Idealware's Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide, Updated for 2011 | Beth's Blog

Idealware’s Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide, Updated for 2011

Digital Strategy, Social Media Policy

Guest post by Laura Quinn

Idealware created the Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide to help organizations like yours determine what results and benefits you can reasonably expect from social media, and to guide you through the process of identifying the right channels for different goals. To help you turn the theoretical into the practical, we included a workbook that applies what you’re learning to your own real-world needs. This year, we updated the entire guide with new research, additional sections on goals and strategies, and information about using social media for advocacy and fundraising.

Social media is a conversation the world is having. Your organization can’t afford to be left out of it. Let our Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide help you find your voice. The following excerpt from it offers a brief look at how to clearly define the goals you hope to pursue through social media, and the specific audiences you’re trying to reach with them.

Defining Social Media Goals and Audiences

Social media often has two aspects. There’s an important listening aspect that helps you hear what people are saying about you online, and there’s a second aspect that includes hosting conversations. Through tools like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, you can post information, encourage comments and get feedback.

Remember the social aspect of social media, however. Simply putting up a Facebook page or sharing a video on YouTube isn’t likely to do much good. It’s important to think of these social media channels as tools to communicate in a social manner rather than the end in and of itself—in other words, social media is a  journey, not a destination.

The tools you should use for that journey depend on what you want to accomplish and who you want to reach. Defining goals and audience is an often-overlooked step when it comes to social media, but it’s a critical one. You can’t effectively choose any communication tool without a specific understanding of what you want to accomplish.

The more specific the better. Many organizations enter the world of social media with goals that are too nebulous to measure, like “building awareness” or “spreading the word.”  It’s useful to think of the acronym “SMART” when defining goals, which helps make them:

  • Specific. They need to be detailed enough for you to determine whether you’ve achieved them or not. How will you ever know if you’ve finished “building awareness?”
  • Measurable: You should be able to quantify goals with a numeric benchmark.
  • Achievable: Make sure your benchmarks are realistic based on what you’ve accomplished in the past.
  • Relevant: If they don’t relate to your mission, it doesn’t matter if you’ve achieved them.
  • Time Based: Define the timeframe over which you’ll achieve these goals.

It’s also critical to know who you want to reach. Potential major donors are often a very different audience than alumni from client programs, for example, and it’s important to consider what they’re using and what types of communications each audience expects from you.

Different tools have different audiences. Facebook tends to be better at reaching those in and right out of college using it for personal reasons, while Twitter is likely to be more useful to reach older professionals. But more than the demographics of a particular channel, you need to know what channels your supporters and potential supporters are using. How do you find this out? Try asking them. Talk to your staff, board and supporters about the sites they use, or survey your community to find out.

You can download the entire Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide for free at

Laura Quinn is the Executive Director at Idealware.


One Response

  1. Johnny Cole says:

    Exceptionally challenging thanks, I think your trusty visitors may possibly want more well written articles like that continue the great work.