Think + Do » an exploration of nonprofit marketing and design

Social Media Agnostic

My faith is being tested. As someone who believes in the value of solid marketing strategy and good design, I find myself skeptical about the relatively new kid on the block – social media.

While I believe it merits a place at the marketing altar, when the prophecies of the true believers grow insistent and I’m asked to enthusiastically embrace that which I cannot see (or measure), I begin to wonder if I’m being sold snake oil rather than salvation.

Faith-based marketing
Most non-profit organizations I’ve worked with are mildly to severely short on staff and budget to tackle their day-to-day marketing. But the conversation with social media mavens often sounds something like this:

Non-profit: “Our social media efforts seem to be falling flat. What’s wrong?”
Maven: “For success, you need to commit more time to social media.”
Non-profit: “I don’t have more time.”
Maven: “Then you need more sophisticated analytics to track your efforts.”
Non-profit: “Where’s the return on that investment?”
Maven: “Oh, you can’t really measure success like that. It’s all about engagement.”
Non-profit: “What’s that?”
Maven: “You’ll know it when you see it.”
Non-profit: “What if I don’t see it?”
Maven: “Then you’re not spending enough time and money on it.”

Setting expectations
Compare the commitment for social media success to other time-intensive activities like gardening. Similar to social media, gardening takes planning, strategy (picking the right plants for your available plot of land and conditions), monitoring, feeding and weeding. Even then, factors beyond your control – like a hailstorm – can sabotage your efforts.

You may enjoy gardening and find value in its tangible and intangible benefits, but it’s wise to set realistic expectations. If you just want to grow a couple potted tomato plants, chances are you’ll have enough time to maintain your commitment and enjoy the fruits of your labor. If your goal is to feed the whole neighborhood, you may need some help, not to mention more land and a tractor.

Same old story
What seems to get lost in the hype is that social media is just like all other marketing efforts – success requires planning, meaningful goals and solid strategy. Without it, the only measurable growth will be in the number of marketers who’ve lost their faith.

Related content:
Looking past friend-counting
Social Media’s Massive Failure

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