Identify the audience or community you want to engage. This includes thinking about who you are already communicating with and how, as well as what groups you want to start communicating with who you currently aren’t including. Who you want to talk to, listen to, and create a community with is the foundation for everything else you do with social media tools because it is what ultimately decides the success or failure of your other decisions—if you base your timing, tools, and process around those you want to be a part of your work, then you’ll be a lot more successful than if you pick tools you like when it’s convenient for you without considering the community you want to use them.
Identify the resources currently available within your organization. Resources include staff knowledge and comfort with different tools, experience levels of staff working with supports, volunteers, and the public, staff with time available, staff with appropriate job duties to include social media, available budget for training or workshops, etc. Often, we forget that because the actual application/software/tool may be free, really using it is not. What we put into our social media engagement is what we get out of it, like everything else in life. If you only have an hour a week to post to a blog, then it is unreasonable to expect a lively conversation and community emerging from it, at least not very quickly. By evaluating what resources you already have on hand in the organization, you are much more prepared to fully examine your options. And remember, sometimes you assumptions about social media use and your staff can be way off! There is something out there for all of us, and more and more people around the world are engaging online, so don’t assume that it’s only your college intern who knows how to use these tools!
Identify what success will look like. This is really helpful in order to evaluate the appropriate tools for your work. If you want to create a space for volunteers and potential volunteers to share their knowledge and experiences with each other you are going to need very different tools than if you want to create a space for volunteers and potential volunteers to share that information with you. It’s also important to remember that social media is a changing space, with tools and applications, even functionality, evolving every day. So, your definition of success has to be flexible to the changing times and the changing needs of your audience.
Identify what technologies are most appropriate. Now that you know who you want to communicate with, who and what you have to work with in your organization, and where you want to go with the relationships, you can identify some tools to start exploring. There are lots of blogs, directories, and lists available online to help you get started picking tools that match your goals. One great way to help guide you in the process of identifying and selecting the most appropriate technologies is to ask your community! What are they using now? How would they like to engage with your organization? Explain what success looks like to you and ask how they would go about getting there!
Identify what measures of success can be used. You know who and what, and you identified where you want to go, but before you dive in you also need to establish how you can measure and monitor activity from day 1 onward. This includes things you are probably looking at already like the number of visitors to your website and subscribers of your emails; but, it also includes metrics based on the funcationality of the tools you choose and how you identified success. If you are using a forum, then measuring the number of replies to post (or, if your forum allows voting, then the positive feedback on posts) could be appropriate, as well as the ratio of people signed up vs posting vs replying, etc. It’s incredibly important for the success of your work to evaluate how things are going throughout. If something isn’t working to the degree you had hoped, it’s okay! Identify that issue, and correct it with either an alteration to the current tool or set up, or by shifting the group to a different, more approriate tool. Just be sure to openly communicate your evaluations, ask for feedback (“Do you see what we see?”), and explain any changes well ahead of time.
So, get going!
Of course, the hardest part isn’t getting to day 1, but all that comes after day 1. Creating a successful strategy for using social media isn’t completely new – you are creating strategies for your communications, fundraising, outreach, volunteer recruitment, and more. What’s great about so many social media tools is that all of those other areas can be integrated into your work/presence online!