Inbound Social Marketing and Nonprofits

socialmedforsocialgoodI recently read Heather Mansfield’s book, Social Media for Social Good: A How-To Guide for Nonprofits. As I finished the book several thoughts came to my mind:

  1. Why have few nonprofits made major investments in inbound social marketing?
  2. How come nonprofits do not seem to understand the ROI or value of integrating social media across the organization?
  3. When will more nonprofits have a dedicated person for inbound social marketing?
  4. Why do many nonprofits think of inbound social marketing as an optional or add-on part of their overall marketing, PR, and donor development strategies?

As I thought through these questions, several possibilities came to mind based on my experience with nonprofits across the country:

  1. The entry cost for social media management and inbound marketing tools seems too expensive for many donation-based nonprofits.
  2. Determining the ROI for inbound social marketing campaigns means having a solid handle on existing data trends and intensely tracking and comparing the impact of social marketing campaigns across all channels.
    1. Integrating social across the organization is rarely heard of and usually relegated to the marketing department – never being considered for customer service, donor development, public relations, support, R&D, nor sales.
  3. Dedicated resources cost, yet if you want to do inbound marketing right it is worth the investment to get the right person or team in the door to monitor and manage it daily.
  4. Inbound social marketing is here to stay and works best when it is integrated across all departments: operations, HR, marketing, PR, IT, broadcasting, customer service, and development.

Certainly, some will push back on these ideas it is built on my experience interacting with nonprofits. It is unfortunate, but I can count on one hand the nonprofits that have a dedicated resource for inbound social marketing.

This is where Heather’s book comes in. Every nonprofit C-Level should read this book. While a few may see this resource as a primer, everyone will get nuggets of wisdom to apply to their organization. An excellent companion book for ROI and social analysis would be Social Media ROI by Olivier Blanchard.

Start With Benchmarks

Below is a list of benchmarks that Heather has seen through her years of experience with nonprofits. While these are not strictly to be adhered to they are excellent goals to shoot for.

  • 5000 fans/followers as a first tier goal
  • 10,000 fans/followers as a second tier goal
  • $2,500 – $10,000 annual budget for:
  • eNewsletters
  • List building
  • Donation landing pages
  • 20% email opens as a first tier goal
  • 25% – 35% email opens as a second tier goal
  • eNewsletter of 500 words with 1-2 updates per month
  • $12.48 is the average value of an email subscriber
  • Online giving should equal 25% of all organizational giving
  • 40-50 hours a week for social media management

Best Practices

I have also included a list of best practices that Heather recommends. Look at your organization and weigh these in light of your current situation.


  • 6-10 posts per week (1-2 day)
  • Goal is for 1 comment and 3 thumbs up per each status update per 1000 fans
  • Ads equal $1.07 spent to acquire a fan


  • “Old school” retweet 80% of the time
  • Auto-RT (retweet) 20%
  • 25% of all tweets should be replies and retweets
  • 4-6 tweets a day (20-30 tweets a week) 8am-8pm


  • 1 video per quarter (3-4 per year)
  • Create a “Favorites” channel
  • Customize and brand your YouTube page


  • 1-2 updates per week
  • 2 hours a month participating in online groups
  • Comment or participate 1-2 times per month to get your name out
  • Goal of group size should be 5000
  • Rotate “Manager’s Choice” discussions 2 times a month
  • Send group announcements 1 time a month featuring 3 articles
  • Launch a sub-group after the main group has reached 5000 members


  • Post 1-2 articles per week
  • Post summaries from events 1-2 days afterward
  • Choose only 1 category per post


  • Create a FourSquare Business Page
  • Add a reward for checking in or stopping by


  • Link to mobile channels from mobile site
  • Text message open rate should be 90%
  • Send no more than 2-3 text messages per month
  • Expect to budget $10,000 to build a custom smartphone app
  • Promote apps for 2-3 months per year

Heather’s book if full of good information and how-to advice. You will especially like the checklists for getting started and tactical planning.

If you’re part of a nonprofit, purchase a copy of Social Media for Social Good and begin implementing the information immediately. If you have already been involved in social media marketing then compare your benchmarks for success to those above. You do not need to start with a big budget but in today’s world you have to be involved with inbound social marketing. It is not too late to catch up and you surely don’t want to get left behind.

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23 thoughts on “Inbound Social Marketing and Nonprofits

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