The Digital Age has descended on the world like a tidal wave of information, and with it, a whole new set of rules has emerged.
The traditional methods of fundraising and branding have take a backseat to all things social media. It's common to find yourself floundering in unfamiliar waters, feeling like the revolution has passed you by, especially if you're a small nonprofit.
This may have you weighing your options: Should you hire a social media or email expert?
The answer is – well, maybe.
If you're a neophyte, social media and digital marketing may seem as though it's worlds away from everything you've been learning your whole life. Analytics, optimizing, traffic, every related buzzword, and especially every acronym like SEO, SMO, and SMM seems like it's part of an impossible new zeitgeist that leaves all uninformed people behind.
Even at its simplest, social media can be overwhelming. But it doesn't need to be that way. Really! Once you have penetrated the mysterious jargon, you come to realize that social media is just another step in what should be a broad range of marketing techniques, a means to an end – and the end is sharing your message and getting the word out there about your mission. It just happens to be a particularly important one in our ever more connected society. Demystifying the terminology is the first step.
SMM, SEO, SMO...WTF?!
First off, Social Media Marketing, or SMM, is a phrase that's been rearing its head for a couple of years. That's an umbrella term that refers to a broad range of – you guessed it – marketing using social media tools. In other words, it's a method of both direct and indirect marketing. You don't necessarily want to beat someone over the head with calls for donations, and so you create shareable content that will spread your message far and wide.
Marketing using social media, overall, can be good – great, even – and bad for nonprofits.
It's good, because it puts a lot of control over your message directly into your hands – and that message can go really far, really fast, and be incredibly helpful. It's bad because if you want to be truly engaged, it's going to eat a lot of time and effort out of your day, time that you might want to spend doing other things – especially if you're a small outfit.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, sounds complicated. It's really not – although, like everything else In the social media world, it can get time-consuming. Basically, it's writing so that your site pops up as one of the first results on a web search. Higher rankings means that more people will be able to find you. Search engines are looking for specific terms, links, and page titles so that they can index and organize what they're bringing up for you, and each does it slightly differently. This means making your writing clear, concise, and to the point is more important now than ever.
SMO, Social Media Optimization, is the latest hot thing. It's a combination of marketing and optimization using social media so that your posts, whether they're on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, or any number of other sites, show up in search engines. The comparison ends there, though: instead of being measured in hits, you're measured in likes, +1s, upvotes, and especially shares.
This means you have to become something of a source for news or perspectives from your chosen field. You have to be an expert, and you have to show it. It's best of all if you are sharing original content, so that people always know where they can find more: you're the source, and they want more.
Easier said than done, sure – but a deft hand with finding and aggregating content is almost as good. Like everything else on this list, it's really simple, but time-consuming.
This may not be the straightforward answer you were looking for to the question of whether or not you should hire a social media and email expert, but it's never as straightforward as that. Don't forget that a lot of social media is simply passing along your message, in ways that can be personal conversations or just one-way streams of information, or anything in between. But it's not as difficult as it might seem. It just takes specific skills – most of which are actually enjoying doing social media and being able to communicate complex ideas in simple and clear sentences.
If you fill the bill, and have the time and the inclination, then there is no reason that you can't learn the finer points of social media and email. Of course, that's a big “if,” so in the end, the decision to hire someone else is entirely up to you – but learning about what social media and search engines are all about will help you make your decision, above all, an educated and measured one.