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Social Media is one of the fastest-growing trends on the web today, and many organizations are convinced that they need to jump on the technology quickly or risk being left behind. While in many cases this is true, sometimes social media simply isn’t the right avenue for an organization to pursue. But how can you tell whether your organization should utilize social media or not?

1. Evaluate your goals
What do you want to accomplish with social media? Do you want to attract new members/donors? Get people involved or fired up about your cause/org? Connect on a more interpersonal level with current members/donors? Identifying your goals is a crucial first step to deciding whether or not social media is actually right for your organization.

Even if your goal is to solicit more donations or gain more memberships, that’s fine too – however, you must be aware that you may not see direct results from social media. Rather, social media is much better used to increase awareness and visibility – which, in turn, can lead to higher donations and membership rates.

2. Look to your audience
Perhaps the most important indicator of whether social media is right for your organization is your audience. Is your audience younger or older? Tech-savvy or less technologically inclined? Does your audience already use Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or some other social network?

Compare your target market to the main demographics of the most popular social media outlets. For example, if your main demographic is 35-54, social media may be a viable option for your organization; Facebook cites the 35+ demographic to be its fastest-growing segment, and about two-thirds of their users are outside of college (Source: Facebook). However, if your main demographic is in the 55+ range, social media is obviously not the best place to be focusing time and resources.

3. Acknowledge & Accept the Time Commitment

Speaking of time, though, brings us to the final factor in the social media decision-making process. To successfully utilize social media to its fullest requires a time commitment. Not a huge one, but a definite time commitment nonetheless. If your organization is unwilling or unable to put in the time and resources necessary to make social media work for you, then it’s not really worth even dipping a toe into it. Neglected social media accounts can make organizations appear unresponsive and uncommunicative – so it’s better to not have one at all. But, on the flip side, social media is becoming such an integral part of the web experience that you can't afford NOT to do it!

Does your organization use social media? Tell us about it in the comments!

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