Social media continues to prove to be an essential part of a nonprofit’s marketing strategy. A key benefit of social media is that it offers new forms of communication and the ability to engage with your organization’s stakeholders. Another benefit that can go unnoticed, but is a crucial and valuable resource is social media capital. Social media capital is a particular form of social capital that is accrued through an organization’s social media network. Nonprofits can look at social media capital as being an immediate outcome derived from their social media efforts, and as a resource that can be converted or used toward strategic organizational outcomes.
Social media capital is built around interests or causes rather than institutions, and this is where nonprofits have the upper hand over other types of organizations. Nonprofits have the opportunity to integrate their missions into their social media presence and strategy to take advantage of the capital that comes with advocacy and awareness efforts. Plus, any public events that relate to a nonprofit’s mission will likely be seen in the media and nonprofits can take advantage of this opportunity for exposure—building their online presence.
To dive deeper into social media capital, highlight its characteristics, and how nonprofits should be intentional when building out their strategy, here are five steps your nonprofit can take to get a better grasp on the benefits of social media capital:
1) Utilize resources and target audience strategy: In order to get your social media up and running you need resources—time, money, and staff. Unfortunately, these commitments are likely to be overlooked by nonprofit managers and passed off to another staff member to handle. Next, is your strategy—what is your organization’s communications role and what audience are you looking to target? The organization needs to develop a plan that shows a clear lay out of desired outcomes, defines the target audience, and communication efforts.
2) Strengthen connections and messaging on social media: To acquire social media capital, you need to utilize two essential tools; making connections and responding to messages in a timely manner. Connections are viewed as relationship building—these connections can be made through organization’s friending and/or following other users. This action shows your nonprofit’s interest in engaging with other users, in turn, creating an online community. Messaging is designed to provide content to your target audience and can be curated to meet the needs of the community you’re looking to reach and engage. And, can be done through any social channel (e.g., YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
3) Gain social media capital: This is the step where your organization should expect to see social media capital—these are the social resources in an organization’s social media network that can be used to achieve organizational outcomes. In order to attain any meaningful organizational outcome through social media activities, your organization must first obtain social media capital.
4) Turn your social media capital into organization resources: This is the step when you turn your followers into customers—converting social media capital into an organizational resource. For example, your organization asks followers to donate to a cause and it results into a success, this is social media capital converting into an organizational/social resource, i.e., financial capital.
5) Incorporate social media capital into your strategy: Nonprofits should look at social media capital the same way they look at financial capital. Financial capital is considered a convertible resource and needs both short-term and long-term planning. Similarly, social media capital is fluid and requires a thoughtful strategy to maximize its support of both short-term and long-term goals.
Social media capital is generated differently and more simply than capital accumulated offline. Social media capital is assembled on messages, connections, and having a trusted role in social networks where you want to start conversations. This can help convert capital into other resources or produce key organizational outcomes.