Social Media Marketing Budgets Rising At Businesses, What About Non Profits?

Last week Mashable ran a blog post about the increasing budgets for social media marketing at big businesses. It was based on a report by the Aberdeen Groups covered in more detail on The report had two important findings:

  1. 63% of best in class businesses surveyed said they would be increasing their social media marketing budgets, 21% said by 25% or more.
  2. 59% of the companies said it was somewhat or very difficult to measure social media.

My gut reaction on point number 1, 25% of nothin’ is nothin’. However, the report shows that $2 billion was spent in ’08 and projects an increase of 17% to $2.35 billion this year. But the second interesting thing about these numbers is that more than half of the companies said it was hard to measure social media, AND more than half said they were going to increase their budgets for it.

Companies take risks like this. In business it is important to among the first to market, and I believe that the social media space is no different. How many tweeting airlines, grocery stores, or online shopping sites will people follow (for me the answer is 1, 2, 1)? And how much will the traditional media care about the company that is 1275th to be on Twitter? Specific companies using Twitter will cease to be a story as it becomes more commonplace.

I’ve seen some interesting posts (and this one) essentially about the attention economy, and attention scarcity. In a world with a finite amount of attention, as the social media ecology grows more crowded, it may become harder to garner the desired amount of attention. Indeed Jason Calacanis offered $250,000 to be on Twitter’s recommended list for two years! And he already has 64k people following him on Twitter!

Non Profits and Social Media

This brings me to the question in my title, are non profits thinking about and, more importantly, increasing their budgets for social media marketing? Certainly there are more non profits starting up Twitter accounts, and setting up facebook pages, that is undeniable, but are they budgeting for them? Or are these forays into social media doomed to be abandoned as overall budgets tighten during the financial crisis? I’ve worked in non profits, and sooner or later someone at the top wants to know what the ROI is of a particular activity. If, as I point out above, best in class businesses think it is somewhat or very difficult to measure social media, how will non profits measure it?

I’m very excited to talk with other non profit professionals and consultants at the upcoming NTEN Non Profit Technology Conference about this very issue.

I barely read email from many organizations who’s lists I’m on, yet I do read Tweets from the ones who are Tweeting. I’ve responded to Twitter based donation requests at a rate that far outstrips my response to emails in the last few months.

I believe, just as do the business leaders surveyed by Aberdene that regardless of the difficulty of measuring it, companies can’t afford not to be marketing through social media, and the same goes for non profit organizations. And unlike many other forms of marketing, budgeting for social media should be well within the grasp of most non profits. Take time to learn, experiment and execute. Give the initiative time to pay off. In upcoming posts I will look at particular strategies, and also ways of measuring effectiveness, specifically for non profits.