Social media planning is important for two main reasons: securing internal support and ensuring an efficient use of resources. A good social media plan not only identifies the fun stuff – your goals, strategy and creative tactics, but it also demonstrates the sound business sense of using social media to advance your charitable organization.

Securing Internal Support: A well-written plan communicates a strong case for the use of social media. It should be created with all readers in mind; including the very green and the highly knowledgeable.  It should also motivate and engage employees to get active online.  The plan is essentially a case statement as well as a practical step-by-step document.

A plan that works well as a presentation and a document is necessary for board approvals, budget allocation and staff training.

Maximizing Efficiency: The planning process itself forces you to really think about why you are using social media and what kind of return you are looking for. It encourages you to take a hard look at how much staff time/budget it will require.  The finished product maps out exactly how resources are used.

When it comes to the execution, simple, step-by-step tactics will make your life easier.  When days are packed, social media often falls on the back burner.  You may not have time to think about what this week’s conversation should be centered about for Facebook or Twitter.  Having a detailed plan helps you to execute your social media activities easily, and with purpose.

The dangers of participating in social media without a plan

Without a plan, your social media efforts could lack direction, making your brand vulnerable to a few dangers.

Fragmented brand: Social media activity engages multiple players across the organization.  Without a plan, you can run the risk of a diluted brand image. The plan identifies key staff roles and ensures that everyone understands the purpose of social media activity and how it contributes to your organization’s mission.

Lack of purpose: A social media plan establishes realistic objectives and measurement tools to keep social media activities on track.  A great plan ensures communication with purpose – focusing efforts on the goal; whether it is to increase awareness/ education or to generate online revenue.

Writer’s block: Your tactics help to sketch out a content development strategy much like an editorial calendar. It doesn’t have to be day-by-day, but provide a framework for idea generation.  This helps you to avoid the common challenge of being lost for content.  You may choose to create a conversation calendar around major events within your organization or community, tying into timely news items and daily chatter.

Crisis 2.0: Handling a social media crisis without a plan can be a dangerous undertaking. A solid crisis component helps you to navigate through issues online and maintain consistency.  This important piece of the plan can make or break your brand in a challenging time.

Where do you start with social media planning?

Start “big picture” and do the tactics last. As marketers/communicators, we can sometimes get amped on the creative ideas and skip to tactics.  It’s important to start with your overall vision and goals for social media and your organization.

Brainstorm big time.  Have a great conversation to get you started.  Include multiple voices, both inside and outside of your communications or marketing department.  Why not include a nurse if you work at a hospital or a major gift officer from your fundraising team?  Donors can also offer valuable insight.

Ask them if and how they would like to participate in social media activities for your organization.  Find out how social media marketing could assist your colleagues in their portfolios.  A great conversation will help you to generate ideas and gauge interest from key stakeholders.  It is also likely to help you to identify worthwhile goals.

Goals, Objectives, Strategy: Ask yourself what you want to achieve and how you are going to get there.  Your objectives should follow the S.M.A.R.T principle: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely.  Build in benchmarks and methods of measurement to be able to evaluate your success as you go.

One important thing to remember is that nothing is set in stone; your social media plan is a living, breathing document.  It will change as you execute the plan and reveal what works best for your organization.

Tactics: Plan your social media activities on a realistic timeframe.  Your tactics will include all of the fun, creative ideas you have come up with.  Think about content generation, content posting and content promotion.  If you write great content, share it and cross promote it – you’re in business.

How to establish social media goals and objectives

Discussion: Social media goals and objectives of social media can come out of great discussion.  Engage key stakeholders (including staff outside of communications) in conversation, to look at what traditional forms of marketing/communications are achieving now and what could be improved with a more social web presence.

Start with the overall goal. We determined that what you really want out of social media; this is your overall goal.

Think big. A mistake many of us make when determining goals and objectives is to focus only on the social media platforms themselves.  Objectives can link to other activities within your organization, for example, “to provide real-time research on potential donors for major gift fundraising.”  It’s also important to think about how social media fits into your integrated marketing and communications activities.

How to measure progress/success

Measurement and evaluation is important to gauging progress.  The easiest way to do this is to determine what can be measured per objective set up in your benchmarks.

Here’s an example:

For the objective “to improve community education and awareness about campaign x”, we can measure:

  • Brand recognition: # of Re-tweets, mentions on blogs, likes on Facebook
  • Audience: # of Twitter followers, Facebook fans, traffic on blog
  • Outreach: amount of new content generation per month (# of blog posts, average tweets/FB posts: this measurement allows you to correlate an increase in content with audience engagement)

Make sure to update your spreadsheet on a schedule that makes sense for you.

Just getting started in social media planning? Don’t worry.

Social media planning doesn’t have to be complicated. The process is not onerous – but it is useful and insightful to establishing a successful social media practice.

Developing a plan really helps to get you thinking about how your social web presence will improve other communications vehicles and enhance fundraising efforts.

Some will argue that the best way to approach social media is to just go for it; set up a Facebook page and dive in.  But I strongly believe that while you may get the conversation going, you will not be able to fully capitalize on the opportunities that social media presents for non profit.  Without a plan, you may sell yourself short.

Here’s a social media planning template that may help guide you.

What are your experiences with social media planning? Lessons learned? What resources and tips have you found helpful?

Bianca Freedman

Bianca Freedman

Bianca Freedman is a creative communications professional with global experience supporting and leading brand strategies, currently working in Global Communications at Walmart eCommerce. Bianca has a proven track record of building successful social media organizational functions for organizations including The Credit Valley Hospital Foundation in our non-profit world. She believes that best social campaigns have strong internal advocates and processes behind them.
Bianca Freedman
Bianca Freedman

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