What Does Success on Social Media Mean in 2023? (Part 3)

I am so excited – it’s finally here!! The doors to my signature training program, Social Media for Social Good Academy, are open – but for a limited time only! Who’s it for? For Nonprofits Who Want to Turn Social Media Followers Into Donors, Supporters, and Advocates. What do you get at the end? You will walk away with a completely doable Social Media Strategy, Action Plan, Playbook and Content Calendar! I only run this once per year, and I don’t want you to miss out! Get all the details at socialgoodacademy.com! I hope to see you inside when class starts on February 6.   

Social Media for Social Good Academy

Part 2: What Does Success on Social Media Mean in 2023?

Welcome to the third episode in a special three-part series where I review the current social media landscape as we enter 2023, important trends to consider, and the steps nonprofits can take to future-proof their social media strategy and level up for the New Year.

Look for part 1 – What’s next for nonprofits and social media – and Part 2 – Where Should you Be on Social media? wherever you are listening to this episode or reading this blog post! 

In Part 3, we will answer the burning question – how will I know if we are successful on social media? What does it really take? 

If you are listening to this, you probably agree that social media is a necessary and required cornerstone of a modern nonprofit marketing strategy. Beyond marketing, social media platforms represent a revolution in the way that humans interact, find information, and express what they care about. 

According to the Open Data Project, 87% of nonprofits worldwide use social media and 53% of nonprofits spend money on social media advertising. 

Of course, being “active” is one thing – but are nonprofits truly leveraging the power and potential of these channels to get results? 

We don’t know the answer to this question, because many nonprofits aren’t using social media strategically, nor are they measuring what they are doing there. 

A recent HubSpot survey found that while almost half (48%) of nonprofits believe that social media is very valuable, a vast majority (67%) have no social media strategy, policies, or goals documented. Yikes. 

What’s even more troubling is that while 38% of nonprofits spend 2 hours a week on their social media channels, over half (53%) are not measuring their social media activity. That’s two hours, presumably spent spinning wheels, chasing tails – wasted!  

I’m sure that you are shaking your head in agreement. Social media management has the potential to suck up a lot of time – in a way that makes you think “where did my afternoon go?” – without seeing any forward motion for your nonprofit. 

Don’t get me wrong.

I think it’s fantastic when nonprofits want to measure social media success and document their results.

In fact, it’s vital – consistent measurement is something I strongly recommend of all my clients and course students. Measurement and analysis is an entire module inside Social Media for Social Good Academy.

Without measurement and analysis:

  • How will you know what to improve upon?
  • If you don’t know where you want to go, how will you know when you get there?
  • How will you know that you have taken the right road?
  • How will you know how to get there again, and again?

This brings me to my big problem with the majority of social media measurement tools and spreadsheets.

They only measure the numbers of followers, likes, views – also called vanity metrics.

Vanity metrics may make you feel good—“Look, 10 new Twitter followers this week!” —but the numbers alone are not telling the story of progress towards your goal.

Sure, you do want to see a steady increase in those kinds of numbers over time – and you certainly don’t want to backslide and lose followers and fans.

But, they are not the most important statistics to follow in your quest for social media success.

Ask yourself – Are you getting more people to take action on the issue? Are you receiving more inquiries for donations? Are your events well-attended?

To determine what to measure, we need a combination of “vanity metrics” and goal-specific metrics.

As Beth Kanter wrote on her blog, nonprofits need to use the “Say So What To Your Data Three Times” principle.  

When you see a spike in website traffic or Facebook engagement, ask – So what? Where did the traffic originate from? What are the possible reasons for an increase in engagement? 

Find out where the website traffic or increased engagement originated.

It may have come as a result of your nonprofit being mentioned in the news, or being retweeted by an influencer, or through sharing a perspective on a trending news story. Ask again – So what? 

Did it result in more email sign-ups? Petition signatures? Membership inquiries? Online donations?

Did it help you achieve your desired strategies and move you towards your stated goal? 

Remember that “raised awareness” in your online community does not automatically translate into action.

So how should you measure the real value of social media for community building? Here are a few tips: 

Go back to your goals.

The metrics that you measure will help determine the effectiveness of the goals and the accompanying tasks that you choose. If you don’t have goals, objectives, or target audiences identified, join us in Social Media for Social Good Academy and we’ll get you sorted. 

Always remember the true value of achieving your goal.

The value does not lie simply in increasing the number of Twitter followers or Facebook fans. Dig deeper.

The value of achieving success in building a community on social media can be linked to:

  • Increased donations and revenue.
  • New donor prospects.
  • Word-of-mouth goodwill for the organization.
  • Ability to hire and train more staff.
  • Ability to serve more clients.
  • Prestige as a reputable and successful nonprofit organization.
  • Greatly enhanced media and community relationships.
  • Increased positive coverage in local media.
  • Increased community partnerships.

Facebook Likes are nice, but engaging people and getting them to take your desired action is nicer!

Keep your eye on the big picture and always dig deeper into your metrics – that will help you find focus on those days when it seems you are spinning your wheels. 

Going beyond numbers and quantitative data, there are three qualitative ways to determine nonprofit marketing success, of which social media is certainly a large part: 

 1) Your fans would put your bumper sticker on their car (or a post on their social media feeds).

Car, laptop, Hydroflask, Trapper Keeper – your fans love you so much that they would put your sticker on their most valuable possessions.

They would wear your t-shirt, drink from your coffee mug, and use your branded water bottle.

Your social media platforms should be cultivating this sense of community.

In the digital space, in lieu of physical bumper stickers, you can create cover art and photo frames for people to use on their profiles.

Susan G. Komen offers a variety of Facebook profile frames that supporters can use to show their public support for the cause on social. Get your own at https://www.facebook.com/profilepicframes

Save Buzzards Bay is a small environmental protection nonprofit, and they send out physical bumper stickers to their donors, with a digital ask to post them to social media using their hashtag.    

There is such power in getting your supporters to brandish your logo in public, showing it off to their networks.

This is the way that we identify and showcase to others what we stand for. It’s a public declaration of our values and our worldview.

It’s also the way that we attract like-minded people that stand for the same things. I feel an instant kinship with others who support the same charities.

It helps us build our communities, establish our personalities, and make connections online.

2) You aren’t afraid of haters.

Haters, trolls on the interwebs – they don’t scare you!

If your social media work is thriving, you simply brush your shoulders off when you see a negative comment online.

You aren’t worried about criticism on social media, because you know that your online community has your back.

You have confidence in your community members.

They are there for you.

They will step up to bat, insert themselves in conversations to set the record straight, and defend you to people who hate on your org, your cause, and your issue. Because an attack on you is an attack on them – what they stand for and who they are down to their very core. 

3) You feel genuinely proud.

You know that feeling that you can’t put your finger on, when things are going well and you feel like you are really doing work that matters?

The way to know if your social media marketing is working, or on its way to really working, is if you feel good about it.

You don’t feel slimy. You don’t feel evil. You don’t feel smarmy, or manipulative, or yucky about the marketing messages you send out.

Instead, you feel like you are building something.

The only way to do this is to act like a human, and not a faceless brand.

Focus on making real connections, not just pushing out promotions to get a few more clicks.

Pride in your work also means that you know you could approach your community with an ask, and they would respond.

They would provide feedback. They would open their wallets.  

Remember – the only true currency on social media is trust and attention, and the only way to get it is through valuable communication that is desired and needed by your online community.

In Social Media for Social Good Academy, we cover the common challenges and obstacles that prevent nonprofits from fulfilling their full potential on social media. 

Effectively tackling these challenges and getting results on social media often comes down to capacity and training. Even if it’s not a full-time job, there are certain core competencies necessary to effectively manage social media for a nonprofit. 

And this is exactly why I created and launched Social Media for Social Good Academy, the very first online training course for nonprofit social media managers. 

So what exactly is a Nonprofit Social Media Manager?

Anyone at the organization that creates content for and manages the social media accounts for the nonprofit, full-time or part-time or volunteers. 

So as an added bonus to this episode, here are my recommended five core competencies of effective nonprofit social media managers in 2023 and beyond. 

1) Nonprofit social media managers are visionaries. 

Effective nonprofit social media managers are visionaries, and they get people to support their visions. This goes beyond spouting off data points. 

While tons of data is available on how many people use social media, the demographics, the most popular platforms, and so on and so forth, data alone does not a compelling case make. 

In order to get buy-in and support for your social media plans, you have to bring people along to your way of thinking. 

Communicate your strategic vision clearly and frequently. Put it in terms that others can understand and embrace. 

Match your social media plan to the priorities of the organization as a whole. Social media should not be an end in and of itself – it should be a tool in a nonprofit toolbox, a means to an end. 

Using examples, clearly explain the ways in which social media can grow the nonprofit and take it to the next level. 

Paint a picture of the future that you seek.

Show, don’t tell: Here’s where we are today. Here is what it will look like tomorrow (and why that’s important). 

In order to lead change at an organization that is stuck in the status quo and afraid of the new, you must be able to tell a story of the future that you envision. 

Back up the vision with a workable plan and budget.

It’s one thing to say “we can do all this great stuff” and quite another to say “I think we can double our revenue this year but doubling down on Facebook fundraising, building a community on Instagram, and eliminating Twitter. Here is how we will do it, how much time it will take, and how much I estimate it will cost.” 

Nonprofit social media managers have to continually plan for the world of tomorrow rather than react to the reality of today.  

2) They don’t throw the baby away with the bath water. 

To be honest, I never really understood that saying, and I’m sure it’s problematic, but I take it to mean that you don’t eliminate something good when trying to improve or get rid of something that’s not working. 

Effective nonprofit social media managers can explain that they don’t want to throw away what’s working for the nonprofit in terms of programs, mission, marketing, and fundraising. 

Effective social media managers want to use the power and potential of online platforms to enhance, augment, and GROW what’s working, using modern tools! 

This is where a lot of traditionalists get confused. They hear “start a Facebook Fundraiser” and what they interpret that to mean “let’s get rid of direct mail and events and just replace it with a donate button!”

This is not the case. If your signature events are working for you, consider using paid social ads to get more participation. 

If direct mail is working, consider molding the appeal letter story into an Instagram post, with a call to donate inside the platform. 

If you are growing your monthly donor program, think of featuring monthly donor stories in TikTok videos and show people the impact of their gifts to encourage others to participate. 

Social media should always integrate into existing marketing and fundraising plans – it should not replace them. 

3) They embrace data but don’t worship it. 

The ability to measure, analyze, and improve are all key skills for any nonprofit social media manager. 

Whether it’s simply looking at the most popular Facebook post of the week or populating an Excel spreadsheet of metrics, effective social media managers measure what they are doing so they can see trends, and so they can iterate and tweak. 

So much is being written about data, and being data-driven, but often data for data’s sake is worthless. (Say data again. Data.) 

Nonprofit social media managers that get results ask themselves: 

  • What are the metrics we can analyze that will help us determine if we are hitting our targets and achieving our overall goals? 
  • What are we going to DO with this data? 
  • Are we going to use it to improve? 
  • To make our case? To spend our money more wisely? 
  • Spending some time crafting a measurement plan for your nonprofit social media work will help ensure that you are working on the right things.  

Inside the Academy, I teach you How to Track and Improve Your Efforts with Social Media Analytics. In fact, we create a simple spreadsheet that you can use over and over again to determine the effectiveness and success of your social media marketing. 

4) Effective social media managers are ninjas of time management.

If you’ve read James Clear’s Atomic Habits (which I highly recommend!), you know the mantra:  “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

We ALL get overwhelmed from time to time. It’s unavoidable. 

But effective nonprofit social media managers understand that saying yes to something means saying no to something else. 

If you have any discretion over your time (and I would hope that you do!), you can design at least part of your work day. You can decide where to put your focus. 

Social media management requires a commitment of time. End of story. It must be done with intention and persistence to see any real traction. 

Do an inventory of all of your responsibilities and where social media fits in, time-wise. 

How much time do you realistically have to work with? 

If you only have an hour per week, shoehorned in with a million other responsibilities, you have to temper your expectations. Perhaps maintaining one social media platform is the best option for you in this case. 

The work of a social media manager, whether they are full-time or part-time, consists of four main pillars. I cover each pillar in depth inside the Academy

The pillars are: 

  1. Research and listening
  2. Content creation and curation
  3. Community management
  4. Measurement and analysis 

When managing a social media platform, you will need to schedule time into your calendar for each pillar. Content creation may take more time than community management, and so on.  

It’s the same principle of learning and then applying any skill.

If you have an hour a week to learn a new language, you start by getting the basics down and going from there.

You won’t be fluent in a week, so don’t get frustrated. 

So let’s adjust our expectations based on what we have to work with.

And as you improve and get better, you’ll be able to spend your limited time more efficiently.   

IMPORTANT NOTE (for the skeptics out there): I’m not saying to throw out your other responsibilities. It may be that this is not the season for you to focus on social media. That’s completely acceptable, and completely fine! 

The key is recognizing that you do not have the time (right now) to dedicate to this, and not blaming the social media channels themselves for your lack of results. 

For over a decade I have helped nonprofits with their digital marketing strategy, focusing on social media. What I’ve found is that when it comes to technology and social media, the hamster wheel never stops, and it’s up to the individual nonprofit professional to create a workable plan, or burn out soon after starting. 

I find nonprofit professionals excited about all the possibilities and the potential of social media and online marketing, but many of them are overwhelmed with the day to day and feel like their time is not being spent efficiently. They also continually get new tasks added to their plate, all because their supervisor and Board don’t understand the real work of social media and the time (and creative brain power) involved. 

Yes, there are everyday challenges, but there are also untapped opportunities! 

One of the most common challenges that I’m sure you face or have faced is information overload and FOMO.  

I see information overload and FOMO (fear of missing out) as two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, you know that you can’t possibly consume all of those bookmarked articles and saved podcasts, but you fear that you will be missing out on something extra special and helpful if you don’t read/listen to/watch all the things. 

I once spent half a day unsubscribing to email newsletters. Even so, I don’t feel like the time spent got me anywhere. I still have half a dozen blogs to check every day, well-meaning people forwarding interesting articles, plus YouTube video tutorials and podcasts and news alerts and… you get the point. 

My solution: Focus on the top two or three topics that are most relevant to your job and to your audience. You do not have to be the go-to resource and topic expert on every single article, trend, or news-story that comes across your desk. 

Dedicate some time in your daily routine to look at relevant news and blogs in order to stay current (and to feed the social media content machine). However, make sure that you don’t waste your most creative, high energy part of your day doing this. Clicking on links and skimming blog posts can sap your creativity and enthusiasm for other more important projects. 

A good way to manage the information fire hose is to filter all of those non-urgent email newsletters into a tab called News, which you can check during a scheduled time in the day. Set an egg timer for 10-15 minutes to review these news sites, and no matter where you are when it goes off, close the browser or save for later. 

Have you ever taken five minutes out of your morning to check Facebook, clicked on an article, then clicked on another article from that article, then all of a sudden you have 50 Chrome tabs open? And it’s an hour later and you don’t even remember what you were doing in the first place? 

My solution: Use the Pomodoro Technique. This is by far the best piece of productivity advice I have ever received. Using a free service like MyTomatoes.com, track where your social media time goes and set concrete parameters. 

Keep a regimented, rigorous Pomodoro schedule when it comes to checking your social media accounts. If your only job is to monitor emergency and urgent conversations around your industry and your organization, then by all means keep those tabs open. 

If your job requires you to complete other non-social-media tasks (and if you work at a nonprofit, I am sure that it does), schedule dedicated time in your calendar to focus solely on checking social media. I also create special tabs within my email to filter all notifications so that they do not disrupt my email inbox and send me off onto a social media goose chase. 

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the like get their own folders, and I schedule time in my calendar to monitor these networks one by one, replying to mentions and monitoring followed hashtags. 

Another common obstacle to productivity is drowning in social media notifications. Who doesn’t feel like they are drowning in notifications these days? Social media managers are a resilient bunch, because not only do we have to manage our personal social networks, we have to stay on top of our organization’s platforms. 

My solution: You can choose to schedule your day in defense mode or offense mode. Are you writing a blog post, shooting a video, creating a great Instagram post? That’s offense mode, and requires some uninterrupted creativity time. 

Response mode refers to the scheduled times of the day (think Pomodoro technique) when you check each platform and respond to questions and comments. If you work well with your mobile apps pinging all day and your laptop buzzing, continue with that structure. If not, segment your 128 time spent on each platform into bigger, dedicated chunks and turn the notifications off the rest of the time. 

Another problem I see all the time – Context switching and constantly putting out fires. 

Do you constantly bounce from project to project, fire to fire all day long? Is there no time for strategic planning or big picture thinking? If you feel like you are spending entire days on minutiae and not getting anywhere, consider outsourcing. I had a client who would spend half a day formatting a blog post for WordPress and then another half a day promoting the post to the organization’s social media channels. She was also in charge of fundraising for the organization, event planning and all the other marketing initiatives. 

We convinced her board to allot her a small budget for a virtual assistant and an intern who ended up saving her hours of WordPress and graphic design work, which she then dedicated to starting a successful major gifts and annual fundraising program. 

You can also get small tasks done on sites like Upwork, Fiverr and Intern.org – truly on a shoestring.

5) Social Media managers embrace creativity and risk-taking. 

By far the number one question I see on social media and in my inbox is:

“How do we get more engagement on our channels? We feel like no one is listening.”

The hard truth is – to get engagement, you have to be ENGAGING!

Seth Godin says to be remarkable, you have to do something worth remarking on. 

We can’t force people to pay attention to us, to click on our links, to like our stuff, to share it. 

There has to be something in it for them. 

Effective nonprofit social media managers constantly strive to be surprising, innovative, interesting, and relevant in their posts. 

They are laser-focused on what their audience wants to see from them, not on their own promotional agenda. Promotions on social media will not work unless it’s interesting and relevant to the audience. 

Do something surprising. 

Package what you do in a creative, unique way

Give it a creative spin.

This is what it takes. 

Have some fun!!!  

In conclusion, I want to leave you with some words of inspiration. 

“Social media and technology are not agents of change. They are just tools. We, the connected people, are the agents of change.” Jean R Lanoue

The future cannot be automated. People are, and will continue to be, motivated by people and not technology. If you give people the information they need, they will take it and run with it on your behalf. 

Provide them with guidance, clear steps, compelling stories, helpful information – but let them take your message into their own hands. 

Empower your community and your audience and invite them into ownership of your vision. In social media, it truly is a game of you get what you give.

Persistence and consistency are the key to getting results on social media – but also in marketing itself. 

You have to consistently show up and provide value in exchange for your audience’s attention and time. 

Even when you don’t have a specific call-to-action, a petition to sign, a donation to ask for. 

How are you showing up when you don’t want anything from your audience?

How are you showing up, providing information, answering questions, replying to comments, when you aren’t asking for donations? 

Effective nonprofit social media managers don’t just have lofty goals.

They have a plan and a process by which to achieve them. 

 The most important piece of advice I can give to a busy, stressed out nonprofit social media manager is not to beat yourself up if a few tweets go unanswered, a blog post is a day late, or a Facebook post has a formatting error. Things can be edited and cleaned up. Tomorrow is another day. 

Social media and nonprofit marketing work is important – but the work of community building, raising awareness, and showcasing your impact is never fully done, and that’s ok. 

For nonprofit social media managers, the constant challenge is making it easier for your audience and customers to engage with you on their terms – when and where they want to. 

This is vital to understand – it’s not about us and where we want to interact; it’s not about what’s convenient for us. It’s all about our community and their preferences. Without them, we are nothing. You can’t purchase an active online community. You can buy email lists, fans, followers – but not genuine participation and affinity. 

Building your movement and mobilizing your community on social media requires skill, patience, and strategic effort, but should never be seen as a waste of time. You’ve got this. 

Right now I am inviting you to sign up for Social Media for Social Good Academy. Inside the Academy, I help you build an action plan and workable strategy to up level your social media marketing. You can find out more at www.socialgoodacademy.com . Until next time, keep changing the world, you nonprofit unicorn!