The Role of Social Media in Donor Research

Much has been made over the last few years about the value of social data for donor research. A dozen or so companies even purport, today, to offer "Social CRM" for both fundraisers and corporate entities. There's no shortage of social scrapers (more on these in another post), either.

But, what data are we seeking, what can we earn, and what are we doing with it?

When we're researching our donors through social channels, there is a level we can go without their involvement and a far deeper layer with them being involved through social media and offering up insights - take these terms of use from LinkedIn's Profile API as an example. When people opt in, we are given much more insight into what they care about, what they're associated with, and more.

What kinds of things can we learn when an alum wants to be a part of their school's digital community?

Easy stuff: employer, title, email, phone, location, industry, etc. This is the building blocks stuff that, while incredibly valuable, doesn't change the discussion or our ability to connect on a personal level with our alumni.

Deep stuff: organizations and celebrities they like and support, places they've been, people they know, things they like and talk about, and much more.

A good many shops are endeavoring to capture these deep insights. The challenge comes in turning that incredible wealth of information into action. If the average Facebook user in the US likes 70 different pages, ~40% of LinkedIn users are members of 20+ groups, and the average Twitter user follows 208 accounts, it's no question that your alumni, when engaged and sharing, are sharing an unbelievable amount of insight with you.

How do you organize it all? How do you act on it?

At QuadWrangle, this is the science we live in every day. What's so much fun for us, though, is hearing from clients and others about the dreams they have when they think about social data - the insights they know are buried in that mountain of data, but which they just can't unlock in order to do something with.

So, when you dream of social media in donor research, what do you dream about?

Nick Zeckets