Entries for July 2010

Social Media's ROI for Non-Profits

It's one of the biggest social media topics discussed on the internet today: Return on Investment. "How do you measure ROI for social media campaigns?" is the question that gets asked over and over again. However, that's really not the right question to be asking initially, especially for non-profits. A better question to ask first is, "Should we be trying to measure and quantify our ROI for social media?"

One of the most important things to take away about measuring ROI for social media is that there is no universally accepted metric or system for measuring ROI. In fact, it’s a mistake to think of social media as a plug-and-chug, “if you build it, they will donate” kind of solution.

The most important part of exploring social media’s ROI is your goals. However you choose to measure ROI for your organization’s social media campaigns, it is absolutely essential that it matches what your goals for the campaign are. If your goal is to increase awareness of your organization, you should measure your “ROI” in terms of something like percentage increase in monthly unique visitors to your website. The biggest mistake you can make is to only think of ROI in terms of literal dollar amounts – this concept simply doesn’t apply to social media. So instead of traditional ROI metrics, try measuring your social media success based on things like number of followers/friends, quality of conversations, click-through rates on your links (see the next section for information on some tools you can use to measure this), or number of interactions.

While it may seem like there’s a ton of articles published about using social media for fundraising and advertising, we would caution you and your organization against focusing too heavily on social media’s uses for fundraising purposes. Social media’s true value lies in the increased awareness and recognition it can provide, as well as giving your organization a more personalized image.

ROI is a tricky subject, not least of all because it's often what boards of directors and committees want to hear about as a "bottom line." However, its important to keep it in perspective when talking about social media - evaluate your organizational goals first, and decide if it's even right for your organization to be attempting to measure specific ROI for your social media campaigns.


How does your organization measure the success of its social media campaigns? Tell us about it in the comments!

Best of the Rest, Part 3: Myspace and Ning

Today's "Best of the Rest" installment is a little different. It's the final post in our series (read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here if you missed them!), and today's two featured social networking sites are actually, in our opinion, usually best avoided. However, we recieve lots of questions about them, so here's our take on Myspace and Ning:

Best of the Rest, Part 3


5. Myspace

Myspace is one of the larger social networking sites on the web. However, we would caution nonprofits against trying to use Myspace for increasing awareness or for fundraising activities. In our experience, the only organizations that Myspace would be a good choice for are those with a very young (early teen) target demographic. In nearly all other cases, we’ve found Myspace to be less than useful for nonprofits.


6. Ning

Another service we get a lot of questions about is Ning. Ning is an online platform which allows users to create their own social networks based around specific interests. Users can choose and customize the features and visual design they want.

While Ning may sound like a great idea, however, in recent years the company has been at the center of a lot of controversy. One of the most disturbing developments was when Ning notified its network creators that Ning would be emailing their entire membership bases with marketing emails – however, most members were not even aware that the network they were part of was a part of the larger Ning network. Even worse is that Ning network creators often pay a fee to keep Ning promotional ads off of their sites – so the idea that Ning would bypass that completely by sending marketing emails straight to network members is unsettling.

Furthermore, social networks already exist for just about everything under the sun. Why try to do something better than the market leader? Facebook has already done all the work of creating a huge network with a lot of features, so why not just use theirs?


So now you've gotten our take on the major social media sites - what's yours? What do you think of the "Best of the Rest" websites we've discussed? Are there any we missed that you'd like us to talk about? Let us know in the comments!

Best Of The Rest, Part 2: Flickr and Email

July 15, 2010 by MemberPath posted in: Education & Best Practices

Today, we're continuing our "Best of the Rest" mini-series on some social media and web presence options that aren't as frequently discussed as Facebook and Twitter. If you missed Part 1 last week, check it out here!

Best of the Rest, Part 2

3. Flickr
 Flickr is a photo-hosting website with a very strong community focus. On Flickr, users can upload and share photos with friends, family, and the Flickr community as a whole. Philanthropic nonprofits can use Flickr to share high-impact photos with donors and other interested parties. Memberships, on the other hand, can use Flickr to post photos from events and member-provided images.

While Flickr accounts are individual accounts, Flickr’s group feature allows groups of users to share related photos and post on a discussion board. For nonprofits, we recommend having an official individual account controlled by a designated person within the organization, but to also have a dedicated group. Groups can be either public or private, and public groups can be either invitation-only or open membership.

4. Email

Although many advances have been made in other areas of social media, email is still king. Everyone who uses the internet uses it. In order to maintain a strong online presence, nonprofits should also make sure they investigate the use of email for raising awareness and helping drive fundraising campaigns. Email marketing is one of the easiest and best ways to reach members and donors. It is quick, measurable, and cost effective.

One of the best tools for setting up email campaigns is a free web-based tool called MailChimp. MailChimp is simple, user-friendly, and highly customizable and effective.

Try setting up a fake MailChimp email campaign to send to yourself. Go to and test out their customizable campaign creators.


How do you think nonprofits can use photosharing websites like Flickr? How does your organization use email marketing to promote your cause? Tell us about it in the comments!

Best Of The Rest, Part 1: LinkedIn and YouTube

Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace are the giants of the social media world. But what else is out there? Today, we’ll be starting a short series of blog posts discussing the “Best of the Rest” – which other social media outlets are also worth nonprofits' attention, and why?

Best of the Rest, Part 1

1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social networking site for business and professional networking. Site users can build a network of business contacts that they either know personally or know through a friend. One of LinkedIn’s unique attributes is its focus on a reputation-based system – users vouch for their “connections” (contacts), and the implication is that one’s connections are people that you know and trust in business.

LinkedIn also has a feature called “LinkedIn Groups.” LinkedIn Groups are similar to Facebook groups, but with a business focus. Groups can be formed in any subject matter – for example, alumni groups or industry groups. With Groups, LinkedIn users can find new contacts in relevant areas of interest.

LinkedIn can be especially useful for nonprofits because of its professional focus. It also has a recently-released applications platform that will allow you to integrate your blog content, slideshows, upload files such as resumes or whitepapers, and even display your business travel plans.

Getting started on LinkedIn is easy. At, just enter your information into the signup form. After you’ve entered your basic information, you’re also able to upload a resume, import contacts from your email address book, join Groups, and update your profile.


2. YouTube
YouTube is a site for posting, sharing, and commenting on videos. YouTube users can upload videos from their computers, create playlists of other users’ videos, and watch and comment on videos. Recently, YouTube has launched special channels specifically for nonprofits. The Non-Profit Channel Program features increased uploading capacity, as well as built-in donation integration.

YouTube in particular can be useful for nonprofits because of its widespread reach and accessibility of medium. Videos can add a personal, yet professional touch to a fundraising campaign. They're also more eye-catching and attention-grabbing than other, more traditional forms of online media.

Signing up for YouTube is, unsurprisingly, just as simple as signing up for LinkedIn. Just go to and click the "Create Account" link in the top right-hand corner. Enter your information, and the on-screen instructions will guide you through the rest of the process of uploading videos.

Do you use LinkedIn? What about YouTube? What, in your opinion, are some of the characteristics of good videos? Should nonprofits be exploring alternative media on the web, such as video? Tell us about it in the comments!


July 01, 2010 by MemberPath posted in: Social Media

Today, we'll be taking a little bit more focused look at some specific linguistic quirks that are unique to Twitter, the microblogging network. We've talked about Twitter before - you can read about it here.

One of the most intimidating things for new Twitter users is the new vocabulary they have to learn. Twitter’s 140-character limit has led to a whole slew of abbreviations and specialized Twitter-lingo that can be difficult to pick up at first. To help with that, here’s a quick glossary of some frequently-used Twitter terms:

Basic Tweetcabulary

Tweet: n. the name for the 140-character maximum posting that a user makes to their Twitter account. In its most basic form answers the question “What are you doing?”, but can also be statements, links, anecdotes, questions, etc.; or v. To tweet: The act of writing a tweet and posting it to Twitter
Follow: vt. To “follow” someone on Twitter means to enable their updates (see: “tweets”) to show up in your timeline
Timeline: n. The chronological listing of tweets of those whom you follow that comprises the majority of the Twitter homepage when signed in.
RT: vt. To “ReTweet” is to copy and paste someone else’s tweet verbatim (or as close to verbatim) as possible. Follows the format “RT @username text of original tweet,” or “text of original tweet (via @username)”
DM: vt. To “Direct Message” is to send someone a private message that only they can see. Direct Messages do not show up in the public timeline.
@-reply: n. a way of directing public tweets to specific users, or of mentioning users by name in a way that links others to their Twitter accounts. Ex. “@username did you see that article in the NYT yet about Twitter?”, or “Grabbing a quick bite to eat with @username!”

Advanced Tweetcabulary

Hashtag: n. a way of organizing groups of tweets about particular topics. Commonly used for disaster relief, memes, and location reference. Ex. “#sandiegofire 300,000 people evacuated in San Diego County now”, or “Where’s a good place for sushi in #rva?”, “#welshfilms Breakfast at Mythanwys”
Tweeps: n. pl. A portmanteau of “Twitter” and “Peeps (people)”, “tweeps” is what many Twitter users call their followers
Twitpic: n. a third-party service that allows users to post photos from cell phones or email to Twitter
Trending Topics: n. pl. Topics that are being mentioned frequently by many users. Trending Topics are searchable and tracked by Twitter.
Tweetup: n. When Twitter users meet in real life.



Hopefully this glossary can help clear up some of the confusion you can have when you first start using Twitter.

Do you use any other Twitter terms? Give us a definition in the comments and we'll add it to our glossary!



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