The Shocking Truth About Why Your Social Media Isn’t Helping You

Old Sheet Music of How 'Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm
What we’ve been exposed to whets our appetite, but it’s not food
You lack relevant content. You’re just broadcasting something/anything…. without a plan or editorial calendar… without researching your constituents’ needs or desires… waiting until the last minute…

You’re focusing on the medium; not the message. Through whatever broadcast medium we choose to engage, the true value of the broadcast rests in the value to the consumer. In The Future of Media is Currently in Production Brian Solis reminds us that if we want to develop a long-term audience, it’s the content that matters.

It’s always been about content, and always will be.  The reason that the vehicle is important at all is because vehicles shape our behavior and expectations. 

Marshall McLuhan famously spoke of this in proclaiming  “the medium is the message” in 1964. Well, it is and it isn’t. In 2012, through social media, people can engage in ways never before imagined. Much like “How ya’ gonna keep ‘em down on the farm after they seen Paree,” we can’t ignore the impact of exposure to different sights and sounds. If our constituents want to be fed through social media, we have to deliver that way.  But we still have to deliver.

Our constituents want us to offer them the opportunity for the interactive engagement which the social web enables. They’ve seen it.  They know it’s there.  They aren’t going backwards.
Social media, however, is not ipso facto an engagement panacea.  It won’t build relationships for us. Drivel on social media (or whatever new content-delivery medium is yet-to-be) is still drivel. The only true engagement is relevant, compelling content.  And, as Solis tells us, the market for such content is infinite regardless of medium.
In every business, for profit and non-profit, there are preconditions to success.  A market for your product.  Vehicles to deliver your product. Management, human resources, dynamic functions to develop and promote your product.  But this above all else: a product. To Thine Own Content Be True. Content (aka message) is king.
Wall graffiti of what's your message?
What value are you bringing to people with your content? Think long and hard about this question.  People don’t buy kindles because they want contraptions.  They buy them because they want books. People won’t come to your Facebook page just because you have one.  They’ll come there if you have a valuable message to share.  
If people don’t value it, they won’t engage with you.  Period. Success comes when we connect people with things that matter to them. 
What’s your special and compelling message?
How do you clearly tell the world why they should care about you and your product or service?
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About Claire

I’m Claire and I want to help you raise more money, reach more people and build long-lasting relationships with your supporters. Take a look in the archives.


  1. Good point Claire, so why do we have a whole lot of broadcasting and little content out there?

  2. Because it's easier to do things without thinking? What do you think? In the long run, it's certainly a waste of time!

  3. Love love love this! I wish I had written it. I think social media is an evolution – you start out getting your footing and then once you figure out what your target market wants, you shift bit by bit until you find a pattern that works for both of you. Great post!

  4. Thanks so much Natasha. I appreciate your support! And, as you say, the key is finding out what your target market wants — not simply blasting stuff out there and ignoring them.

  5. Wonderful points. We wouldn't slap together a brochure, so why do people think they can just throw junk up on Facebook, etc.? I guess because as you said, it's easy.

  6. Thanks for this comment Ericka. And, you're right. Too often social media is just looked at as something you get around to… whenever. An afterthought. That's certainly not constituent-centric. Who wants to be treated as an afterthought?

  7. Thanks for the article. It does challenge nonprofits to know why they are communicating, what they are communicating and how they are communicating. It all starts with the people they want to communicate with and why they care. Very challenging. Sometimes nonprofits get in a rut and believe everyone cares because you have always been there. Attrition is happening because donors are deciding on which causes are not connecting with them. People are giving more to less people. Thanks for the call to clarifying our message and medium.

  8. We've really always needed to be clear on these things but, somehow with the advent of so many new media, we've been lured into focused more on medium than message. Shiny toys are hard to resist. Yet with limited resources, and our primary objective being to use these resources to generate support, we don't have the luxury to simply play around with the toys. We have to know our purpose. Thanks for reading/commenting David!

  9. This was great, Claire! Loved all the points… couldn't agree more.

  10. Thank you kindly Emily. :-)

  11. Claire: Your point about "a waste of time" is spot on. It's one reason, I believe, we have TMI. I love your point of view. Since you recently mentioned Buddhism in a post (Buddha's Brain is a great book, by the way), you might urge everyone to breath deeply and think FIRST before using social media. Thanks, David

  12. Breathing is good.
    Thanks for reminding us of this simple, yet often overlooked, truth.

  13. I see lots of people slap together brocures, newsletters, direct mail pieces, and other PR materials with little thought to the content or relevancy to the audience. LOTS of time and energy are wasted because NPO's don't do content planning.

  14. As you know from reading my articles, I whole heartedly agree with your thoughts here. The reason so many NPO's can't get their social media off the ground (in any meaningful way) is that they don't plan for content. Mostly I think it's because they lack the resources and talent to do it right. So, like you say, they take the easy way out and just throw something up.

    BTW: I would say that McCluhan, as a thinker and academician, was staking a position so extreme because the other media researchers at the time were focused soley on content. I think it troubled him for society to ignore the effects of the medium itself and focus solely on the content.

  15. I think you're right about McCluhan. He was trying to be provocative and get us to think about the way the medium shapes the message. Still, when you get right to the heart of things, I do believe the message comes first. When we start from a place of trying to shape our messages solely to conform to the medium (e.g. number of characters; just slapping a photo up with no meaningful caption or call to action, etc.) we've just got a bunch of junk in a box. We filled our box all right; but who will care about opening it?


  1. […] Here’s a great infographic  that makes it abundantly clear what to do and what not to do. We’ve talked a lot about content on Clairification.  Good content is king.  Always has been. Still is. All the changes Google has made over the past […]

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