming to grips with integrating the right platform options and practices into their operations. Hasn’t social media marketing proved ineffective? Definitely not. Sure, social media hasn’t turned out to be the low or no cost panacea to product marketing and brand messaging that many envisaged when the social marketing first overturned traditional promotion methods. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have a choice.

A business, for profit or nonprofit, must have a social media presence. Just as 10 years ago when you didn’t exist as a business if you didn’t have a website, a lack of social media presence tells the world that you aren’t really there, or worse, don’t really care. Above all, the social media universe has personalized and democratized the ability to get your message out to the world. This is the most exciting aspect. Frame your own message, tell your own story, present your business in your own way. The opportunity is to be embraced and celebrated.

Most nonprofits have one key element of successful social media market inherent in their being – differentiation of message. Most nonprofits exist to support a cause. Cause marketing is one of the most powerful tools in branding and messaging. Nonprofits can point directly to their mission and say “we only exist for this”.

It is immediately identifiable, direct, demonstrable and often local. The social media revolution has conditioned customers and clients to want to know who they are dealing with these days. People are now given the opportunity to know you and what you do like never before. And you have the opportunity to present yourself and your team and your business to your target audience like never before. Nonprofits are perfectly placed to use social media to relate their passion and commitment to their causes while inviting engagement from the public.

So how do you implement a social media strategy with the omnipresent time, money and resources constraints?

Here are my top five easy things that you can do.

  1. Pick a channel, the right channel – research which social media platform most readily reaches your target customer and concentrate your efforts. If you are in the tech world, it’s probably LinkedIn. In fashion, design and textiles it’s Instagram. Use the linking capabilities on the different sites and spread one post across many. For example, when I post to Instagram, I can opt to post the photo on Facebook and Tumblr. Then Tumblr auto posts to Twitter. Savvy use of the technology saves time. There is no need to pay for any of these services.
  2. Always include a Google touch – Google is the most powerful search engine there is. Make sure you feed the beast. YouTube is an excellent option. It is a Google product and very Search Engine Optimization (SEO) friendly. YouTube has resources and special offers just for nonprofits at Consumers love the video option for messaging and branding. Make sure you also post everything on to Google+. It might be a user desert but it is very searchable.
  3. Allocate who and how long – choose your most social media savvy team member and give them an allocation of time every day (15-30 minutes is plenty) to be creative on your social media platforms. Let them have their head and play. Keep restrictions to a minimum. Creativity and spontaneity and regularity of posts are the key.
  4. Make sure all your online presence is up to date all of the time – if you commit to having a website, social media platforms and an email strategy, please make sure that the information on all the outlets is consistent and current. Out of date or stale content reflects badly on your business.
  5. Track your progress – most social media platforms have free activity tracking services. Make sure to review the statistics weekly to ascertain which sites and types of posts are most active. Link your website up to the free Google Analytics service.

Nonprofits are in a unique position to benefit from the unfiltered access that social media provides to their communities. Nonprofits are overwhelmingly staffed by passionate and committed people determined to create a better world for all of us. They have stories to tell that move and inspire. The world needs to hear their voice. There are infinite voices seeking to be heard. Social media can be their bullhorn. (pbc helps designers launch, position and accelerate in the U.S. apparel market.)

Paul Brindley