Coming At You: Compiling Data From The “You” Generation by Carl Sylvestre

In 2006, Time magazine chose as its Person of the Year the millions of anonymous contributors of user-generated content to Wikipedia, You Tube, MySpace, Facebook, Second Life, the Linux operating system, and the multitudes of other websites featuring user contribution. The choice was personified simply as You.

Not-for-profit organizations have responded to this movement and now most websites have social network links to promote their events and services, and raise money. But in my daily contacts few organizations have figured out in concrete terms what they aim to accomplish with these tools and how to collect the data.

We are not taking advantage of this opening to shape the identity of our organizations. If more institutions pause briefly to realize the great opportunities of this era, they will be taken aback and yet be excited by these new avenues. Marketing involves building relationships for the long run. Now there is a new active partner in the room. The customers that we are trying to influence are coming to us. They are telling us their comfort zones and sharing that data with everyone.

Many not-for-profit organizations have entered the world of market research without this realization. The You generation tells us about their passions, their networks, and even asks us to connect with their friends. However, if we are not collecting and analyzing this data, it means nothing in the long run.

For example, a theater company may be using everyone on staff to promote a production, yet that information is seldom shared in a common pool. Information learned about someone’s likes or dislikes remains the property of each staff member, depriving the organization the chance to build a database and learn about the various audience segmentation with which it is dealing. Everyone has taken the ownership of promoting their organization’s work, but in most cases the organization fails them by not doing the follow-up and evaluating the data accumulated on their behalf.

The solution to this neglect is rather simple. Bring your team together and have an understanding about what each wants to get from this information and prioritize it. Talk it through and be realistic about the goals and most importantly, share those goals.

The market research department for small and large organizations has increased its staff and your customers are speaking with them. Use them well. Develop your on-line marketing strategy today and put it into action.