Social media is an absolutely fantastic tool. The potential to reach a global market by breaking the boundaries of classical marketing tactics is simply fascinating. But with all of its strengths, social media is not intended to be the life line of a fledgling organization or the golden egg that magically saves the day. Why is it then that some companies and NGO’s still think that this medium holds can be used in this way?
This question began bothering me a few days ago, when one of our clients invited us participate in their annual planning meeting. As part of their fundraising campaign, they set a goal to raise a significant amount of capital to complete a building. In describing their strategy of reaching this lofty goal, they included a mix of traditional and more innovative methods of fundraising, including social media.
So far so good.
Before we were able to manage expectations about the success of social media and fundraising (see below), a so-called PR person suggested that the organization produce a YouTube video. By highlighting the desperate need to fund such a project, he claimed, and our (social media consultants) efforts to get it to go viral, the video will surely land in the right hands. To be fair, he actually said “let’s produce this video and get it viral, then hopefully one person with deep pockets will see it and will feel compelled to write us a big check.”
Yes, you read it correctly!
Here are a few issues with statement:
- Producing a video with viral potential
- The word viral
- Ensuring that the video will ‘land in the right hands’
- Video will yield support in the form of a large check
As their social media professionals who have successfully managed and grown the organization’s visibility thus far, we tried to reign in their expectations, while maintaining our composure. First we needed to clarify the misnomer that social media is the secret weapon that will save the day. Yes, it will increase awareness and bring more traffic but actual success in pure dollars and cents, is another story entirely. In reality, we explained that social media should be viewed similar to any other micro-finance project. That is to say, money may come in, but expecting large donations to pour in via social media campaigns is well, virtually unrealistic.
Social media should never be viewed as a cure-all solution. Videos are a great method of increasing brand recognition and awareness, and when done properly, they will increase traffic to a site. Still, one should never film a video with the sole intention of using it as bait for a fishing expedition. When producing a video, there’s a one-in-a-million chance that it will go viral. So instead of measuring the success with the number of YouTube views, likes or retweets, measure it with the quality of the people who are now aware of or interested in your cause or product. Like most other forms of social media, it’s not about strictly selling to your customers. Rather, it’s about engagement.
Here are a few ways to reach this goal:
- Videos need to be useful to the audience. Not necessarily with a simple lesson, but with a take away that is either humorous or contains emotional charm. Stimulate your audience and challenge them to think, don’t just sell them a product or your prayer for donations!
- Challenge your organization to be different. Explore the market and invite your consumers, investors, donors and potential customers to view your business in an entirely new light. That’s exactly what made the Gangnam Style video so successful.
- And while creating videos that actually have the potential to go viral usually involves some significant capital and a good deal of luck, it’s also a matter of plugging away at various methods of constant revision. It’s about figuring out what will appeal to your viewers, and constantly refining and redefining the strategy in order to potentially create more customers for your respective brand or company.
Social media involves focusing efforts on building community around a cause (or business) by sharing powerful stories that inspire people or help motivate them to take action. It’s about engaging an audience and connecting with real people and conducting an honest dialogue. It’s a great tool for constituent and customer support and expanding the reach of the community.
Unfortunately, most traditional CEO’s still view social media from a pure dollars and cents perspective. It’s time they redefine the meaning of ROI and realize that eyeballs are equally as important as sales; it’s just a question of different but equal.
For more about his topic, read Susan Gunelius’s article in Forbes.
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