Geri Stengel

 
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6 Social Media Tips Conan O'Brien Can Teach Social Enterprises and Nonprofits

Conan O'Brien may not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking about how to market and, yes, promote nonprofit causes or social enterprises. But he exemplifies a lesson value-driven organizations need to learn: Social media is a vital part of any marketing plan.

marketing, nonprofit, social enterprise, social media, values-driven businessIt's that simple. Times and media have changed. Traditional media must be augmented by new media, even if you aren't aiming to make a profit.

As O'Brien said in a Tweet, "In three months I've gone from network television to Twitter to performing live in theater, and now I'm headed to basic cable ... My plan is working perfectly."

In other words, he went from a cataclysmic fall to a soaring media presence. He did it by combining the best of high-hype promos, such as a TeamCoCo blimp as well as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and social media-based applications, such as FourSquare. It required a lot of work. No one, not even Conan O'Brien, can make videos, set up apps, post to a blog, ride in a blimp, and become a FourSquare mayor in three months without help.

It takes time and teamwork. But it works.

Why am I not surprised at the success of this combination? Because some nonprofits have found it out for themselves. Alas, most have not.

The data from a survey conducted in August 2010, Nonprofits and Social Media: It Ain't Optional, revealed best practices of social media power-users that can guide both nonprofits and social enterprises in their use of social media:

  • The message does dictate the medium; each medium has its strengths and weaknesses.
  • Dedicate time to social media. The more time you spend, the better the results will be. Consistently and regularly participate by posting, tweeting, commenting.
  • Use social media for more than one purpose. That is, use it for brand-recognition and for advocacy and for fundraising, not just one of the above. The corollary: Use more than one medium. Blog, tweet, and comment; don't just blog.
  • Expect social media to strengthen your marketing plan, not reduce your marketing costs.
  • Dedicate a larger share of your marekting pie to the staff and research needed for social media.
  • Synergy! As O'Brien has shown us, traditional marketing and social media work together.

Oh yeah, one last tip:

  • Start slowly. Lay the groundwork by learning the quirks of each medium and which will best serve your purposes. 

The survey, conducted by Ventureneer, and Caliber, produced practical guidelines for organizations gearing up to enter the social media fray and for those who have been at it awhile. The details are in the report and Ventureneer has set up resource page just for those getting started in social media.

Bottom line: Social media work best when they are part of a well-coordinated, well-staffed plan. That's true for O'Brien and it's true for social enterprises and nonprofits.

How has your values-driven organization used social media? What's your advice to those just getting started?

Screen capture: Team Coco website