Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 19 seconds

Email and Social Media: The Perfect Ingredients for Non-Profits

socialmediaAs non-profits increasingly leverage social media tools to enhance communication with their members and donors, many have begun to look at how they can utilize email marketing to support these initiatives. Organizations are realizing that by not integrating all of their marketing channels, they are missing out on spreading their messages to a wider audience.
They will also be at a disadvantage when it comes to getting to know their communities' interests better. While many non-profits acknowledge the importance of using both of these strategies, they often struggle when it comes to getting started. There are a number of tips that can help organizations leverage the perfect combination of email and social media to get their marketing programs right. 

Taking the First Step
According to Joe Tyler, president and CEO of ASI partner Informz, since 90 percent of email responses happen within 72 hours, social media channels provide organizations with an opportunity to continue conversations that their initial emails started. He suggests that non-profits first analyze how their members and donors are using social media sites. One way to do this is to survey the organization's top influencers for feedback- what networks would they like to see the non-profit on?

While it's important to incorporate the opinions of community members, make sure to not take on too much at once-try selecting one or two social media sites to focus on. One challenge that many organizations face is creating too many channels, and then they end up neglecting the sites-by being active and consistently publishing fresh content to these pages, non-profits can become trusted resources for information. After selecting which social media channels to focus on, email can then be used to announce the launch of organizations' social media activities, and as a tool to encourage members and donors to participate in conversations on those sites.

Extending the Conversation
When organizations are ready to create their presence on social media sites, Tyler recommends breaking down the process into three phases. Start by identifying and segmenting the top influencers and announcing the social media channels to them first; encourage these power members and donors to engage in conversations and jump start use of the sites. Then, launch the channel to the rest of the community-don't forget to communicate what value they will get from nonprofits' social media presence and how they will benefit from the content provided through these channels. Finally, segment those that have not taken action yet and send a follow-up email that includes a stronger call to action or an incentive for participation.

Once the social media channels have been created, email is a great way to promote organizations' presences on these sites on an ongoing basis. To drive participation, include a logo and link to the social media profiles in the sidebar of the email communications. Also try posting a question or discussion topic with a link to chat about the topic further on the social media pages-this is a great way to make emails more interactive. The more non-profits develop personal relationships with their members and donors, the more successful their marketing campaigns will be.

It is also beneficial to highlight and thank those that are most active in the communities. By doing this, organizations can use these special thanks to encourage top contributors to continue participating in the communities. Since many people like to be acknowledged, this can also help motivate other members and donors to become active on the site.

In addition, non-profits can use social media channels to promote their organizations' newsletters and grow its subscriber bases-provide opt-ins on your social media channels so that Facebook fans, Twitter followers and others in the community can select to receive them. Organizations should try using incentives to encourage people to sign up; archiving past newsletters on the social media sites and publicizing emails on their pages' status bars are good ways of doing just that.

Measuring the Results
Many organizations struggle to get internal support when it comes to the development of social media channels. Executives often feel that it is hard to measure the Return on Investment (ROI) with social media. However, email is one way to help resolve this issue-by using reporting analytics, non-profits can instead determine and demonstrate if and how their social media presence has made a positive impact.

One real-world example of this-the Society of Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) needed an effective, cost-efficient way to let members know how to use its new online community;  the organization chose email marketing as a key component of its launch plan. SMPS developed a process that allowed it to use email activity reporting to monitor the success of its plan and measure the reach of its messaging. In just under six weeks, the campaign generated 716 active profiles and drove 323 first-time visits to the community. After a successful launch, the organization planned to continue promoting its social media channels in its annual magazine and e-newsletter.

Integrating email and social media into your organization's marketing program can produce great results. As non-profits continue to see the importance of incorporating both of these elements into their marketing strategy, organizations will see success when it comes to blending the use of social media tools and email communication techniques.
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