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June 22, 2009

Are you ready for your next campaign?


Big campaigns that touch social media are transforming into ongoing programs.

Every organization needs a post-campaign supporter engagement plan.

Future campaigns will require coordination amongst more parts of your non-profit.


Last week I attended a special Facebook marketing breakfast sponsored by Inside Facebook.  The caliber of speakers was excellent and I learned a great deal, but the discussion that stuck with me more than the rest was on the evolving role of the marketing "campaign."  The panel concluded that the traditional media campaign as we know it is over...especially if it touches social media in any meaningful way.

That's a fairly bold statement to make.  To understand how they got there first we need to travel in our time machine back (which luckily I have) to a time without online social networks, newsfeeds, and 24x7x364 stimulation.  Yes, we're going back to the dark ages, so put on your chain mail and get your sword, it's time to visit 2002.  Here we can observe the marketing campaign in its natural environment.

Campaigns were fairly simple creatures back then (scale and scope aside).  They had straight forward goals.  Marketers would come up with a clever and interesting way to attract people to 1. increase brand awareness, 2. drive sales of a product.  For non-profits, the end goals were obviously a bit different but similarly simple, focusing on advocacy, fundraising, or both.  Campaigns were also predictable events.  The campaign had a specific beginning and end.  Once the campaign was over, it was over.  No more promotional t-shirts, videos, or micro-sites.  It was time to analyze the results (i.e., dollars raised, policy influenced, etc.) and prepare for the next campaign.  All-in-all, campaigns were clean, finite, predictable, and measurable. 

Oh the good old days.

Now let's jump back into our time machine and return to today.  I know, everything looks totally different, doesn't it.  Crazy.  The first thing you may notice is that today's campaigns are starting to look a bit more like programs than campaigns.  Wait, what?  But programs don't usually "end," you're probably thinking.  And you would be correct.  For any organization looking to establish a campaign-oriented Facebook page, application, Twitter account, MySpace page, or micro-site with special social features like discussion forums, the campaign will no longer end on the date of your choosing.  The reason is that your non-profit has now developed a community around your campaign.  If everything went as planned, the campaign has attracted thousands of supporters, who are now regularly taking action on your organization's behalf, responding to things you post, sharing your posts with their friends, and discussing your posts with other supporters.  This is something that your organization can't just "turn off."  If you did, the best you could hope for is that these great, active supporters just feel abandoned by you.  The worst case is really bad - grumpy supporters or spammers hijack your brand on ignored Facebook campaign pages and applications, turning supporters into detractors, and completely wasting an asset your organization spent an enormous amount of money to create.  Eek!

The truth is that this is a high class problem.  In other words, "woe-is-me-what-do-I-do-with-all-these-brand-evangelists?"  Cry me a river, right?  True, but sorting out what to do with this community is not a task that should be taken lightly.  Generally, an active user base is something every organization should want...if you are prepared to manage it.  Right now, most organizations are comfortable with regular email communications.  In fact, one of a campaigns goals is getting people on the email list so you can continue to cultivate the list.  What's different now is that your organization must continue to engage people where you acquired them (i.e., Campaign page on Facebook).  You shouldn't assume that they are all on your email house list and, if they are, assume that email is their preferred method of communication.  In fact, research has consistently shown that donors typically donate through the same medium.  So if you came in through direct mail, chances are that you'll donate again via direct mail rather than email or phone.  Non-profits should expect that social media donors will act in the same way and should not expect that they can simply turn all these social media donors into email donors. 

In addition, once you embrace the community, engagement means regular daily conversations...not email weekly or biweekly email communications about unrelated (or semi-related) programs or information.  However, with the right ongoing engagement, chances are that your organization will spend a lot less time trying to ramp up your next major fundraising, advocacy, or marketing campaign. 

So what's a non-profit to do?  Here are a few tips to get you started...

1.  Have a transition plan:  When the campaign ends, make sure there is a plan to keep the conversation going and the community alive.  Who's going to manage it? What will the goals of the community be?  What will the messaging be? How will the plan differ from community to community (i.e., Facebook vs. MySpace), etc.

2.  Break down those silos:  The rise of social media means an organization's online presence has about a zero percent chance of being limited to one organizational silo, whether it's fundraising, communications, or programs.  Set structures up to ensure that the right people are involved and feel comfortable in an environment with competing objectives.

3. Get comfortable on the social web:  If you don't already have a Facebook page, MySpace profile, applications, and Twitter account, now is the time.  Obviously you shouldn't set them up without concrete objectives and a plan, but as Jeremiah Owyang likes to say, "fish where the fish are."


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