Level the Playing Field PART 1: Get the CFO’s Thumb Off the Scale

We have all heard about the power of a tweet (Conan O’Brien sells out a 30 city comedy tour using his twitter account), the force of social media (Barack Obama raises $500 million) and how timely appeals can raise donations (Red Cross raised over $140 million for Haiti using SMS).

Impressive results because they highlight a cost / benefit multiplier that exceeds our expectations. Conan O’Brien’s campaign created substantial return for what amounts to essentially free advertising. One could argue that the true cost is higher: writing tweets, creating a following, gaining the public sympathy of Coco as an underdog abused by NBC, retaining the attention of his community with self-deprecating, humorous tweets, … But, with the exception of the time to announce the concert tour, these costs were essentially already sunk.

Similarly, Obama’s campaign of effectively using social media and leverage his supporters which allowed him to outspend all other candidates.

We are witnessing the birth of a new communication tool that is both effective and cheap to empower not just donors, but also volunteers, participants, contributors, board members and staff to our cause. And by empowering our constituents, we are also creating new ways to accomplish, communicate, promote, manage and coordinate our goals. There are several hurdles:

  • We are still using traditional methods to evaluate its effectiveness. On Feb 28, Conan wrote: “This is only my 5th tweet and I’m already exhausted. My God, how does Ashton do it?” I can hear a CFO ask why would Conan bother wasting his time with “I am sitting on the sofa” type drivel. Yet less than two weeks later, Conan wrote: “Hey Internet: I’m headed to your town on a half-assed comedy & music tour. Go to http://TeamCoco.com for tix. I repeat: It’s half-assed.7:21 AM Mar 11th via web” and later “Alert! Teamcoco.com is jammed with too much traffic. If you can’t get on, go to http://ticketmaster.com to buy your tickets. See you soon.7:52 AM Mar 11th via web”.
  • How do you engage with your followers? Recognizing Conan’s success, one can hear a CFO conclude that Conan was engaging with his followers with daily anecdotes and building up their ranks, and ask “how are you planning to engage with your followers”. In the case of the Red Cross, should you tweet about earthquakes in general so that you could pounce when Haiti got hit? Of course not. Tracking emergent success indicators is a hit or miss proposition that largely depends on how goals and missions are aligned.
  • Which brings us back to what’s the best way to evaluate a social media strategy or how can we become more effective at finding members and communicating our message. Seems to boil down to be personal, authentic, casual, friendly …

But there needs to be another, more important conversation. As we find new members, build, connect and engage with our communities, we need to learn what sort of constituents we are hatching. Which track do they follow? Are they boosters, advocates, influencers, volunteers, donors, future board members, future staffers, … Each provides different returns, lead times and contributions. Some donors will be recognized as habitual, others occasional. This is not a homogeneous group. Their interest and participation diverges. It is unlikely an intern, who knows how to promote his facebook page with his own friends and family, will know how to address each constituency appropriately.

The trick then, is to create a presence, call it a basic profile that allows each constituency to indicate their interest and select their path. That’s hard because it requires learning what resonates with each group.

For federations, it’s harder. Each affiliate has to discover in addition, how they are distinguished from other chapters and regions. More about that in Part 2.

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About charitymatrix

CharityMatrix is an online platform that helps organizations manage their social media efforts. The platform helps create a community of contributors, particularly in organizations with many chapters and initiatives, where the mission can easily get overwhelmed by individual messages. The contributors are organized to become self-sustaining and self-perpetuating, and focused on engaging with donors, contributors, volunteers, and organizers to grow the next generation of members. The platform is designed to empower users to learn and expand skills (from newbie, user, pro to guru). CharityMatrix provides: (1) A 'one-stop shop' with embedded guidelines and instructions for using each social media channel (2) A project management tool to create teams and administer the effort (3) Collaboration tools to include staff, interns, advisers and volunteers
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One Response to Level the Playing Field PART 1: Get the CFO’s Thumb Off the Scale

  1. Jon Hardie says:

    Yves, a few thoughts on qualitative vs quantitative metrics in social media,
    as woven through your excellent overview, .

    Social Media is … social. It is a customer-centric, conversational, relationship-building approach; driven by listening, authenticity, passion, transparency, responsiveness, … and sustained value delivered to the customer in every transaction – that in turn builds trust and loyalty.

    The real power of social media, may best be measured by changing the paradigm by which we evaluate ROI; from a CFO’s Quantitative to a Qualitative Metric.

    We typically look at Social Media ROI from the same Quantitative Metric that we use, for example, to evaluate our return on a direct mail piece – typically about 2%.

    However, from a Qualitative, social media perspective, using direct mail (a push marketing monologue), using data mining, we are actually wrong in guessing what our customers need, want, and value … about 98% of the time!

    Using direct mail, we are actually delivering noise – and not value, to the remaining 98% of the recipients … a significant negative impact on the market place.

    Social Media, on the other hand, incrementally invests in delivering value by responsive listening, to your most loyal and passionate supporters; thereby gaining access to their networks of networks of relationships – that are each in turn – driven by trust, authenticity, transparency, passion … and sustained value.

    In social media, your marketing department is really your networks of your most loyal and passionate supporters, donors, volunteers, and board members. They reach out passionately to their own networks of networks, in support of your organization.

    What is the Qualitative Metric of for measuring Social Media ROI?

    These personal and passionate referrals are made FOR FREE, and they close an amazing 75% of the time, at a ratio of about 10 referrals per passionate and loyal supporter. One can build also build networks using a number of social media tools – but there has to be a congruent investment in relationships, real responsive listening and delivering value with every transaction. (Think Zappo’s)

    A caveat: no amount of manipulation, or coercion, will buy you access to these networks. Trust me. The downside of these kinds of manipulative PR attempts is a viral twitter storm of resentment costing millions of dollars.

    I gvie you Jet Blue leaving folks on the runway for 11 hours; Amazon deleting Orwell’s 1984, from thousands of kindles without asking (poetic justice); and Apple claiming they have no iPhone4 reception problems. Apple alone is spending $175 million dollars on slip on cases for … a “non existent” problem.

    The key to this amazing 75% ROI in SM, is listening; then responsively delivering your mission message with authenticity, passion, transparency and sustained value with every transaction – while consequently building sustained trust with your loyal and passionate stakeholders and supporters. They will do the rest for you … for free.

    This qualitative paradigm for measuring social media ROI, delivers a 75% conversion in your networks of networks with referrals in support of your mission, and a 10 to 1 referral expansion of your base. But you have to walk the talk 24/7/365!

    A final thought on Organizational Intentionality: adopting an SM strategy top down, across your organization, involves building a shared, customer-centric vision and mission as a core value. The ROI is pretty good … and the cumulative noise reduction will empty your in-box of junk mail.

    What do you think?

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