It’s About Impact NOT Influence

by Allyson Kapin

Do you think your organization has clout or Klout? Is your organization considered a content curator? Are you a leader or a follower? Or are social media ranking tools an example of more kool-aid mix being added to the overflowing punch bowl?

As more nonprofits get aggressive with their social media outreach, they are starting to take cues from the business sector about their own influence and finding “those influentials” that they think are going to produce magical results. “Is it even possible to measure online influence, divorced from offline influence,” asks Tom Webster over at BrandSavant. Nope, it’s not possible.

On this influencer quest, I fear that organizations are starting to lose sight of the most important outcome of outreach and engagement – impact. For the nonprofit community, impact translates into results on:

Donations – The money that keeps nonprofit organizations alive so that they can continue working on the world’s toughest issues every day.

Advocacy – People taking action both online and offline. Are they lobbying their local and national representatives for you by writing letters, making phone calls, meeting with their Reps, etc? Are your advocacy goals being met? Legislation being passed?

Volunteers – Is your nonprofit generating volunteers? Mobilizing volunteers are a critical part of building movements.

Web Traffic – When you make an impact online, you will see an increase in sign ups to your list and, over the long-term, increased donations and advocacy if you take the time to cultivate these people properly and arm them with the information and tools they need.

It’s also important to review your bounce rates monthly. If your bounce rates are incredibly high – meaning people are coming to your website and quickly leaving, your content is not resonating with your audiences. That’s a negative impact that you need to address.

Earned Media – Are you generating news articles, TV and radio coverage, blog posts, and letters to the editor about your organization. Are these articles reaching your target audiences such as decision-makers, your base of supporters, and the opposition?

“The influencer concept is based on the impact of Twitter accounts and blogs, and it really should be measured with conversion code on the client site. Until then, we aren’t really measuring impact, and the value of the influence is unproven,” said Brian Carter, a Search Engine Marketing consultant.

Can influence play into impact? Sure. Here’s how. As a nonprofit, part of your team should be focusing its energy on developing a strong outreach plan both online and offline. The plan should always include reaching the influentials or the connectors across multiple channels. These are the people who are passionate about your issue within your community. They can help you promote your organization’s initiatives to other like-minded people and connect all of you. Influentials are not the people who have the most followers on Twitter. That is not real influence – it’s only one tiny part of it – so don’t fall into that trap. And remember even though many of us nonprofit campaigners work in the online world, good old fashion organizing on the ground is alive and well. In fact, on the ground organizing (combined with online) continues to be a key ingredient we use to help win elections and campaigns. So the next time you are lured towards the punch bowl, remember impact trumps influence.

More Resources:

5 Primary Problems with Klout – Geoff Livingston

Understanding Klout –

Hype vs. Reality: What digital channels are the most effective in 2010? – Frogloop

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