The Ultimate Guide to Social Media For Non-Profits

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May 12 , 2015 | Posted by Robert Urban |

The Ultimate Guide to Social Media For Non-Profits

The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Nonprofits

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 as Instagram. While part of social media’s initial appeal was the potential to reach your audience without tapping into a limited budget, the growing popularity and changing algorithms of popular networks have made it difficult to keep your cause at the top of supporters’ 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 results—which means there’s no time like the present to create or refresh your social media strategy.

1. Integrate Social Media in Your Overall Communications Strategy

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 organization’s social media 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, you’re no stranger to having a mission. Whether to eliminate poverty or protect an endangered species, you understand what your overall charge is. Similarly, your social goals should be clear. To give you a sense of common communications goals that can inform your social efforts, in 2015, nonprofit communicatorsidentified these five goals as priorities for the year:

  1. Engaging community
  2. Retaining donors
  3. Acquiring donors
  4. Generating brand awareness
  5. Building thought leadership

Social media provides opportunities for connection that other channels may not.

3. Identify Your Target Audience

Develop audience personas , which are representations of your ideal supporters based on a combination of demographic data and information 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.

Once you have an idea of who’s 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. Nancy Schwartz’s blog has a helpful step-by-step guide to creating personas.

4. Choose the Right Networks

Once you have identified your target audience and where they are active online focus your efforts on those networks. If you have limited time to spend on social—and who doesn’t?—don’t 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 give you an idea of which networks are most popular among nonprofits, Facebook remains No. 1 , with 96% of nonprofit communicators ranking it in their top three social media sites; Twitter and YouTube take spots two and three, respectively, according to the 2015 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report.

5. Create a Content Strategy

When creating a content strategy, 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. Don’t 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 as volunteer spotlights, client stories and how-tos.

Types of Content

From pictures and graphics to short videos and text, your organization should share a variety of posts across its networks. Visual content can often reach emotional triggers in a way that words alone cannot.  Capturing snapshots and short videos on your phone enables 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 doesn’t need a link, social media can be a helpful tool for directing people to your website, blog or mailing list. cial and signing up or taking action.”

Posting Frequency

Creating an editorial 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 preparing materials 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 content and measure your impact.

6. Put Engagement First

Social media is far more than a publishing platform —it’s a place to capture people’s attention, connect with supporters and build communities.The most powerful thing about social media is something many companies and organizations often forget: It’s social,” Instead, many brands use social media as a broadcasting platform

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 good place to cultivate a personable brand voice that helps supporters feel connected. Don’t be afraid to use humor to connect either.

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 following—the stories, tips and images they can expect to see—and educate them about the best ways to show support. Don’t be afraid to cross-promote your social media content on other channels.

8. Track & 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.

For goals such as driving website traffic, use Google Analytics to see how many social referrals are getting people to your website.


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 nonprofit’s social media strategy to get the best possible results. I will leave you with this one final piece of advice:

Once you’ve 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.

If you have any other question about social media for non-profits contact us today.