A summer ritual here on the development team is planning for the next fiscal year, which begins October 1st. Part of that planning process involves a half-day retreat for directors at my boss' house where we discuss our goals for the upcoming year. Before my boss left for vacation last week he said to me: "At the retreat I want you to talk about how we can use social media for prospect research, fundraising and advocacy."
I wasn't surprised that he asked me to talk about social media. My boss is a pretty progressive guy first all all. Also, we've been talking about it off and on for the past year and my boss knows I personally use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (see the links on the right sidebar) and having been blogging for four and a half years. I was excited about the prospect of finally talking about how we could use it for branding and fundraising. But then I realized that while I was an avid user of social media I had more questions than answers about social media. Questions like...
If we did plunge into social media, on what should we focus? (e.g. Twitter and Facebook but not Youtube and MySpace?)
Should we develop a broad social media strategy for the development office, or should we only try to implement social media programmatically with key events and programs (e.g. Halloween Town, Boston Marathon/Team BMC)
If we do choose the broad social media strategy, who would execute it? This is a real issue. With the marketing team focused on patient outreach and overhauling 1400 web pages on the hospital's web site, there's no time left for social media. And this is not the year we can hire an employee or a consultant.
How would a social media strategy work with other things we're already doing, like email and direct mail?
These are just a few of the initial questions I had.
My first step was to go back to the nonprofits I admired (I'm not original, but I am an excellent copier!) for their social media prowess, especially smaller organizations that were just getting started.
I've always looked to Share Our Strength for examples of great cause marketing, but of late I've also seen great examples of social media from their go-to guy Jeff Weidner. The Jimmy Fund here in Boston is great example of an organization just getting started, trying new things, experimenting and finding their footing in a brave, new electronic world.
From these two, I've narrowed the platforms on which I think we need to be. I've also my noted the challenges of each.
Blogging. I know the power of blogging firsthand because I've been doing it for five years. But I also know how demanding it is and how it needs to go way beyond some CEO posting his or her quarterly letters. Paul Levy's blog is a great example of what's possible for a hospital blog. Here at BMC, I'd love to start a blog written by one of our emergency room docs chronicling Boston's busiest trauma center. I also think a blog centered on the uninsured and educating people about getting the care they need when they find themselves without health insurance is fitting for a public hospital.
Youtube. Setting up our own Youtube channel is a priority for me. I love the one Share Our Strength has. We have patient stories we could post there, but there are opportunities every day to collect meaningful footage here at the hospital. I read not long ago that video will replace the direct appeal letter someday. I agree, and consider a strong visual component crucial to any social media effort.
Flickr. For pictures from events and other places. A couple years ago we had a famous photographer do photos of our patients that were really powerful. They could be posted here for everyone to see, instead of tucked away as they are now.
Facebook. I'd create a page for the hospital, but I don't think I'd do either a fan or cause page just yet. Interestingly, I just saw today that the most popular cause on Facebook has 5,516,134 members, and raised $56,661, or just over $.01 per member.
Twitter. You know I'm bias about Twitter--because I love it!--but we would definitely have our own handle. Personally, I find that being very active on Twitter helps everything else you do online, especially blogging. I would love to see if that holds true when I'm tweeting and blogging for the hospital.
So these are my questions for you:
Do I have all/right forms of social media?
How do implement social media across the department? With the reality of resources and people power, can it be done piecemeal (by event or program) and still work?
Who else out there is doing a good job putting all these pieces together? I'm looking for normal, regular nonprofits like mine that are trying, trying again and succeeding.
Thanks in advance for your help!