Four strategies for fool-proof forays into social media

If you feel like a technological fool this April, join the club. Just when I think I’ve mastered the last new thing, along comes another possibility for connecting with the world via social media.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Youtube, Foursquare, Instagram, Pinterest—all in addition to my website (which is woefully out-of-date) and my blog. It’s too much for this old mind to handle. Digital Darwinism looms big on my horizon.

The same can be said for many small to mid-size ministry organizations. Like lemmings to the sea, otherwise sensible folks rush into social media with little thought to strategy, target audience, or how to measure success. As technology blogger Brian Solis describes, “far too much emphasis, budget, and time is placed in new media channels without an understanding of why or what it is that customers expect or appreciate.”

Fortunately, there’s a better way. It begins with attention to the following four points which I’ve adapted from an article written by the good folks at Bridgespan Consulting.


  1. Choose appropriate social media goals and connect them to organizational goals. It’s tempting just to jump in and do it. But taking time to assess of how social media can best advance your organizational priorities helps prevent foolishly following the latest fads. Your social media choices should support organizational goals, such as fundraising or collaboration, and also encourage authentic interaction with constituents.
  2. Define and understand your audience. Who are you trying to reach via which social media channels? What are the online habits of your intended audience(s)? What do you expect folks to do as a result of your overtures? A basic mistake by digital novices is “talking” too much and not listening to or engaging with the folks on the other end of the “line.”
  3. Determine what measures matter for you. Measurement in the online world is deceptively easy. However, unless you can connect page views, comments on blog posts, and likes on Facebook to desired actions in the physical world, you’re not counting the things that really count. By determining what measures matter for each new foray into social media, you’ll know if you’re getting the ROI that’s right for your organization.
  4. Count the true costs and then allocate the resources needed to get the job done. Because many social media channels are free for the accessing, it’s easy to underestimate the likely costs of digital dalliances. Be generous in budgeting for the staff time needed to update social media sites and create or find meaningful content; to monitor and respond to comments (including the kind of edgy or inappropriate remarks that are bound to show up); and to analyze what’s working and test out new approaches.

I can’t promise that there won’t still be days when you (and I) feel like fools just trying to keep up with digital developments. But paying attention to the four points listed here should make those days fewer and farther between.

What's your take on this topic?

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