Nonprofit organizations have become increasingly social over the past decade, whether they are cultivating a dedicated Facebook following or blazing a trail on new networks such asÂ Snapchat. While part of social mediaâs initial appeal was the potential to reach your audience without tapping intoÂ a limited budget, the growing popularity and changing algorithms of popular networks have made it difficult to keep your cause at the top of supportersâ newsfeeds. That said, nonprofit organizations have never been a group to back down from a challenge.
Social media is an opportunity to tell your story, engage with supporters and get resultsâwhich means thereâs no time like the present to create or refresh your social media strategy. We asked five experts to weigh in on how to develop a nonprofit social media strategy and prove the value of social media to your organization. As we outline the steps to craft an effective strategy, their advice will guide the way.
1. Define Social’s Role in Your Nonprofit’s Communications Strategy
âSocial media shouldnât be out there alone; it should be integrated and aligned with your strategic goals and target audiences,â said Beth Kanter, Nonprofit Consultant and Author of Bethâs Blog, one of the longest running and most popular blogs about nonprofits and social media. âThe role that it can play really well is engagement, especially donor engagement and donor retention, getting people to pay attentionâcapturing their attention.â
The actions you will take and the content you will create on social should tie back to your overall communications and digital strategy. Consider how you will connect your organizationâs social media marketing efforts to your website and blog, email marketing, event promotions and any other content you share online.
2. Determine What You Want to Accomplish
As part of a nonprofit team, youâre no stranger to having a mission. Whether to eliminate poverty or protect an endangered species, youÂ understand what your overall charge is.Â Similarly, your social goals should be clear. Here are some examples of possible goals that can inform your social efforts:
- Community engagement and education
- Brand building and reputation management
- Program recruitment
Social media provides opportunities for connection that other channels may not. Chara Odhner, Senior Copywriter and partÂ of the social team at charity: water, echoes the importance of using social for community engagement.
âAs an organization that’s had a $0 ad and marketing budget since day one, we invested in social early on,” Odhner said. “And we love social for what it does best: strengthening our community of supporters.â
— charity: water (@charitywater) June 28, 2017
Once youâve determined your goals, decide how you will measure success and what metrics you will track to assess the outcome of your social media efforts. For example, if engaging your community is a goal, you might measure success by responses to your posts and engagement in social discussions, volume of posts using a specific hashtag and participation in online campaigns driven by social.
3. Identify Your Target Audience
âA lot of nonprofits say, âwell, our audience is the general public,â but if you think youâre speaking to the general public, youâre probably speaking to nobody,â said Bridgett Colling, Director of Content Marketing at See3 Communications, a digital agency for nonprofits and social causes.
CollingÂ recommends that nonprofits develop audience personas, which are representations of your ideal supporters based on a combination of demographic data and informationÂ about individual members of your target audience.
To learn about the demographic makeup of your current social media following, you can use native analytics on platforms like Twitter and Facebook or use a social media management tool. When you start a free trial of Sprout Social and connect your profiles, your audiences’Â demographic data will begin to populate, whichÂ you can see easily in your dashboard or export as a report.
Once you have an idea of whoâs already following you online, research and speak with supporters offline to gain additional insights about what matters to them when supporting your cause.
You can create multiple personas that represent supporters in different groups: Consider the makeup of your volunteer base, your board and junior board, your donors and more. Go ahead and give each persona a name as well as a comprehensive demographic background, then add specific details about what this person cares about, what their typical day is like, who they trust and more.
HubspotÂ has a helpful step-by-step guide to creating personas.
4. Choose the Right Networks
Once you have identified your target audience, study social media demographics to find out where they are active online, and focus your efforts on those networks.
If you have limited time to spend on socialâand who doesnât?âdonât spread yourself too thin by worrying about adopting every network that comes up. Do an excellent job on two or three networks with a large potential for reaching your audience instead of a mediocre job on five.
To get an idea of which social networks your target audience is on, check out our post on social media demographicsÂ whereÂ we break down the demographics of every major social network.
5. Create a Content Strategy
When creating a content strategyÂ for your nonprofit, focus on storytelling that gets your message across.
What to Share
Start by examining past posts to see what has performed well and what types of content get your followers engaged. Donât be afraid to ask supporters what type of stories they would like to see from your organization. You can gather this information in person, via an email survey or by asking on social media. Develop content categories for social media that you can cycle through on a regular basis, such asÂ volunteer spotlights, client stories and how-tos.
Kivi Leroux Miller, Nonprofit Consultant and President of Nonprofit Marketing Guide, suggests two questions to guide your content creation: âWhat problems do people have in their own lives when trying to live out the values they share with your organization? What tips or tools can you give them that make their lives easier as they try to be a better environmentalist, animal lover, parent, etc.?â
The Toy Association isÂ a non-profit trade association with over 900 business that create toys and games for kids. PartÂ of the nonprofit’s social mediaÂ strategyÂ involvesÂ Genius of Play, which encourages parents to make playtime a part of their kids daily lives. Genius of PlayÂ uses social media to share helpful and informational content for parents, as well as spark dialogue about issues their audience cares about.
Types of Content
From pictures and graphics to short videos and text, your organization should share a variety of posts across itsÂ networks. Visual content can often reach emotional triggers in a way that words alone cannot.
There are plenty of free tools for image creation that can help you create beautiful graphics, but donât worry about making every image highly polished. Capturing snapshots and short videos on your phone enablesÂ you to share powerful moments from events, and those types of posts can give your followers a meaningful peek behind-the-scenes of your organization.
While every post doesnât need a link, social media can be a helpful tool for directing people to your website, blog or mailing list. Fundraising Coach and AuthorÂ Marc PitmanÂ says that one common mistake is keeping your entire social media presence on social media.
“Facebook could change the rules; Twitter could shut down,” Pitman said. “You should have a healthy mix of content that points back to your site and helps build your email list where you give away helpful contentâan ethical bribe. Then, you can track how many people are coming from social and signing up or taking action.”
Creating a social media content calendar will help you plan and schedule your social media posts in advance. If you are working with a team, or reaching out to others in your organization for photos or information, a content calendar will help you stay on top of planning campaigns and scheduling contentÂ in advance.
Determine a posting frequency and cadence that will keep your organization in front of your audience while leaving you time to manage your community, share newsworthy contentÂ and measure your impact. If you’re unsure of when you should Tweet or post on Instagram, check out our research into the best times to post on social media.
6. Put Engagement First
Social media is far more than a publishing platformâitâs a place to capture peopleâs attention, connect with supporters and build communities.
âThe most powerful thing about social media is something many companies and organizations often forget: Itâs social,” Odhner said. “Instead, many brands use social media as a broadcasting platform.â
With limited time to spend on social, engagement should be a priority. Respond to questions, comments and posts tagging your organization, and look for relevant hashtags to find new conversations to join. While your tone may be more formal on other outlets, social media is a particularly goodÂ place to cultivate a personableÂ brand voice that helps supporters feel connected.Â Donât be afraid to use humor to connect either.
âPart of what weâre trying to do with engagement is show donors that we see them as more than an ATM,” Pitman said. “The social media accounts that show humanity seem to get noted more, particularly when you give quick or humorous responses.â
Men’s health non-profit Movember regularly uses humor on social media to add a little light-heartedness to support a serious cause.
7. Empower Your Advocates &Â Cross-Promote Your Content
Even the most enthusiastic proponents of your organization may not realize that social sharing is a powerful way that they can raise awareness for your cause. If you are creating or ramping up your presence on a specific network, make it known to all of your constituents that they can connect with you there.
Show them the value of followingâthe stories, tips and images they can expect to seeâand educate them about the best ways to show support. Donât be afraid to cross-promote your social media content on other channels.
OurÂ experts provided a few suggestions toÂ get your advocates talking:
Start a Private Group
âInvite them to join a private group or another mechanism of communication so you can ârock ânâ roll,â” Kanter said. “Everyone likes to be on a winning team and to cheer on the team, so you need that kind of connection. Make it super easy: Provide sample posts for Facebook, sample Tweets, etc.â
Promote via Other Communication Channels
âSupport your social with email, phone and other means of communication,” Pitman said. “Send a link to board members, and ask them to like it, share it, comment and tell you what they think. However you want them to interact with you, let them know. People canât read our minds. Itâs not obvious to them; their universe doesnât revolve around our nonprofit or our social media outreach.â
Provide Sample Posts
âMake it easy to share by sending an email with prewritten Tweets and graphics people can share when youâre launching a big campaign, telling them one of the ways they can support you is to share on Facebook, Twitter or whatever network you think theyâre most active on,” Colling said. “Make it easy for people. Give them options. And tell them that sharing is meaningful.â
If you have high profile advocates or an internal team that’s active on social, you can use an advocacy platform like Bambu to curate content and messaging for your advocates to share. This way, all your team has to do is login and start sharing content with a few clicks.
8. Track &Â Measure Your Results
From day one, track your social media efforts to ensure that you are progressing toward your goals. Demonstrating results will show your leadership the importance of investing time and resources into social media, and it will help you adjust your content strategy to focus on the type of content that performs best.
KanterÂ suggests that you look not only at what content is getting a good rate of return but also at what takes less time to get that return. For goals such asÂ driving website traffic, Colling recommends using Google Analytics to see how many social referrals are getting people to your website.
âEven better, if you put goal tracking in your Google Analytics, you can see how many referrals actually led to someone completing a donation,â she said.
If making time to run reports is a challenge, this is just one of many areas where a social media analyticsÂ tool will help. You can use Sprout to run weekly or monthly presentation-ready reports on everything from sent message performance to audience changes to engagement.
You can also use information from social networksâ native analytics (Twitter Analytics, Facebook Insights, YouTube Analytics) to create your own reports. For a clear breakdown of how to use native analytics, check out our post on the social media metrics that matter.
Above all, remember to listen and create a habit of strategy and measurement. Over time, you will learn what content gets your community talking and how to fine-tune your nonprofitâs social media strategy to get the best possible results.
Weâll leave you with this one final piece of advice:
âItâs important to set reasonable expectations and know that social media and content marketing is a long game. Youâre not going to put one post out there and instantly get hundreds of dollars in donations. Like any good relationship, itâs all about communication over time.â
âBridgett Colling,Â See3 Communications
If you have questions about social media strategy or recommendations based on what has worked well for your organization, let us know in theÂ comments below.