Private and corporate business models have not ignored the wave of the future of marketing: social media. In theory, it is an ideal, magical marketing tool best used for garnering interest, building followers and customers, and monitoring the successes and failures of digital campaigns via an alarming amount of data. These functions continue to make social media central to the contemporary corporate marketing team. But what about the small business, the entrepreneur, or the industry of community services, charity, or social enterprise, where a multi-person marketing team is not in the cards? How might social media as a marketing tool aid a non-profit organization in reaching goals, building donors, and creating buzz with (sometimes) less resources? For the marketing team at Toronto’s Furniture Bank, social media is a key, cost-efficient, and effective tool in the promotion of the organization and meeting its ongoing goals of building brand awareness, growing donors, and strengthening relationships with its sponsors.
(Below: A video giving a glimpse into Furniture Bank‘s daily operations, with a personal touch. The organization has used visual platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram in recent years to up its online content game, and give a more defined face to the brand, and how the Furniture Bank “machine” works.)
In a Q and A with Mitchell Praw, Furniture Bank’s Director of Marketing & Community Development, he touched on how this charity/social enterprise thinks of social media in its larger marketing strategy, and where he sees its function in the growth of the overall organization:
Q: How has social media figured into your overall marketing strategy for Furniture Bank?
A: Perception is significant and it’s hard to make an argument to be entirely absent from certain platforms. There is value, but it is platform specific. It is program specific. and it has different value to different stakeholders.
Q: How do you measure the success of your social media strategies from a marketing standpoint?
A: Depends on the objective. Reach can be significant. Activating influencers can be significant. Ticket sales can be significant. Feedback, generally, and reviews and complaints, can all be valuable and significant. It all depends on who is listening, and what one does with the information received.
Q: How have you used social media to strengthen your brand and build a loyal following?
Celebrating sponsors, connecting with hew advocates and ambassadors, sharing information with socially engaged communities… and also, research and learning (access to information) is key.
Lessons for Others
© Casalife cross-promotional poster for Furniture Bank's Chair Affair fundraiser. Retrieved from Facebook on November 15, 2017.
Using social media as part of an overall marketing plan need not be relegated only to corporate or private marketing plans. For charities and social enterprises who may not have sizable resources, social media remains an excellent, cost-efficient, and informative option. Some key takeaways from Furniture Bank‘s past (and future) social media marketing strategy:
*Brand, brand, brand: Building brand awareness across social channels, particularly on image and news-based platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and SnapChat; or conversational platforms such as Twitter and Reddit can generate business, interest, partnerships, and donations.
*Mindful, meaningful content: Producing visual, informative content for relevant social channels gives more insight, in a consumable way, into the operations of an organization, including its staff, its donors, and its partners. A personal touch, the organization has found, goes a long way for a charity that dabbles in the realm of the personal.
*Partnerships: Solidifying partnerships with sponsors via cross-promotion and acknowledgement, so as to reach more followers and build awareness in different demographics.
*Keep it Personal: (When done often and effectively): Engaging in conversation with past, current, and future donors across social channels. Ongoing contact and quick response times set a good precedent and increase probability of future donors and charitable gifts.
*Think big, research, and go for it: Growing an audience in unexplored areas: Real estate, furniture removal, social agencies, furniture and interior designers are just some of the industries that have been explored as potential partners and donors with Furniture Bank. Thinking beyond the limits of what your organization does, and seeking out audiences who may even *slightly* overlap with its day-to-day mission and operations is a good way of expanding your brand beyond the confines of your building.
Industry: Social Enterprise/Charity
Name of Organization Contact: Mitchell Praw, Director of Marketing & Community Development
Authored by: Samantha Donaldson
If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.
Furniture Bank Website (2017). Retrieved 15 November 2017 from https://www.furniturebank.org/
Furniture Bank Facebook Page (2017). Retreived 15 November 2017 from https://www.facebook.com/FurnitureBank/
Mitchell Praw, Email Interview. 23 November 2017.