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Social Media: How to do an audit -- and why

Sunday, February 10, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Joy Ingram
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by Lindsey Ruivivar, Associate Director, National Advocacy, National Association of Community Health Centers

I recently read an article titled: “Almost all in Congress use Twitter; if only bills could be as short as tweets.”  As an advocacy professional, my favorite line from the article was: …with nearly all of Congress tweeting, why can't bill-writing be done with such brevity? The Affordable Care Act would have looked a lot different if it had said: "Everybody. Gets. Covered. The End."

If you aren’t familiar with Twitter, the micro-blogging platform limits users to posts (known as “tweets”) no longer than 140 characters.  It can be quite a challenge to say something meaningful in so few words, and we all know elected officials are not short on words to say.  So you may be wondering, why are Members of Congress using Twitter?

As the title of the article suggests, it isn’t just some Members of Congress who are tweeting.  100 U.S. Senators tweet (that’s a full 100%!), compared with just 44% back in 2011, and as of last Fall there were only 53 (out of 435) U.S. Representatives whoweren’t on board.

So the answer to why so many Members of Congress have taken to Twitter, along with other social media sites including Facebook, YouTube and Instagram: it is where their constituents are.  Constituent relations is a main function for Congressional offices, and Members want to be accessible (or at least be seen as accessible) so they need to be available through all of the current communication platforms.  Bottom line, it isn’t good enough to just have a website and send out an e-newsletter anymore.

It isn’t uncommon to see elected officials and large companies with a social media presence across multiple platforms.  With so many social media sites out there today, non-profit organizations are forced to pick and choose where they will spend their resources (ie, staff time, as most social media sites are free to use).  Meaningful conversations are just waiting to take place, but how do you know where your organization’s audience is spending time online?

Time for a social media audit.  First, let me share with you why doing a social media audit is a valuable use of your organization’s time.  Whether your health center is trying to raise donations, recruit new staff, or outreach to new and/or existing patients, you are engaging in some form of communication.  Perhaps you send out a flyer in the mail once a quarter, utilize billboards, or run local commercials.  You wouldn’t be taking the time or funds to do any of these communications unless you thought they were reaching your audience.  Well, what if one or more of those audiences are spending hours on Facebook every day and you could connect with them there for free?  Last year adult U.S. Smartphone users were each averaging 441 minutes per month on Facebook’s mobile site alone. With a social media audit, you can not only discover how many of each of your stakeholders are spending time on social media and want you to connect with them there, but you will also discover which social media platforms are worth your organization’s time. 

Here are some basic steps for conducting a social media audit for your organization:

1.Create a list of all of your audiences and stakeholders.  For health centers this could include: current/future patients, current/future staff, current/future donors, elected officials (local, state and federal), partner organizations (think local food banks, Chamber of Commerce, etc), local businesses (such as banks, grocery stores, etc.), local media (TV, newspaper, popular local blogs).  The more you think about it, the more your list will grow!

TIP: I recommend listing all of your stakeholders in an Excel spreadsheet so you can create a nice grid for the next step.

2. For all of the elected officials, organizations, business and media outlets, visit their websites and see which social media sites are listed that they use.  Nine times out of ten if a business is using social media, they will list the sites they use on their website homepage.  For each new social media site, create a column and paste in the social media url for each stakeholder. 

An example of how your spreadsheet may look:

Facebook

Twitter

YouTube

LinkedIn

Food Bank

Facebook.com/foodbank

/foodbank

State Rep

@RepSmith>

/RepSmith

/RepSmith

A quick glance at your completed spreadsheet will give you a good idea of the top 2-3 social media sites your organization may want to invest time in to connect with these stakeholders.  We’ll come back to using this spreadsheet at the end.

3.For staff, patients and donors, create a simple survey asking them which social media sites they use, and how they prefer to be communicatedFor staff and donors, it may be easy to conduct the survey online using a free service such as Survey Monkey.  For patients, use a simple one-page paper survey that can completed in the waiting room.  If your health center utilizes focus groups, social media and communications may be great topics to include.

[LuAnne Kay, formerly with Community Health Center of Snohomish County and a 2012 Social Media for Health Centers course participant, created a great patient communications survey which helped her discover which sites her health center would begin utilizing.  2013 course participants will spend time looking at the survey, and it may also be accessed through the Health Centers Using Social Media Facebook Group.]

4.Armed with your spreadsheet and survey data, your organization will have a clearer picture of 1) Just how many of your stakeholders are interested in social media and are already using it, and 2) Which social media sites the majority of your stakeholders are already investedUse this data to decide which platforms your organization will invest in.

Completing a social media audit is, of course, just the beginning of the process to getting on board with social media.  Once you are up and running on a few sites, go back to the spreadsheet you created and make sure you start following and engaging with your stakeholders online.

Have questions about utilizing social media for non-profits? Feel free to send me a tweet at @LindseyRuivivar

NWRPCA welcomes and regularly publishes white papers and articles submitted by members, partners and associates with subject matter expertise. The appearance of any guest publication in our Health Center News database represents the views of the author and does not constitute endorsement by NWRPCA of the stated opinions or perspectives, nor does it suggest endorsement of the contributor's products or services.



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