Josh Hirsch discusses social media marketing

Episode aired Dec. 2, 2021: Social Media

Josh Hirsch isn’t just a nonprofit marketing expert. He’s in charge of social marketing for Susan G. Komen, which means he has to manage a LOT of moving parts. And he does so very successfully! In this episode Josh discusses 

  • Knowing your audience so your posts have the right tone
  • Mistakes NPOs make on social media- and how to fix them
  • Measuring social success- what REALLY matters
  • Connecting financial results from social media activity
  • How to choose which social channels to be active on and 
  • Working with affiliates/chapters on pushing out content.      

Below you can listen, watch or read this podcast episode.

Ephraim: Welcome to this edition of the Your Weekly Dose of Nonprofit podcast, the podcast that delivers actionable items you can implement at your organization right away. I’m your host Ephraim Gopin of 1832 Communications. Today I’m really happy to have with us a nonprofit marketing and content expert, Josh Hirsch. Josh, how you doing today?

Josh: Doing well friend. Good to see you.

Ephraim: Good to see you too. Let’s introduce you to our listeners, watchers and readers.

Josh Hirsch is the social content marketing manager for Susan G. Komen. He has worked in the nonprofit sector since 2006, with a focus on educational philanthropy for both public charter and independent private schools. He has an extensive background in social media, digital communications and marketing, along with experience in grant research and writing, individual giving, special event planning, stewardship and cultivation of donors. Josh is the membership chair for the Association of Fundraising Professionals First Coast Chapter and past president of the Palm Beach County Chapter. Josh is also a member of the AFP Peeps, the social media vanguard for the AFP international conference and other AFP initiatives. He’s spoken nationally on digital communications and has had numerous articles published in professional journals.

Josh received a Master of Science and Family Youth and Community Sciences and a Bachelor of Science in Advertising from the University of Florida. He has a certificate in Strategic Fundraising and Philanthropy from Bay Path University and is a certified social media strategist by the National Institute for Social Media.

The Face Behind The Logo

In today’s episode we’re going to discuss social media marketing. Let’s dive right in. Josh, you’re the face behind the logo for a very well-known national nonprofit. So A) does that add pressure to you in your day-to-day job and B) do you have established guidelines about what you can and cannot post?

Josh: So I’ll answer this in two different ways. I have to remember that I’m a brand when I’m talking on social and it’s not me talking personally on social. So the way that I may engage with a post personally is not the way that I’m going to engage for the brand voice that we’ve established through Komen. There may be these great trends where we’ll see brands talking back and forth and having fun, it’s jovial. As much as I’d love to jump into those sort of things, we have guardrails and I have to remember what those guardrails are to know that we’re a science health focused organization. 

Research is a big part of it. So as much as I’d like to jump in and have fun and be jovial, it just doesn’t fit in with the tone and the type of content that we share. We have to remember that we’re providing resources for women and men who are going through a horrible disease and at times they can feel completely down and broken and need to be lifted up. We’re able to provide that sense of community, that sense of survivorship and being able to do that on our various social channels is really important and the way that we talk on these different social channels and communicate with their audiences is different. We have a much differently engaged audience on one channel and the sort of content we share is there, it may be the same sort of tone but the way we approach it is different, because we know the audience will react to it differently.  

Social Media Mistakes To Fix

Ephraim: Interesting. Okay. Let’s go to today’s actionable item. Please share with us three to four mistakes that nonprofits consistently make on social media and how they can fix them.

Josh: I think one misconception is alright, I’ve gotto post today. Is it Tuesday? I gotta go in, I gotta post something. Well if you don’t have anything of quality and substance to say, then why do it? Always quality over quantity. And to that end, if you’re walking into the office on a Tuesday morning and by walking I mean walking down the hall to your home office because many of us are still working in this work from  home environment, if you don’t know what you’re posting that day when you wake up in the morning, then you’re already behind.

It is so imperative to develop a monthly if possible… multi-month editorial content calendar. We use a great tool called Airtable. I live by it. I have it open on one of my three screens at all times here at the office and with Airtable, we’ve been able to build a completely customized editorial content calendar that is available across the entire organization. So where marketing, creative, public relations, development all have their own little silos that they’re working in, we need to know what hand is doing what. At the same time we need to know what mission is doing, we need to know what advocacy is doing. To be able to have this calendar that’s accessible by all, it’s been a huge win for us. We use a premium version. There is a freemium version and with the freemium version, you have access to a lot of great tools. But for us we needed a little something more and it’s not expensive. It’s less than $15 a month for a user license and it’s been tremendous for our organization.

Another actual item that nonprofits might not be doing or thinking about is not planning ahead, not just from an editorial content calendar but let’s take Giving Tuesday for example. Giving Tuesday is coming up in two weeks or so. If you didn’t start planning your campaign 30 to 45 days ago or even more, then you’re behind the eight ball. Just waking up on that Tuesday morning, sending out a tweet saying alright, let’s donate to pink puppies that live in Malaysia because we really care about pink puppies that live in Malaysia, well this is the first time that your audience has heard about a) any sort of Giving Tuesday what it is b) that you have an active campaign for it, you’re behind. 

As many of your listeners may know, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We begin planning for October late spring. I mean we’re talking three to four months out. Especially with large multi-channel and it’s not even multi-channel anymore, it’s omnichannel campaigns. You need to plan ahead, you need to think about what activations are you going on. If you know you have an email that’s going out on September 1st, you need to be planning that out at least three or four weeks ahead of time to make sure you have all the copy right, the creative, what lists are you sending to, how are you segmenting your list and beyond that what asks are you doing for your different segmented list. If you have a major donor and you make an ask for a $15 a month gift when they’re giving you already $15 to 20, 000 a year on top of any other gifts, you need to know your audience.

My last tip would be don’t think you need to do it all yourself. Reach out for help, build an established community of people that you can rely upon, whether that’s within your own organization or fundraising Twitter. Hashtag fundraising Twitter is such a great community of people that you can learn and connect with. Then to that end, get involved in AFP, get involved in your local Association of Fundraising Professional chapter because I guarantee there’s someone else in that chapter who may have gone through what you’re going through or can answer your question better than you may know yourself.

Connecting Financial Results To Social Media Activity

Ephraim: All of those were great. That last one really speaks to me about talking to others and asking for help. You’re not alone and you’re never alone. You are responsible for supporting overall social engagement and revenue goals. Many nonprofits have a problem tying those two together, seeing financial results from social media activity. How do you measure the connection?  

Josh: Obviously every organization needs to have analytics that they go by. For us the KPIs, key performance indicators we track from a social perspective are not Likes, they’re not followers because those are vanity KPIs. I don’t care that you have 500 followers, I don’t care if you have 5 million followers. What I care about is what is your reach or impressions, depending on which channel you’re talking about.

And then your engagement rate. So you need to set a baseline knowing what you know might be best. Industry standard might be great for others but for your organization, if you have an engagement rate of two and a half percent on Facebook, then you’re killing it. That’s awesome. You’re doing wonderful. Another organization might have half a percent and for them that’s great.

Knowing your KPIs for social will then draw into what your revenue goals are. Don’t think just because you put out a tweet or you start a Facebook fundraiser all these dollars are going to come in, because it’s not. It takes a lot of work. You need to know how you’re going to talk to your audience, what messaging and what ask is going to resonate with them and then how you can balance it too. For us, we look at ROAS, return on ad spend because we need to spend dollars to make dollars. We’ll do a targeted series of lead ad campaigns to bring in new constituents, at the same time generating additional dollars through the fundraisers they start. So having a baseline that is not just for industry standards but for your own organization is important to know.

And how do you get there? It’s looking at the data, it’s looking at the analytics and tracking those trends over time. It’s not something that you’re just going to wake up today and say you know what? Our baseline for engagement on Twitter should be a 3.4 percent engagement rate. Well if you’ve been getting 1.2 percent, why should you say that all of a sudden we’re at 3.4? Sure you want to get to 3.4 but what are you going to do to get yourself there? How are you going to be able to achieve those KPIs that you’re trying to set up?  

Choosing Which Platforms To Be On

Ephraim: Nice. You already mentioned multi-channel and omnichannel. There are a gazillion different social media and online platforms. How do you and Komen choose which ones to produce content for?  

Josh: Everyone’s gotta be on Facebook, granddaddy of them all. It’s the first question that people ask, what’s your Facebook page, maybe even more so than what’s your website. We know that different audiences live on there and what’s great is the tools that Facebook’s Insights give you and through their Creator Studio be able to identify what is that targeted demographic where they live. What is their age. You can find out so many things about them that can help you craft your message on that particular channel. At the same time, it’s not necessary to be everywhere at all times. Just because there’s a shiny red car driving by doesn’t mean that you need to go to the dealership and buy a shiny red car, because if you don’t have the ability to drive that shiny red car, then why are you going to try to do it?

I always say do one or two channels really really well. Don’t worry about the others. If your organization doesn’t produce video content, why are you gonna have a YouTube channel? It doesn’t make sense. Yes, YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine. Yes, it’s a great chance to get your audience out there and get your message out there in front of another audience through targeted SEO and keywords and such. But if your message and your content doesn’t work on that channel, then why are you going to do it?

For us, a year ago we weren’t on TikTok but through active social listening, I saw that there were over 70,000 uses of the hashtag Susan G Komen. I went back to our social team. I said wait a minute, people are there talking about us. We need to develop a strategy for that channel specifically. Knowing that TikTok is a video medium, okay great, we have all this great YouTube channel content that we can bring it over to TikTok. But it doesn’t work that way. You need to know the channel, you need to know the tool and what works best for it to produce the right kind of content. So just taking a rubber stamp and saying here’s our tweet, here’s our Facebook post, here’s our Instagram post, here’s our post for LinkedIn, here’s our video for TikTok, it doesn’t work that way. You need to speak the right language for the right channel.

Amplifying Local Content Nationally

Ephraim: Excellent. Now let’s move from channels to more inner. Susan G. Komen has many many community markets across the U.S. Does the home office, i.e. you, produce content that they can use and how do you keep on top of the local- what we’ll call homegrown- content that they’re creating?

Josh: Thankfully we have a social team of three of us and we don’t have to do all of it at the same time. I manage our national channels. I have a team member who just focuses on our local content, to work with the local community development managers. They work with those state executive directors and knowing alright, here are the campaigns that you have coming up, here are the inventory slots that we have allotted to you because we do a lot of targeted organic social posts which Facebook has a great tool to allow you to even dig down to like zip codes and with Facebook, they bring features back and they take them away without telling you. For awhile there we couldn’t search by zip codes. We could only post by counties but now, we can dig deeper to the zip code and city level. It’s being able to provide okay, well you’ve got this campaign coming up, we’ve got this much inventory slot.

Get me your recommended post four to six weeks out and that way we’ll make sure we get your content in front of the right audience. At the same time we have to be reactionary. If there’s a donor that’s come and said alright, I want to make a hundred-thousand-dollar gift and this year the program is… I want to endow the chair for, awesome. Just because we’ve used up your inventory slot for that month doesn’t mean that we don’t want to share this fabulous news. So it’s knowing what message and content is going to resonate with that audience at the right time.

Ephraim: Fantastic. Just as a follow-up question. How much of your day is taken up by content from those community market centers across the country?

Josh: For my team member that focuses on local social, I would say a good half if not more of our time is just spent focusing on that as well. It’s nice I’m not a content writer. I was never really good at writing. I’m good from like the analytics, the strategy, that sort of stuff. That’s kind of the lane that I live in. I have another team member that focuses just on the content development, so that way I can look at how are we best going to deploy that through our various channels. We’re a huge organization. Not everyone is so fortunate to have three people on their social team. Before I came here, I was always small market doing development, doing marketing, doing graphic design, doing it all at the same time, because a lot of nonprofit shops that’s just how it works. Here I’m able to really just focus on my specific tasks and my specific lanes. While I might be able to help out and lend a hand and advice, I know that my responsibilities fall in a different area.

Let’s Learn More About Josh

Ephraim: Fantastic. Let’s move on to the lightning round and learn more about you. What got you started on your nonprofit career path?

Josh: I fell into it, as many did. I was working at a Jewish community center in West Palm Beach, Florida. I was the summer camp director and I said alright, I’m ready for a change in nonprofits. I got a master’s degree in basically nonprofit management. It was called Family, Youth and Community Sciences. They didn’t have a program of that such at the time. So I went and interviewed for a programmer position at a small nonprofit and by the end of a meeting with the executive director for an hour, he said you know what? You’d be good in development. I said sure, I’d be great at it, not knowing anything about fundraising other than asking for some donations at my local temple growing up, as I would give speeches for different tikkun olam projects, repairing the world for those that don’t know what tikkun olam means.

Went out, bought Grant Writing for Dummies. That was the first fundraising book I got. I read through that. I attended some local trainings. There’s nothing better than connecting with your local nonprofit center, if you have one of those in your community. They’re a great great resource. Or your local community foundation might have some great resources in education and trainings as well.

So I started learning, I started reading, I started following people like John Haydon. We all know John Haydon was at the  early days of nonprofit marketing and as I grew in my career, I learned about people like Julia Campbell, who’s an expert at digital communications and learning about all these people I can now call friends and reach out to them, because I’ve met them through AFP, I’ve met them through fundraising Twitter and now I have this giant network of experts all over the country, all over North America, all over the world. Ephraim, you’re normally in Israel. Catching people all over the world that I can rely upon. So falling into this, continuing to push myself and learn, I’m able to say that 15 plus years later, however long it’s been, I love what I do and I’m good at it. So I I’m very fortunate.  

Ephraim: Awesome. Given those 15 plus years of experience, if you could shake up one thing in the nonprofit world, what would it be?

Josh: I’m very much into new digital fundraising and have been on a big push recently for our organization to accept cryptocurrency as a form of donation. What we’ve seen and we’re close… I would say there’s a very small percentage of nonprofits that actually do accept cryptocurrencies as a form of donations.

Here in the U.S., there are some of the big daddies, those major national nonprofits that are starting to accept cryptocurrency and it’s a younger demographic. It’s a demographic that has disposable income because they bought Ethereum when it was 20 cents five years ago and now Ethereum’s trading for forty three hundred dollars or whatever it is. At the same time NFTs, non-fungible tokens, so basically jpegs that are tied to the blockchain… the best way I like to describe it is cryptocurrency with pretty pictures. There’s been a lot of campaigns where nonprofits are partnering with NFT artists or having NFT projects set up specifically to benefit them. I really believe that here in the next… and we’re at the early stages of cryptocurrency for nonprofits, early stages for NFTs, even earlier than crypto is for nonprofits.

Over the next few years we’re going to start to see more of an implementation, especially for global nonprofits because of the time and access to those funds are almost instantaneous. You can have donors in North America making gifts to your organization that’s based in Europe and within a matter of minutes you’ve got that Ethereum or that Bitcoin or whatever token they’ve donated to you, sitting in your account that you could either hold on to and wait for it to appreciate just as you would with any investment.

But cryptocurrency is stocks. So if you have a gift acceptance policy for your organization to accept stocks, there’s no reason why you can’t adapt that gift acceptance policy for cryptocurrency. A lot of organizations, they get a gift of stock, they liquidate it right away and they have those funds as liquid dollars in their organization’s bank account. Same thing with cryptocurrency. If you’re at all looking to do this, especially if you’re a global organization with donors that are based internationally, I highly recommend looking into cryptocurrency as a form of donation.

Ephraim: Nice. That’s an interesting one. Best part of living in Florida?

Josh: I’m a Florida boy born and raised. I went to college here in Florida. I’m wearing sandals 365 days a year. I recently moved with my family from south Florida up to north Florida and it’s been a big change. In south Florida our winters are like 60 degrees for three days in November and that’s it. Up here we’ve actually been getting winter with like 40 degrees waking up to and it’s gorgeous. Still wearing sandals. I don’t care. It’s still beautiful but I would say that’s one of the best things about living here in Florida.

Ephraim: That’s a good one. Twitter, love it or hate it?

Josh: I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today if it weren’t for Twitter. I really believe that. Facebook is great. You’ve got billions of users but because of security and privacy settings, I might not see what you’re posting Ephraim and because of the algorithm, even if we’re friends and even if I follow and make sure I look at your posts every day, I’m not going to see necessarily everything you share just because that’s the way of this magic word ‘algorithm’ works.

But on Twitter anything is possible. You literally have the largest soapbox that you could stand on, based upon hashtags. Whether you want to join a conversation of a hashtag… let’s use hashtag breast cancer. Obviously a very large topic. Lots of people are talking about it. Or you could create your own branded hashtag and have a more specific conversation of just certain people. A lot of times you’ll see that for a conference. They’ll use a hashtag for that conference and people that are there at that time to participate and be part of the conversation and almost have another level to that in-person experience. So Twitter, I am a huge huge fan.  

Ephraim: Awesome. At a previous job you were the Chief Gratitude Officer. What did that job entail?

Josh: Saying thank you. So a lot of times… actually I developed that title after taking a course with Beth Ann Locke, who’s a huge proponent of donor love and acknowledgement and I realize that my job as director of development was to ask for dollars but those dollars were to help benefit the children at the school and what’s better than saying give me money is saying thank you and making them realize and appreciate the gift and what they’re able to do. That was a lot of fun. I enjoyed that job. I enjoyed working for that school and everything has continued to lead me on my career path to where I am today.

Ephraim: Awesome. I love the title and I love that you referenced Beth because she’s the Queen of Gratitude Attitude. I love that.

Josh: Gratitude and attitude.

Ephraim: Yup. Lastly we will turn the tables. You get to ask me one question. I have no clue what’s coming. Bring it.

Josh: Ephraim, tacos or sushi? One food that you could eat for the rest of your life.  

Ephraim: See I’m not a fan of either, so  I’m gonna go with tacos because I do not… what can I tell you, I don’t do  tacos. Sushi I’m definitely not doing. So if you tell me one for life, tacos it is. And just by the way, that’s a very original question. Kudos to you. You get extra bonus points for that one. Well done.

Josh: Double checkmarks today.

Ephraim: Yes. Josh, thanks  very very much for appearing on the podcast. I encourage everyone to connect with Josh on LinkedIn and of course on Twitter. Josh it was a pleasure learning from you. Thanks very much. 

Josh: My pleasure Ephraim. See you soon.

Ephraim: Have a good day.