7 social media traps

Social Media Marketing provides nonprofits and ministries powerful marketing and branding tools. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and blogs are all the rage. But Social Media is NOT a silver bullet. While these strategies are powerful, it’s a huge mistake to think that all you have to do is start Tweeting or blogging or whatever and everything will be wonderful.

Social Media TrapBefore you take the Social Media plunge, remember these 7 things Social Media traps:

1. Social Media will not change your organization. What do you want to be? Whatever your dream is: “cool” or “authentic” or “hot” or “techno-savvy” or “effective,” Social Media will not “make” you anything. If you’re not authentic now, Social Media will not help, in fact it will make it worse. Whatever your underlying problems are, they will continue. Social Media will not change you. Social Media will reveal who you are–like it or not.

2. Social Media will not solve organizational problems. If your executives are disconnected from what happens in the field, no amount of clever strategies will change that. In fact because the people on the ground will likely have Facebook pages, if the execs are Twittering one message but the field staff is Facebooking another, your donors will know it. Disconnects are revealed not hidden through Social Media.

3. Social Media will not substitute for strategy. This seems obvious, but getting a graphics person to build a Twitter home page won’t tell you what you need to Tweet about (and worse, if you start tweeting about whatever comes to mind, you could hurt your ministry). Blogging about your life probably won’t advance the cause of your organization. That everyone is Tweeting and posting and blogging with different focus will confuse your donors and friends. Integration is much easier to believe in than execute.

4. Social Media will not change your income quickly. 500 Twitter followers or 1,000 fans on Facebook will not quickly translate into greater net income. It’s a slow build for almost everyone. Social Media is often described as “pre donor acquisition” because becoming your friend on Facebook is the beginning of a relationship that can lead to a donation. You’re planting seeds not harvesting fruit with Social Media.

5. Social Media will not work if nothing else is working. If you can’t successfully raise money with direct mail or through a major gifts program, Social Media will probably only increase your failure rate. The exception to this is if your fundraising expenses are too high, you could be doing the right things but paying too much. That happens a lot unfortunately.

6. Social Media will not keep your secrets. If you have a serious behavioral problem in your organization, Social Media may expose it. If your CEO is not a person of integrity and is involved in Social Media either personally or for your organization, it will leak out. If you really don’t do much in the way of changing the world, then you don’t want to get into social media, people will ask questions you may not like answering. If your organizational culture is one of fear and your leaders are bullies, you probably want to pass on Social Media and stick to print, which is much easier to control.

7, Social Media will not be cheap. This one fools most of us. Because there are usually lower costs with Social Media than traditional fundraising channels, it is tempting to think it’s cheap. Maybe it won’t cost much in dollar investment compared to a direct mail fundraising campaign, but it will take time, energy and focus…and far more of all three than you’re expecting. Plan to grow tired of Tweeting or Blogging before you see fruit from your strategy.

Be sure you’ve examined the potential risks to your npo before you take the Social Media plunge!

How about you? Can you think of other Social Media traps? What are you doing to avoid these problems? What bad things have you seen when the unwary take the plunge?

I’d love to know what you think.


Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity


(photo credit: Oneicity)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

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