It’s no secret that social entrepreneurs are out to change the world. Telling the world that’s what you’re doing and how you’re doing it isn’t so easy.
That’s because we’re all more connected to what’s happening. We have more information than ever. A social entrepreneur needs to tune in to that connected world of social media and leverage his or her own data, stories, and impact to improve organizational (and beneficiary) outcomes.
We’ll dive into three strategic reasons why investing in social media expertise is well worth it for social enterprises, and then look at how those organizations can measure how well that investment is doing for their organization.
Leveraging social media for social impact
Social media for social enterprises isn’t that much different than social media for any other organization. The nuts and bolts of it are the same. Know your audience segments. Define short- and long-term strategies. Understand how your social media plans fit in and inform overall strategy. Design beautiful, on-brand, imagery and messages. That’s a good baseline.
From there, it’s worth thinking about the nuance that being a social enterprise offers to the public. Use it to your advantage! Here are three ways to begin thinking along those lines so that you can create more impact for your organization and your beneficiaries via social media.
Non profits have their donor base and for-profit social enterprises have their investor circles. Either way, and whether we like it or not, capital moves the impact ecosystem just as it does in the traditional corporate sector. But social enterprises also have a natural thing going for them -- the emotional hook.
Raising money for social enterprises means communicating emotional impact narratives and getting people excited about the positive change that has been or will be generated. There is no fundraising without those impact stories. Enter social media.
Social media strategy for social enterprises should largely be focused on sharing those emotional stories of impact, especially during a fundraising campaign. Bigger investors/donors will eventually want other “boring” information detailing your internal data, but that first hook to invite those conversations comes from your impact stories. So make them great ones.
2. Impact Credibility
You have a history of creating amazing impact. Why not share it? You’re competing against an increasingly saturated impact market, which means consumers have more choices about what they share, who they talk about, etc. Credibility (and increasing brand loyalty) comes from showing a history of consistency in your impact journey.
In other words, don’t wait until you need to fundraise to make your impact heard. Social media platforms allow you to make that impact be heard around the world every day. It also enables you to show how things are progressing since your latest fundraising campaign (all the good that that money is doing!).
Put another way, this is authentic storytelling at its finest. Because it’s not an end-of-year report that you scrambled together. You’re sharing impact from the field in real-time. And it gets the public excited about who you are, what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it.
3. For the Benefit of Beneficiaries
Your social enterprise has a true north, an impact-oriented driver: the beneficiaries for whom it works to produce amazing outcomes. What does social media have to do with that? In addition to helping procure the fuel (capital) for programs and lend credibility to what you are doing, social media gives a voice to your cause. It can also give a voice to the beneficiaries themselves.
Of course, awareness of a cause is just a starting point to impact, it’s not impact in itself. But giving visibility to it will help bring similarly impassioned individuals and organizations to take action. Which ultimately (ideally) will benefit those beneficiaries for whom it is all about.
What’s more, the focus of a social cause is more often than not a community or other group of individuals that has been marginalized in some way. They usually do not have a platform of their own or the resources to spread their voice and have their needs heard.
As a social enterprise working with such a group or groups you can make sure they are able to make their side of the story known.
How to Measure your Social Media Impact
“Doing” social media just for the sake of it, or because you know you should, almost defeats the point. Instead, think about the themes mentioned above, and how those fit in with the strategic objectives of your organization. How might you measure whether you are achieving those objectives?
For example, one way to measure how fundraising/investment is affecting the lives of your beneficiaries is to use an Social Return on Investment type of accounting which enables you to determine the impact value of every dollar spent.
Thinking about credibility, you could create OKR frameworks (Objectives and Key Results, used at places like Google) to ensure you have measurable ways of assessing credibility-related objectives. For example, a key result for the objective of “being the go-to source for homelessness prevention programs in Chicago” could be tracking the rate of unsolicited requests via social media (or from social media) of community leaders for your resources or programs.
The same type of framework can be used to assess how well your social media efforts are giving visibility to your cause. Of course, you can easily track how many people you reached, how many new followers you have, how many of those followers are now also newsletter subscribers, donors, or even attended your events. These are all valid, and useful, ways to track the impact your social networks are having on your organization.
What’s important is to have systems in place and strategies defined at the outset of your social media efforts so you can be sure to understand how it is working (or not) and make the necessary re-investment or adjustments to those strategies.
A social entrepreneur is often a jack-of-all-trades, get stuff done, kind of person. One of those trades, some of that stuff, needs to be social media focused.
Amplify your voice, that of your cause, and those of your beneficiaries, and you'll give your impact outcomes a better chance to grow.