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Avi Kaplan 8 min read

Seal the Deal: Confirm Relationships with Social Supporters

So your nonprofit’s staff has drunk the social media Kool-Aid. You’re updating your Facebook status, your Executive Director and program officers are tweeting away, and your staff is on board helping you deliver great blog and video content for your fans and subscribers. Your even fostering some nice conversations and it feels like your work is paying off.

Even better, ExactTarget’s recent Subscriber’s Fans and Followers report indicates that people say they are more likely to purchase from a brand they Like or Follow on social media sites.

And yet... you can’t shake the feeling that maybe you’re just churning your wheels, talking into the ether, and wasting your time. What if people only say they are more likely to purchase (or Photo by: Aidan Jonesdonate), but they behave otherwise? You’re not alone in your wondering.

A couple of weeks ago, Frogloop Blogger-In-Chief Allyson Kapin highlighted some key findings from IdealWare’s Nonprofit Social Media Decision Guide and their survey of over 750 nonprofit staffers.

  • Approximately, 40% said that they think that they are raising some money via Facebook and blogging. But only about 10% to 20% could confirm it.
  • About 30% said that they think they are raising money via Twitter, video sharing sites and LinkedIn.
  • Of the 80% of nonprofit staffers who think they are forming connections with new supporters through new media channels “only between 25% and 35% said that they could confirm that they are truly reaching new supporters via these social networks.”

That’s a lot of thinking and too many assumptions.

Confirming the connection between your online communications and meaningful actions by supporters isn’t simple. With all the measurement and tracking tools out there you’d think more nonprofits would be on top of this aspect of their strategy. More to the point in my mind, you’d think more vendors would be on top of fulfilling this need for better conversion and relationship tracking among nonprofit organizations. So what's the problem?

The Idealware report, actually does address this this issue briefly, but essentially admits that the solution isn’t here yet.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to tell by looking at your database whether someone is also following you on Twitter, or has subscribed to your blog? We know it would. Unfortunately, it’s not possible - at least not easily.”

Integrating Your Communications

The fragmented nature of interactions on social media make accurate conversion tracking difficult and many time-strapped nonprofits could do with a little help from simpler and more integrated tools. Beth Kanter encourages regular spreadsheet aerobics to meet the task and getting your head wrapped around the metrics of your communications is definitely key.

In most nonprofit online constituent relationship (CRM) systems today, new records are created only when you capture a supporter’s email. That leaves a lot of ambiguity for a staff trying to understand the results of their online engagement efforts because today my first interaction with your cause isn’t always linked to my email. I may first exchange Twitter @replies, Retweet a link to one of your YouTube videos, or RSVP to a Facebook event. Despite those active exchanges, CRM's will only count me as a new supporter months or years later when I make my first gift, or subscribe to your email newsletter and even then it won’t credit your staff for the work they’ve done to cultivate a relationship with me online.

This is a huge hole in the CRM market and a complex problem for vendors to solve. I look forward to being able to track supporters through their social graphs and interactions with a cause outside of email, correlating giving and advocacy actions with social interactions (Liking, retweeting, replying, and blog commenting) when the CRM market matures to meet the task.

In the meantime, what are you doing to join that 35% of nonprofit staff that Idealware reports can “confirm that they are truly reaching new supporters via these social networks”?  How are you verifying your impact?

Share your thoughts, resources, and verifying schemes with us in the comments!

*Avi Kaplan is the Online Coordinator, AKA Coordinator of Awesomeness, at Rad Campaign, an online communications firm providing web design, web development, and online marketing and strategy to nonprofit organizations and political campaigns.