When it comes to non-profit and for-profit organizations many comparisons about the values of each are made, none more common than the “warm fuzzies” from a non-profit versus the “SHOW ME THE MONEY” mentality of for-profits.
What often gets ignored in drawing comparisons are the similarities these two very different business models share. One of the biggest similarities that are overlooked is that both models are utilizing the same tools—especially in the social media realm. Although both models utilize the same tools, they also use them in completely different ways. The use of social media by corporate organizations aiming to make a profit are fairly widely understood, but the motivation that drives non-profits to employ social media is a little less obvious.
One of the biggest factors affecting non-profit organizations’ use of a tool is the overall industry culture. In an interview conducted by Stanford Social Innovation Review, CEO of AARP Willian Novelli said:
“Too many business CEOs just don’t get it, says Novelli. “It goes beyond underappreciated. CEOs are often disdainful of not-for-profit management. They think it’s undisciplined, non-quantified.” But in fact, “it’s harder to succeed in the nonprofit world.” For starters, nonprofits’ goals are both more complex and more intangible. “It may be hard to compete in the field of consumer packaged goods or electronics or high finance,” he says, “but it’s harder to achieve goals in the nonprofit world because these goals tend to be behavioral. If you set out to do something about breast cancer in this country, or about Social Security solvency, it’s a hell of a lot harder to pull that off.” And “it’s also harder to measure,” he adds.”
With the larger scale and a more intangible goal, the image and perception of a successful business model changes and new questions arise:
- How does this shift in business motives change the social media strategy?
- If the goal is not about money, but instead about ideology, how do you make your appeal to your audience?
These questions create a vital opportunity for some highly valuable fresh thinking. This shift in perception of what success is, which is no longer necessarily about more money in the organization’s pocket, redirects the focus from a marketing strategy emphasizing the individual and their personal needs to an emphasis on empathizing with others. This concept of diverted attention is advantageous in activating social media strategies.
For an online marketing campaign to be successful, regardless of what success has been determined as, the foundations of a relationship need to be present. If the building blocks of connection and engagement are present, the credibility and trust in your brand or mission become more valuable. This very human and personal approach allows for organic growth and awareness within each individual, transforming them into advocates of the organization’s brand and mission. What’s the Endgame of Social?, summarizes importance of advocates quite simply:
“After all, people buy from people, not companies.”
When there is an already existing base of supporters that have already bought-in, whether it is a marketable product or an idea, others are more likely to buy-in.
Ultimately, non-profits’ strength lies in the humanizing of their goals as well as their altruistic ideals and qualities. If not for the relatability and humane aspect of their objective, the organization would not be able to progress further. What can get lost in translation is the truth that social media is targeting people who want to feel human, rather than self-absorbed consumer. If at the end of the day it’s people that social media is targeting, why should the people be regarded as mere numbers?
With so many ways to analyze data and determine success, the foundational understanding that people experience a human experience can get buried. What can your organization do to uncover this personable potential? How can you humanize your social media strategies today?
Written by: Kathryn Lee