Everywhere you look these days, there are courses on, readings about and how-to’s for nonprofits on social media. While virtually every individual you know is on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, SlideShare, and/or on and on, does every nonprofit need to be there?

Should nonprofits be in the social media game?

According to a September 16, 2011, post on the go-to social media website Social Media Today, 65% of all U.S. adults using the Internet are now using social networking sites. That is up from:

  • 61% last year
  • And  just 5% in 2005!

But, the source is Social Media Today. So, some might be inclined to probe a bit deeper.

And I did. What I found is that those statistics were actually generated by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The study also included the surprising statistic that 50% of the entire U.S. adult population uses social media – even if they don’t use other online platforms. So, nonprofits do need to focus on social media, because our constituents are there!

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Last year, marketing for the Nonprofit Workout was simple in one key way – we promoted it in as many places as possible. We had several hundred seats to fill, after all.

The challenge is that we don’t necessarily know what worked and what didn’t. There were obvious spikes in our web traffic and registrations that could be tied to specific e-Newsletters or partner events, but as is the way with these things, most people registered in the final weeks before the conference. And while there is a “how did you hear about us?” field in the registration process, it’s not detailed enough to pinpoint which specific websites/calendars/partners were most effective.

So the conference wound up selling out — and even had a waiting list! — and we breathed a sigh of relief.

This year we are running a training series, so the marketing plan is very different. Instead of several hundred seats available at an all-day conference, we’re only trying to fill 30 seats at a half-day training — each month. We’re trying to find the right balance between promoting it enough places to sell out each training, but not having a long waiting list full of disappointed people.

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