The following is a cross-post from Social Media For Nonprofits' July 24th blog article. Click here to read the original post. Please visit our blog tomorrow for the second part of this two-part series.
Everything we do in the nonprofit sector is done with budget constraints in mind, but that doesn’t always mean our organizations must go without. For example, the rise of digital means that automation software is becoming a necessity, not a luxury.
Great automation software allows you to manage supporter relations, schedule posts, generate automatic responses to donor actions, and generally structure and organize your social strategy; but when faced with limited funding, employing an overarching solution that covers everything is often not an option.
But, there are plenty of free or inexpensive alternatives, many of which focus on social listening as well as light automation (as we’ll cover in this post) and others that cover email marketing automation (which we’ll cover in the next post).
If your budget for social automation is likely to increase, it’s important to pick a platform that allows you to expand or upgrade at a later date. However experienced you are, it’s always beneficial to experiment: test out a few platforms, starting with the least expensive, and move up until you’ve found your best match. Most services offer a free trial.
Start by determining what you need from automation software. Do you want to track trends, find shareable content, or auto-schedule your posts? Is customer relationship management (CRM) important to you? What about reports and analytics? How many people need to use the service?
Best for: Social listening and auto-scheduling. Track trends, follow hashtags, and schedule messages weeks in advance. They also offer a 20% discount for nonprofits.
Drawbacks: Primarily a Twitter client. Clunky (but customizable) interface.
Best for: Social CRM and targeting specific audiences. Good analytics and reports, and they do offer a 50% discount for nonprofits.
Drawbacks: Attractive interface, but less customizable than other platforms.
Best for: overseeing a large number of social platforms (up to 25) and working with RSS feeds. They also offer a 50% discount for nonprofits.
Drawbacks: No social monitoring, only analytics.
Best for: Twitter. If that’s the only platform you’re using, you can get most of what you need for free. There’s integration for blog platforms as well.
Drawbacks: Mainly Twitter oriented with reports limited to @mentions and retweets. Some options for Facebook and LinkedIn, but other platforms may not be workable with their service.
Without a strong, goal-oriented marketing strategy, automation software is ineffective — so if you’re currently unsure about the direction of your nonprofit’s online activity, even the most extensive automation platform will be of no use. These tools can help you organize, streamline, scale, and save time, but you need to use them purposefully. The best way to leverage your chosen automation platform is to focus on your goals.
What is it you’re putting in — and what is it you want out? If you have a favorite marketing automation platform, let us know in the comments. Likewise, if you’ve had any bad experiences using any of the above services, be sure to share those too!
Disclaimer: We [SM4NP] currently have a 1 year free pro account from Hootsuite and we’ve used a free account from SproutSocial in the past.
Ritu Sharma is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Social Media for Nonprofits, an organization committed to bringing social media education to nonprofits worldwide. She convenes thought leaders and leading practitioners in the social space in the unique TED meet Twitter style conferences. She speaks frequently on a variety of topics in the nonprofit and social media spheres with a passion for effecting social change through social technologies.