The enemy of a good social media plan is chatter.  Chatter is what gives ALL social media a bad name.  For example, if a major nonprofit or school were to update their Twitter account with a Tweet that said, “Isn’t it a beautiful day out?”  That’s borderline chatter, and I would never feel comfortable with that type of update.  

But how do you make sure that each post or update advances your goals and avoids pointless chatter?  The biggest problem that leads to chatter (and this is a problem that wrecks many social media campaigns) is that people don’t know why they are using social media.  If you don’t know why you are blogging in the first place, you’ll never keep it up (most corporate blogs are abandoned after just a handful of posts).  If you don’t know why you are on Twitter, pretty soon you’ll be telling people about the weather.  

Here’s how you avoid chatter: identify the two or three of the highest value actions that you want to see on social media.  This may be when a donor writes a positive letter and posts it on Facebook telling people how great you are.  It may be when a customer posts a picture of herself at one of your events with a caption that says how wonderful your last event was. It may be when you post a video and two dozen people leave encouraging comments.  Maybe it’s when you see that 20% of your sales traffic is originating from Facebook from your special promotions.  Whatever the actions are, you should know them, and you should always keep them in mind when you are thinking about your next post – chances are, this will keep your content far away from topics like the color of your socks.

Will Marlow co-founded AlumniFidelity to help his clients reposition their fundraising to benefit from Web2.0 technology and marketing techniques. He’s working with clients such as UVA, the College of William & Mary, the University of Oklahoma, Bowling Green State University, Randolph Macon College, and he loves nothing better than a thorny marketing challenge.  Email him at