Businesses and Nonprofits Map Their Social Media Marketing Strategy

By: Erica Scaife

Dana VanDen Heuvel, founder of MarketingSavant and a nationally recognized digital marketing expert, guided attendees through the process of mapping out their social media marketing strategy on October 20, 2009, at the Bayfront Convention Center in Erie, PA.  

One of the most beneficial aspects of these workshops, entitled Mapping Out Your Social Media Marketing Strategy, is that they were divided into two half-day sessions – a morning session for business marketers and an afternoon session for nonprofit marketers.  Numerous workshop attendees expressed their appreciation that the eMarketing Learning Center and the Nonprofit Partnership worked together to bring VanDen Heuvel in for two industry-specific sessions.  This was important because businesses and nonprofits have substantially different marketing goals and face unique marketing challenges.  For instance, while businesses and nonprofits may have a common goal of building interest and awareness, businesses may focus more on generating leads and driving sales, whereas nonprofits may focus more on recruiting and mobilizing volunteers, promoting advocacy and building donor relationships.  Since the workshops were divided, attendees were able to focus on the needs of their industry and learn from the challenges and successes their peers have faced throughout their social media marketing efforts. 

Social media is an emerging channel that is still surrounded by some mystery, leaving many marketers hesitant to jump into the social media landscape.  However, with a combined 150 attendees at either the business or nonprofit session, it is apparent that marketers are realizing the bottom line about social media – your customers and constituents are there, whether you are or not, and they’re talking about you!  Don’t you want to join the conversation?

But first things first.  As the presenter, Dana VanDen Heuvel, has put it, “What the ‘tweet’ is social media?”

What the ‘tweet’ is social media?

Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio (  Or as VanDen Heuvel more simply explains, “Social media is people having conversations online.” 

Early on in the workshop, Dana reminded the attendees that social media isn’t just about the tools and technologies you use; it’s really about a change in people’s expectations.  The traditional purchase funnel focuses on the marketer-generated stages of consumer and constituent awareness, consideration and purchase.  In today’s socially savvy world, however, that purchase funnel has evolved into a feedback cycle.  While this feedback cycle still begins with the marketer-generated stages above, it also recognizes consumer-generated stages – use, form opinion and talk.  Social media has transformed this process, and therefore, the way in which businesses and organizations market themselves.

A survey of frequent online social network users revealed that 30% trust the opinions of their peers when making a major purchase decision, while only 10% trust advertising (eMarketer).  These people are finding their peers opinions online, which means you should be hanging out in the same places as your customers and constituents, a point stressed by VanDen Heuvel.  And social media marketing is producing results in companies that are engaged.  According to a study by Altimiter ENGAGEMENTdb, socially engaged companies are, in fact, more financially successful.  You should realize, however, that these companies do not merely have a presence on social media, they are deeply engaged. 

Social Thinking

Throughout the workshop, VanDen Heuvel encouraged attendees to re-think their marketing strategy from a social media standpoint with a number of exercises and activities.  First, what are your company’s or organization’s touchpoints?  Touchpoints, as Dana explained, can be viewed in several ways:

1)      Functional – What does your company or organization do that is going to generate positive conversation?

2)      Customer – What is of value to your customer?

3)      Channel – How can you replicate your constituent’s good experience over multiple social media channels?

Next, how can you tell if your social media marketing is producing results?

In his presentation, Dana referenced a quote from Lord Leverhuime, founder of Unilever:  “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted.  The problem is I do not know which half.”

This is not the case in social media, according to VanDen Heuvel.  In social media everything can be tracked; it may take some work, but it can be done.  He went on to explain that there are three measurement points in social media:

 1) Social media listening – tracking and monitoring your customers’ and constituent’s online conversations

2) Web analytics – help you determine the relevance of your social media content

3) Pipeline metrics – help you determine the impact of your social media efforts

VanDen Heuvel warns, however, that not all metrics are meaningful; some are meaningless UNTIL you do something with them.  For example, having 300 Facebook fans is a meaningless metric unless those fans are contributing something to your social media efforts, like posting content or starting conversations.  “Social media,” VanDen Heuvel states, “is not just about bringing in people as fans.  It’s also about building deep connections and relationships with those people.” 

Finally, Dana concluded the first part of his presentation with a breakdown of social media channels.  Social media is broken down into three main channels:

1)      Social content – includes blogs, microblogs, photos, audio and videos

2)      Social platforms – include white-label social networks, wikis and branded social networks

3)      Social interactions – include event calendars, email, status updates, SMS and text messages

Without getting into specific tools, these are the channels by which you actively listen to your customers and constituents.  What does it mean to actively listen?  In the words of Rohit Bhargava, author of Personality Not Included, “[Active listening is] more than just listening or monitoring, it’s actually engaging in a dialogue with your customers.”

Through this process of re-thinking their marketing strategy from a social media standpoint, attendees had the opportunity to share their social media experiences with the rest of the group.  For example, in the business session, Triple Nickel, a local manufacturer, shared that they are known for their fast response times and easy exchanges.  They frequently receive emails about this touchpoint, but they have not yet been able to bring it into the social media landscape.  Deborah Vanhanian, the owner of Glass Growers Gallery, a local art gallery, prides herself that knowledge of art is one of their strongest touchpoints.  This however, is not translating well in person and she is hoping to further her position as an expert through social media.  In the nonprofit session, the Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation discussed how they are already leveraging social media and how they could use social media to better and more effectively pass along their message that “cancer touches everyone.” 

This process and the interactive format of these sessions was very helpful in facilitating participants ability to learn from the successes, struggles, ideas and thoughts of their peers regarding social media marketing. 

Mapping Out Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

In the second half of the workshop, Dana took attendees through the process of building their social media marketing plan.  When mapping out your plan, VanDen Heuvel identified eight elements that you need to address:

1)      Objectives

2)      Target audience

3)      Integration

4)      Culture change

5)      Capacity

6)      Tools and tactics

7)      Measurement

8)      Experiment

Start by focusing on just two or three objectives for your social media marketing efforts.  Try to make these objectives “SMART” (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based) and ask yourself how they can be supported through social media.

A few things to consider when analyzing your target audience include:  What do they know about you?  What do you want them to know about you?  Where are they – what social media tools and channels are they already using?

When considering how to integrate your social media efforts with your overall marketing strategy, think about all the online and offline channels and components you can integrate into your overall marketing strategy.  For instance, the Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation, mentioned above, was recently featured on 60 Minutes.  They used their Facebook page as one venue to spread the word and generate buzz about their nationally broadcast story.

The last several considerations are important, but not quite as critical as the first three points, said VanDen Heuvel.  Take some time to think about the capacity of your organization and who is going to implement the organization’s social media strategy.  This becomes especially important in small-medium sized organizations where time, resources and personnel may be scarce. 

When deciding on which social media tools and tactics will best reach your target audience and help you accomplish your objectives, VanDen Heuvel stressed that success lies in starting with ONE tool.  Companies that try to start by using a number of social media tools at once are the companies and organizations that often fail in their social media endeavors.    

Finally, experiment with social media!  As mentioned, it is still a new field.  “There are no ‘experts’ in this space,” VanDen Heuvel concluded, “we’re ALL still learning right now.”

The Takeaways

As an attendee at both the business and nonprofit sessions, it was interesting to see the differences in reactions between the two groups.  Overall, both business marketers and nonprofit marketers are eager to learn about this emerging field.  They’re seeing social media constantly and are being told it’s the way to go for marketing their business in today’s socially savvy world.  In addition to their obvious interest in social media marketing, both groups expressed concerns about the topic as well.  In the business session, a new tool, Google Sidewiki, was brought up by an attendee.  This tool, once downloaded, allows you to view comments about any Web site on the actual Web site itself, not some distant page.  This raised a great deal of concern among the attendees in this session because of the lack of control you have over the comments posted using this tool.


Dana VanDen Heuvel shares his thoughts on Google Sidewiki and the social media marketing workshops

The concerns in the nonprofit session focused more on how to effectively utilize social media marketing when working with little time and few resources and personnel.  It can be done, however, and it’s important that it be done – especially for nonprofits because of their specific marketing challenges and needs.  Social media marketing offers a cost-effective strategy which can return substantial results.

Robert Wooler, director of the Nonprofit Partnership, discusses why social media marketing is important to nonprofits

Overall, it was an enlightening and interesting day.  Everyone at the workshops walked away with something of value – whether it was new knowledge, ideas or tools for social media, an inspiring story about one of their peers using social media or a plan for implementing social media in their business or organization.  Remember, social media is new and it’s changing every day.  So explore new ways to use it in your business or organization, experiment with different social media tools and technologies and engage in social media yourself.

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts on the workshop or on social media in general by leaving us a comment.

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eMarketing Special Interest Group

November 2009

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