Friday, November 22, 2013

How to Help Your Board Help You

© 2013 Ben Delaney, CyberEdge Information Services

In a well run organization, the Board of Directors, Executive Director (ED), and staff are all on the same path, pulling in the same direction, working for the same goals, and speaking the same language. Here's some tips on how to achieve that in your organization.

As we've seen, organizations that embrace Systems Marketing™, enjoy coherent communications throughout the organization. Everyone on the Board and staff realizes that their speech and actions impact the perceptions of, performance, effectiveness, and sustainability of the organization. 

The Board and Executive Director have to work in a close partnership to create and sustain a high-functioning organization. This partnership impacts the entire staff, including the folks responsible for marketing and communications.

Strategic Planning

That close partnership starts with the strategic planning process. Strategic planning takes a lot of work, but it is essential to provide direction and to empower everyone in the organization to be working toward the same goals. I'm not going to provide a strategic planning primer here, but will mention a few key items that your strategic plan needs to include.

Obviously, any strategic plan needs to include goals and timelines, personnel assignments, and budget considerations. However it's also important that your strategic plan include communications goals and methods that will support all the other efforts. Your strategic plan should include messaging concepts, so that everyone in the organization is saying the same things about your work, mission, and impact. That's where your Board gets involved with the marketing communications (MarCom) efforts. Some Board members may have experience in marketing or communications and will be able to add useful insights and ideas to the strategic plan. The Board can be valuable thought partners in the MarCom messaging and methods conversation.

When I'm working on strategic planning I like every goal and activity to include a communications and/or marketing component, so that the Board and the staff appreciate the importance of communications in the success of the organization. Regardless of the Board's expertise, you want them to be aware of the importance of communications in the success of the organization, and of the fact that communications is being built in to all the plans. And of course, this bakes MarCom accountability into the strategic plan.

As an example, you might plan to issue a press release every quarter, add Twitter and FaceBook to your marketing mix, and post pictures of all your events on Pinterest. Your plan will include these specifics, as well as goals for impact and frequency of reporting on that impact. In addition, you may assign these duties as part of the plan. With some luck, you may get one or more Board members to agree to regular contributions, perhaps once or twice a year.

Board/Staff Interaction

Some organizations frown on having staff interact directly with the Board, but I think it's a good idea. It's especially good for the marketing people to be in touch with members of the Board who have experience in marketing. It's also important to leverage the Board's connections and contacts for marketing communications purposes, especially when it comes to fundraising, but ultimately, in many activities. It may very well be that certain Board members know people with areas of expertise that are going to help the marketing and communications of the organization. They may also have connections that can directly impact the success of a campaign or program. Having all this communication filtered through the Executive Director can be a waste of her time – but don't ever try to cut your ED out of the conversation. In addition, be aware of the value of your Directors' time. You don't want to overstay your welcome by bothering the Board members very often. And of course some are going to be more open to conversations than others.

When I've interacted with our Board members it's been with very particular questions. I always start by making sure the person I'm calling or e-mailing has time and is interested in the project that I'm asking their assistance with. If it's a phone call, I always start by asking, “do you have a minute?” In email, I am brief and to the point, and always include a subject line that is descriptive of what I'm going to be asking about.
Questions I have asked Board members are typically in these categories:

  • I have an idea for a new product/program. What you think?
  • We'd like to reach someone at this organization. Do you know someone there?
  • I'm planning a campaign and I've written up a description. Would you mind looking at it and commenting?

I found that when I'm respectful of the Board members time and expertise, they're happy to help.

Here are the best ways to make ensure that you and your Board have a good working relationship:

  1. Be brief and to the point.
  2. Be clear in your communications.
  3. Be respectful of the Board members' time.
  4. Be aware of the Board members' areas of expertise.
  5. Don't go to the Board very often.

When you do go to the Board make sure that you have your presentation or question together, that you're well-organized, and that you're actually ready to act on the advice you get.

I find that by following these simple rules, I've been able to establish and maintain great relations with Board members, even though I haven't been directly reporting to them. I found their advice incredibly valuable. I’m sure you will, too.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Making the Most of Your Events

Everybody thinks that an event is a great way to raise a lot of money fast. This isn't always true.
by Ben Delaney, © 2013

According to my former boss, and development guru, many, in fact most, events lose money. He pointed out that the cost of a good event is substantial and that the immediate payback from it is not always high.

He explained that key to really using an event well is to use it both as a reward and cultivation opportunity. In other words, it's a place where you reward the people who have been helping you the most. Bringing your staff is a great team builder and incentive. It also helps fill seats in case your event isn't the sellout you hoped for (more on that later). The other people you reward are your donors, those who have really helped you out. Not by asking them to buy a table or to support the event, but rather by giving them a table or providing recognition from the stage.

Now there are as many types of events as there are organizations. For the purposes of this chapter, I'm thinking about an evening gala. I think you'll find that most of these ideas apply no matter what sort of event you are producing.

Make your event special by doing it well. The investment pays off.
A well done event makes your entire organization look good.

The highest value of your event is cultivation. Cultivation means talking to people that may give to your organization and talking to people who have given to your organization with an eye on getting, or increasing the amount of, their support. Events do this by providing a good meal and an entertaining program that helps them feel good, better understand the organization, and see how well run it is.

It's essential to demonstrate competence, because the impression that people get from your event is going to carry over to the entire organization. Think about your reaction when you have a great waitress at a restaurant. The food tastes better. In a great restaurant, if the service is bad it leaves you less excited about the food. The impression you leave with is dependent on the totality of your experience.

Enveloping your planning for the event itself is all the promotional and impact planning, as well as establishing measurement points for evaluating the event. Your event planning should start with concrete and measurable goals. Those goals might include developing five new major donors, or having X number of City Council members attend. Your goal might include a dollar amount, such as raising $100,000. It's important to have all the goals in mind because this will guide the event planning, and allow you to make informed decisions on the budget and which ideas contribute to the overall impact of the event. After the event, they provide the measuring stick against which you evaluate the event's success.

Event planning as part of Systems Marketing™

Let's think a little bit about events and how they connect to your full marketing effort. In an organization with Systems Marketing thinking, event planning would start early. A year is not too early to start thinking about a large event. Annual events are often on staff work plans as a year-round effort, because there's always something to do to prepare, and there's always follow-up activities. As Systems Marketing organization knows that a big event is going to impact virtually everybody in the organization.

Every event should have a planning committee that is made up of people from the various departments that are affected by the event or contribute to it. These people are conduits for information from the teams with which they work directly, to the committee and back again. Obviously the communications team has to get the word out early and often, and plan follow-up. In fact it's recommended that you follow up an event with a press release that describes how well it went, how much money raised, what dignitaries attended, whatever else is important, and announces the date of next year's event.

The event committee needs to keep in mind all aspects of the event. The planning checklist varies a lot, but will include things like catering, decorations, printing of a program, door prizes, program, securing a venue, and, if you have an auction, arranging for donations for it, as well as the many other items critical to the success of the event. That is just for the event itself. As you can see from that list, which is nowhere near complete, there's an awful lot of aspects to pulling off the big event. At one event I worked on, we produced a nine-minute video that took three months to produce. It's important to do your planning in advance, and understand the time and the budget.

It's also important to evaluate what you can do in-house and what you want to hire expert help for. Catering is an obvious task that is usually best to contract out. AV production, decorating, and printing are other aspects of events that are often handed off to contractors. Be realistic in balancing your resources – some things you can and should do in house, some things should be outsourced.

The event committee needs to work closely with your communications department to make sure that the branding of the event, including its name and logo, are appropriate both to the event and to the larger branding of the organization. It's possible to completely confuse your audience by mixing up your messages. A clear purpose and messaging are essential to garner positive attention and attendance.

Often the development team is the lead team on event planning because it's so critical to their work. As we discussed earlier, donor cultivation is a major goal of many events. This is where the development team shines. Events give the development team a reason to personally reach out to major donors. It also enables fund raising, especially from corporate and foundation supporters, who will buy tables and sponsorships. It's an opportunity to raise money through raffles and auctions, and thereby a chance to reach out to in-kind donors who will provide the items that you offer. The development team will also see your event as an opportunity to invite people who haven't donated to come to see what your organization is all about.

It's very important for the development team to be thinking about goals and accountability related to the event. If your goal is to invite 20 new potential owners, sell 12 tables, and raise $15,000, you need to write those goals down and measure the appropriate data to determine whether or not you've hit your targets. This is easy when you build in specific points to measure at the planning stage.

The event

Let's plan a hypothetical event and take a look at what it takes to make the event work well. Our hypothetical organization is Kitty Rescue League. Kitty Rescue League collects feral cats,  sterilizes them, and re-releases them or finds them adoptive homes. The hopefully annual Fat Cat Bash is being attempted for the first time. The goals are to bring in 20 potential new donors and raise $10,000. There also will be recognition of existing donors.

In order to raise interest and recognize major supporters, Kitty Rescue League is going to make three awards to people or organizations that have really helped save the most kitties in the past year.

Awards help attract people to your event. A quick sidebar on awards

Why do so many organizations give so many awards? It's not a conspiracy by the award industry. Awards are a great way to gain positive attention, recognize your donors and others in the community, and give your organization a topic for a good press release. Awards bring in the recipients and their friends and families. They increase interest, and rightfully bestow recognition on those who work hard for your cause. 

Awards don't have to be extravagant to be appreciated. A nice trophy, an engraved clock, or some similar trifle says thank you over and over. No one gets all the attention they need or deserve; your organization can make its donors feel great by recognizing them at an annual event, where the community can hear about their good deeds and express its appreciation.

The Fat Cat Bash budget

Kitty Rescue League has a mailing list of approximately 3,500 names. They're hoping that they can get 5% of that list, or 175 people, to come to their bash. So now the planning team needs to create a budget that shows how to pay for the cost of the event and show a profit.

Kitty Rescue League's budget  for the Fat Cat Bash looks a bit like this:

Space rental                       $1,500
Catering, 200                       5,000
Audio/visual                         1,500
Programs and favors               875
Program                            15,000
Marketing costs                   5,000
Decoration                           1,000
Total                                $29,875

Tickets, 175 at $75          $13,125
Sponsorships                    20,000
Program ads                       1,000
Total                                $34,125

NET                                 $3,250

As you can see, even if Kitty Rescue League meets their goals, they miss their revenue target. And it means that the planners need to decide if they want to proceed with a smaller return likely. That illustrates the difficulty in event planning.

Looking at this budget, the event committee has several options. They can change their goals, they can change the cost of the event, or they can figure out a way to bring in more revenue.

Key to making this evaluation is determining what's more important: cultivation or immediate revenue. If cultivation is more most important, then it may make sense to run the event expecting a low return, or even take a loss, in order to have the opportunity to meet and interact with the people that you need to talk to. If revenue is a prime goal then it is important to look at both sides of the budget to see what can be reduced or grown. For example the $15,000 cost for the program includes creating a video montage of the award winners. Perhaps money could be saved by instead doing a montage of still pictures which would require no original taping. Or maybe a video production company can be found that would donate part or all of the cost of production. Other expenses should be looked at too, but it's always best to start with your biggest expense, because that's where you're most likely to find some fat to trim.

On the income side of the table, there aren't very many options. Calculating the increase in donations resulting from the dinner will help, but is a very unreliable figure. owever, factoring in the anticipated increase in donations in the next few montKitty Rescue League can charge more for tickets, but that may make it more difficult to get people there. Additional sponsorships may be possible and it may also be possible to raise the cost of advertising in the program to raise more money there. Maybe adding a raffle or auction would increase revenue, but with additional costs that have to be figured in. Perhaps bigger actually works better than smaller. Because your expenses do not go up directly with the number of attendees, it may make sense to increase seats to 200 or 300. However the challenge then becomes getting those additional people to the event, which typically would require increased marketing and communication costs, and often more staff time.

Which brings up the importance of filling seats. Nothing is worse than a partially empty banquet hall. It is far better to oversell a small event, and bring in extra tables, then to undersell the room. You may have the same number of people there, but the packed room looks infinitely better. This where you use staff people to help out. A good rule of thumb, if your staff is large enough, is to have one staff person at each table. Board members can help with this usually pleasant assignment. They can answer questions about your organization and help make your guests feel welcome. But staff and board members and their (adult) families can also help fill seats to ensure that the room is filled to capacity. It is a nice reward to invite your staff, and they will help your event succeed simply by being there.

The Program

What is going to happen at the Fat Cat Bash? You don't want people to simply come in, eat and leave. So a program is in order.

First, don't overdo the program. 30-45 minutes is usually enough. If you run late, people become impatient. If you are boring, it's even worse.

The program needs to be both entertaining and interesting. Again, an award ceremony, if it is appropriately brief, is a great way to create excitement and enthusiasm. A door prize drawing does the same. Perhaps Kitty Rescue League has connections to a musical act, or a staff member who is a good magician. Adding that entertainment to the bill can be very enjoyable. But again, be sure the entertainers, unless they're cute children, are professional enough to entertain, and not embarrass.

A keynote speaker is often considered de rigueur at nonprofit event. This can be good or bad. Some very impressive and effective people are not good presenters. Some speakers enjoy their own voices so much you almost have to drag them off the stage. Either of these situations can really bring down the mood.

If you have a keynote speaker, find someone who knows your organization and can say nice things about it. Have someone go see them present before you book them to ensure that they will provide a good presentation. If at all possible, get someone with name recognition who will help you sell tickets.

Finally, don't forget the ask. No one is going to be offended by having your Executive Director or Development Director make a brief pitch. People are there because they care. So Kitty Rescue League will tell them about the tremendous impact they've had over the past year, some of the challenges facing the organization, and how X more dollars will make a huge difference in the coming year. For added impact, have a donation envelope under each plate.

After the event

After the event, there are two important tasks – follow-up and evaluation.

Follow-up means that your event and development teams get on the phone and call people to thank them for attending. Nothing cements a relationship like a personal touch. One could write an entire book on cultivating donors, but suffice it to say that you need many touches with each donor, and your post-event phone call is an important one. This is when you can ask for support, get feedback on the event, and stay in touch with the people who keep you going. I can't overemphasize the importance of this step in funder cultivation. 
Also thank your in-kind and other donors that helped you stage your event. Again, your personal attention is worth a lot, don't be stingy with it.

Finally, a few days after the event (when people have had a chance to catch up on their sleep) get the event team together for a postmortem. What went well? What would you do differently? What was awful? Be honest and fair. Evaluate the work plan, the promotional efforts, and your vendors. Take notes and refer to them before your next event. Only through an honest appraisal will you be able to improve on your event.

This chapter addressed planning for a dinner event, but planning for any other type of event is not dissimilar. Obviously, a 5K run has different details, but the process is similar.

Events can be a lot of fun, good money-raising opportunities, and ways to acknowledge the people that help you carry out your mission. But they are complex and important, so do the work up front, and then enjoy your event. As my old boss always said, “Have fun kids!”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What to Measure, Why and When

Research, Assessment, and Evaluation
by Ben Delaney, © 2013

How many meetings have you attended in which the term “data-driven” was tossed about, its utter essentiality stressed?

And how many times did you have the feeling that no one had a clue what “data-driven” really means?

As one who has made a living doing market research, I learned to like data. Now I just love data. One of my greatest thrills at work in the last year was finally discovering a seasonal cycle in the sales of our social enterprise store. This information helped us plan a sale at the right time that doubled the store receipts that month. That's an example of data-driven decision making.

I can;t provide you with a course on statistics. Even if I were qualified to do so, we don't have the space for that level of detail. What I do hope to provide is a framework for thinking about data and evaluation that will make your work a bit easier.

Data doesn't just measure results

I think it is very important to use data to shape programs, both in initial planning and through a reiterative, ongoing analysis. Changes are driven by the findings, and often, the answer to one question raises other questions. 

Data-driven programs work this way:
  • Program planning is based on research, with measurement points built in, plus
  • Ongoing, reiterative analysis of the collected data used to refine the program and deepen understanding, then
  • Programs are changed as new knowledge emerges from the data.
That is what a true data-driven organization does.

It takes rigor and discipline to work this way, but the resulting improvements in programs designed like this are worth the effort. That's why all major retailers use a similar model, as pioneered by Wal-Mart.

Planning for data

The very first thing to consider when planning assessment is what you want to know, and why. Having a clear picture of how the information you collect will positively impact your organization makes the process easier and enables good decisions as you design your research or evaluation protocol.

Key in determining what you want to know is evaluating your questions in regard to their impact on your program and the ability to collect meaningful data.

For example, a hypothetical child nutrition program, which we'll call, is planning a new child nutrition program. Their questions include: What is the dietary value of the average child’s meals? Does smoking in the home affect a child's appetite? What foods are both nutritious and appealing to kids? If these are significant issues, what programs will impact them positively?

There are five concerns that must be addressed when creating the assessment plan. Let's address each of the five key aspects of their, or your, assessment plan.

1:   What do we want to know, and why?
Assuming that good nutrition promotes good health and better learning, wants to know the following about the kids it serves:
  • What is the dietary value of the average child's meals? Are they getting enough of what they need? Are any key nutrients missing from their diet?
  • Does smoking in the home affect a child's appetite? If so, is there a correlation with illness or learning/behavioral issues?
  • What foods are both nutritious, inexpensive, and appealing to kids? What can we afford to provide that the kids will like and is good for them?
2:   What information will tell us what we need to know?
  • What do the kids eat for some period of time. A detailed diary may be required.
  • A census of smokers in the children's homes.
  • A list of affordable, nutritious foods, taste tested with the kids.
3:   Has anyone already answered this question?
  • There are probably studies available to provide dietary information that is good enough. It will be hard to have enough diaries completed to gather significant data.
  • probably will have to find the smokers' houses, though a questionnaire or personal contact with the parents.
  • Nutritional information for the foods can afford can probably be easily obtained. Taste testing can take place by evaluating orders for food, or servings eaten, and by asking questions.
4:   How do we collect the data we need?
  • Research in online sources, including government, universities, journals, and general web searches.
  • Online, written, phone, or personal surveys.
  • Measuring and tracking food ordered over time. Frequently interacting with clients to ask what they think of the food, your organization, how you do business, and more.
5:   How will we analyze the data to inform our future actions?
  • Someone on staff knows enough to collect and analyze the data. Offices that use programs like SalesForce and QuickBooks can output reports into Excel for analysis. Many CRM/accounting systems offer advanced and customizable reporting to provide much of the data you need.
  • A local college or business school can provide interns who understand how to manipulate data to find the information you need. It's important to have these interns carefully document their methods and cross train staff to take over when the intern leaves.
  • Reporting experts can be hired on contract to periodically provide the information you need from your data.
Once you have the information you sought, you can modify your programs to be even more effective. finds that there are tons of reports on average child diets in various locations, including a city near them that has very similar demographics. A quick check with a few of their clients indicated that their clients were eating pretty much what the study reports. The results of the study showed that kids ate too much sugar and salt, and not enough fruits and veggies. starts an education campaign while also finding particular foods that provide needed nutrients.

Finding that smoking in the house caused bad effects on the kids, started providing information for parents to explain the importance of a smoke-free environment for their kids. They continue to measure smoking vs. achievement to determine the impact of the smoke-free program, and modify it until it has the desired impact. also changed their food offerings and started requesting different foods from their donors. They discover that small variations in sourcing can make significant improvements in child nutrition.

Added benefits

Not only does have a better understanding of its clients, it also has better impact data, and is able to make some changes based on what was found in the data. They can collect data continuously, and evaluate it at any time to assess their work. They can also provide greater insights and impact, which will please their funders. 

All of this applies equally well to marketing. You can, and should, design all of your marketing campaigns with measuring points built in. You can count clicks, calls, and customers. With opportunities like Google's AdWords, Twitter hashtags, specialized landing pages and other tools, you can evaluate the success of online campaigns. Online marketing can change by the minute as new data arrive. Print ads, direct response, press releases, even the Yellow Pages (yes, still good for some businesses), can be measured and adjusted. Obviously, donations provide their own inherent measurement systems, but even in fund raising you can measure other variables that enable you to better craft your message and delivery to improve giving.

The bottom line is the bottom line. No matter how you measure your success, be it families helped, revenue from a social venture, kilowatts saved, jobs created, or new money raised, you can determine significant measuring points. By taking frequent readings, and acting on the data you collect, you can make any organization work better and have greater impact.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Systems Marketing™ Ties it All Together

Why integrating consistent communications into every activity gives you way more bang for the buck.

System Marketing™ means that your marketing is a system, in the same way that your financial procedures form a system. In either case, the specific task informs and is informed by the total organization.

System Marketing directs that you align your goals, procedures, and communications to all pull in the same directions, with verbal, nonverbal, electronic, print, and attitudes all reinforcing the same message.

Most importantly, System marketing requires a deep understanding of the marketplace and the customer, and the ability to address the customer's expressed, implied and inferred needs and desires. This requires research. That research may be a simple as a comment sheet on your front counters, or as complex as a multivariate, blind, controlled test. The cost varies with the number of words used to describe the research. For example, putting a comment sheet on your front counter requires nothing more than a piece of paper, a pen, and some scotch tape. It will result in some of your customers providing valuable insights into your operation, with minimal expense. The multivariate, blind, controlled test will probably take several people several months, will require a series of letters after the author's names, will result in a colorful bound report with footnotes, and will cost appropriately. In either case, when research is done thoughtfully and with well-defined goals, it is almost always worth the money.

Let me  give you an example of how research helps. A while back, I was asked to provide a campaign to increase interest and visits to a nice retirement home in Mill Valley, California. As we talked, I realized that the staff had only the vaguest of ideas about why people chose to come, or not come, to live there. So we started some research.

First we conducted a written survey of the residents at the Redwoods, asking them what they liked about living there. Along with a few other questions, we also asked where they had lived before. From this we gained a lot of insight. People, as expected, liked the beautiful grounds and that it was easy to get into Mill Valley for shopping. The food was good, as were the maintenance and staff interactions. What surprised us was the most important factor in the move-in decision: Folks at the Redwoods really liked that they could bring their own furniture!

We then sent out a mailing, by postal mail, to a large population. I don't remember the exact numbers, but we mailed to over 10,000 homes in the Bay Area, to a radius of 40 miles from Mill Valley. Why 40 miles? Because that's maximum distance from which Redwoods residents had come. (Some came from further, but more than 80% had previously lived within 40 miles.) 

The mailing included a brochure illustrated with professional photos, taken on the grounds,  of people who actually lived at the Redwoods, sporting the headline, “Come Home to the Redwoods”. We emphasized the hot-button items we knew from the survey: just like home, extra secure and safe, bring your favorite furniture, and close to your friends, family, and familiar landscape.

This was the most successful direct mail effort I've ever done. We received a 24% response rate, and a 10% conversion rate, thereby beating expectations by a mile, and filling the waiting list. I am convinced that the research set the tone that enabled this successful effort. But equally important was the participation and buy-in of the staff, the truthfulness of the messaging, and the ability of the intake staff to model exactly what people expected. That's System Marketing!

Your organization can establish System Marketing as SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). Do the research needed to truly know your customers, the marketplace, and the outside factors that impact that marketplace. Share staff knowledge about current customer-facing processes and communications. Listen to complaints, and don't dismiss them as trivial. Be sure everybody is involved and heard. Review your mission, vision, objectives and impacts to be sure they are current and actually reflect what you do and want to do, and how it happens. 

Then you can unify communications and attitudes. Why attitudes? Because a large part of your customer and prospect communications is old fashioned conversation, as well as emails and other official, personal interaction. It is essential that everyone understand and buy in to the official message, and be able to reflect it in every action and utterance. Answering the phone, responding to an email, completing a proposal, talking at the bar at a conference: the language, style, conditions and outcomes should all reinforce your messaging. When you add that to consistent public messaging, including your website, logos, business cards, brochures, and advertising, then, my friend, you have a marketing system and System Marketing.

Frankly, I don't consider this rocket science. I have been thinking about it for a long time, and have seen the theory proven. Much of this is common sense, and just plain good business, be it for- or nonprofit. This book breaks down various marketing tasks and offers suggestions on how and when to use them. Regardless of the marketing mix you chose, when you keep system Marketing in mind, all your marketing will be more effective.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

About Social Media

© 2013 Ben Delaney.
For several years now, people have been talking about the importance of social media. But it seems that a few people, and even fewer organizations, really know how to use this medium.
Now this is not revolutionary stuff. You may have read bits of it in many other places. But so many people don't seem to get it, or only understand part of the social media paradigm. So, at the risk of repeating things you may have heard before, let me go over this territory.
FaceBook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Flicker, Instagram, Google+ – it seems the list is endless. And we all hear about the great successes that some people have had with social media. But the reality is, going viral on Twitter is as  likely as winning the lottery. Sure, Justin Beiber has 44,786,131 fans. But the likelihood of your organization getting even close to that number is slim.
One thing to remember is that social media primarily reaches the people you already know. That makes the problem one of getting people that you know to sign up for your social media. It's a chicken and egg situation:  if you don't already know someone, how do you  tell them about your social media?
It may surprise you that many people are introduced to social media through conventional media. Most commonly, this is through the very oldest form of human communication – talking. Yes, people talk to each other, and tell their friends and acquaintances about their Twitter accounts, urge them to like them on Facebook, talk about shared photos on Pinterest. This works. If you use social medial, it's likely that you got started due to a recommendation from a friend or colleague.
Obviously, this is a slow way to build up a following. I doubt that Justin knows 44 million people. So how did he do it? He did it with various techniques that you can follow and emulate.
Here are my 12 tips for social media success.
  1. Follow: Follow people and organizations that you find interesting. They'll see you following them, and some will follow you in return.
  2. Lead: Post original ideas and thoughts. Express yourself and take a stand. People want to know what you think, and they will follow you if you have interesting things to say.
  3. Make news: Give people scoops on stuff. Talk about the first, the best, the most interesting. Don't wait for others – if it's important to you, it's important.
  4. Report news: Tell about things that no one else is talking about. Talk about the great things you and your organization are doing. Report on local events the mainstream news doesn't cover. It's the internet age, we are all content creators.
  5. Entertain: A little humor makes your posts more interesting and fun. Surprise people and make them laugh and they'll come back for more.
  6. Inform: Talk about what you know well. People are hungry for good sources of reliable information. If you are expert in something, tell people how it works.
  7. Connect: Be sure that all of your online presences are connected. Put social media button on your website, your email, your signs and print ads. Use QR codes to send mobile users to your sites. Every medium has its place, and that place is connected to every other medium you use.
  8. Share: Tell everybody about everything good. Talk about the great things your partners are doing. Share the restaurants, vendors, and people you love to work with. Share your grandma’s recipes. Share tips for fixing things, getting the best stuff, and making great deals. The more you share, the more people will want to know you.
  9. Be there: Don't be a stranger. Noting is older than a month-old tweet. Be sure you can maintain your social media with new content at least weekly. Better not to start if you can't keep going. People will lose interest fast if your content is stale.
  10. Promote: Tell the world. Your social media is worth the time. It's exciting! It's fun. It's timely and interesting! In fact, you can't live without it! Use every media opportunity to promote your social media. Talk about it, put it in brochures, mention it in print ads and be certain to cross promote all of your social media. You don't know where your next follower is lurking – be sure she gets the message.
  11. Dialogue: Social media is a two-way street. Answer comments and thank people for retweeting or favoriting your postings. Share info on Facebook and LinkedIn to increase the number of people who know of you. Don't just sit there – engage!
  12. # & @: On Twitter and Facebook, you can use a hash tag (# symbol) to indicate a cross reference. Anything with a # in front of it, like #Socialmedia, becomes a searchable item. Your tweets and postings will be seen more if you include 2-3 hashtags in them. The @ sign indicates another user on Twitter. For example, I am @BenDelaneyNow. If you include these handles in your tweets, people are informed, and are more likely to check you out. By the way, don't overdo it. A recent study of Twitter found that the optimum number of hash tags is two  or three. Fewer or more than that tend to be ignored.
Be sure you remember traditional media, but be equally certain that social media are in your promotional mix. Remember, optimizing media to reach your audience with the message you want them to get is both a science and an art. As such, pay attention to the research, and use all the tools at your disposal.