In the business world, many companies engage in Competitive Intelligence (CI), which means they use numerous tools to find out everything they can about competitors. A growing trend in CI research is following social media outlets. The same thing should be happening when your nonprofit identifies a company to discuss a potential partnership.
A nonprofit isn't the only one who needs to be careful with whom they partner. Reputation is everything. Just because your NPO runs great programs doesn't mean you can generate the awareness and favorability businesses covet. Not all cause partnerships are equal. A lot of companies pursue cause partnerships in October because of the proven bump in favorability National Breast Cancer Awareness month gives brands.
On the flip side, nonprofits shouldn't rush to partner with just any business. The partnership has to be mutually beneficial, and not all business have the resources to drive customer support for your nonprofit.
My advice is for both partners is to do a social media background check before forming a partnership. Each should check out the other's presence on social media outlets and determine:
- How well they engage with their customers/supporters (e.g. Twitter, Facebook)
- Can each partner drive the other's agenda, providing ROI for both sides (e.g. blog)
- How large is their following online. There's a big difference between having a large Facebook following and a large, engaged following fan base.
- Are staff and C-suite executives active on LinkedIn - a very important social media outlet for cause marketing
- LinkedIn can also reveal whether each side has the marketing team and prowess to generate positive PR in the community.
It's not always about finding the biggest corporation with the deepest pockets. Nor is it just about finding a local nonprofit that does good work in the community. This is a partnership, and both sides should know what the other has to offer before partnering.
The good news is that this information is easily accessible with a little research on social media. But you'll never find it if you don't look for it.