Leveraging Social Media for Nonprofits

It’s hard to believe that social media as we know it didn’t exist just over a decade ago.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram—all have changed how businesses and nonprofits promote themselves and engage a large number of people who may have been difficult to reach just a few years ago. It’s clear that all nonprofits should be on social media, but the issue for many is devoting the time to both develop engaging content and maintain a consistent presence. Most nonprofits are so busy with day to day activities and management that they don’t have a lot of time to focus on promoting themselves on social media platforms.

As the CEO of a national nonprofit with a small (but mighty) staff of four, I’ve spent a lot of time strategizing about how to maximize our impact in all areas—including social media—with limited staff and resources. We’ve come pretty far growing and strengthening our social media presence. Here are some tips we’ve learned along the way:

  1. Have a strategy. You probably already know the key messages you want to communicate about your nonprofit, but have you ever taken the time to write them down and review them with your staff and board? If not, it’s worth spending some time on this. These key messages will serve as a guide for your social media posts and will ensure that you’re communicating these messages often. You should use these key messages as a lens when choosing content, if a post doesn’t fall under at least one of these, you may want to reconsider it. One easy way to create your foundation on social media is to simply state your goals or mission in the bios or about sections of your social media pages.
  2. Figure out which social media platforms to focus on. For example, we’ve found that we have the most engagement on Facebook and Instagram, so that’s where we spend most of our time. Our audience consists of mostly camper parents and adults who are interested in military-related causes and love Facebook! Instagram is also a great tool because it allows us to visually share the impact that Camp Corral has on military children. Understanding who your audience is, how they use a certain platform and the benefits of each platform is critical to the content you post. Most businesses use Facebook as their primary social media tool, which seems like a smart decision considering more than 1.9 billion people around the world use Facebook on a monthly basis. However, for some organizations Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest suit their needs better. Additionally, it is worth noting the old adage of quality over quantity definitely applies when it comes to social media accounts. Don’t feel as if you need to have a presence on five different social outlets just because you can, focus on one or two and truly build your presence and following. Don’t spread yourself too thin and use each platform appropriately and fittingly.
  3. Maintaining a consistent stream of content will help keep your audience engaged. Whether you post once a week, every other day, or once a day, keep a routine that your audience becomes familiar with and make sure you are staying on top of their mind – you don’t want them to go several weeks without seeing content from you. While posting routinely is a pretty simple way to ensure your presence is consistent, establishing a voice for your brand is more difficult – but even more vital. A loosely defined set of words, terms and attitudes should flow across each post; this will not only attract your audience’s attention but over time, they will begin to recognize and connect with your content.
  4. Create a content calendar. Spend some time once a month planning daily posts. Be sure to mix it up—share stories about your impact, volunteers and donors; thank corporate sponsors; inspire your followers to make a donation. By creating a content calendar, you don’t have to worry about what to post next. Know your schedule and be abreast of any happenings within your company that would make for good content. By doing this you can post with ease and stress less about what to share. It’s also important to know what resources are available to you; how you utilize them can be a big factor in the success of your accounts. Whether it’s a scheduling tool like Hootsuite, new camera equipment or the CEO dropping in, always be thinking about how to leverage the tools at your disposal and seek out resources that will help you do a better job.
  5. Consider boosting some of your posts on Facebook. It’s doesn’t cost much and is a great way to reach more people. We’ve found that boosting posts drives traffic to our website and often results in donations. Boosting your posts is a cheap and efficient way to deliver your content to an audience that is relevant, but potentially unaware of your business. Boosting a post can make a potential post go from hundreds of views, to over a thousand.
  6. Post in real time. Tell your followers what’s happening right now at your nonprofit, especially if it’s something out of the ordinary, such as a special event. Be timely with these posts and make sure to post about an event that day, not a week later. Don’t limit yourself to only post in real time for big events, find something cool that is going on like a brainstorm session that you can capture and share. This will help keep your social media pages active, engaging and entertaining for your audience.
  7. Thank your donors on social media. This certainly doesn’t replace thank you notes and calls to donors, but it’s a great way to recognize their support and encourage another donation. Social media is just that, social, it’s a way for people to communicate about the things they do, the causes they are passionate about and just about everything else in between! So, of course a donor will retweet your post recognizing them for their continued support and when they do this, your content is shared to their audience

Social media is a valuable tool for any organization, especially for nonprofits. You can communicate with one person or a group of 200,000 people scattered across the world at little to no cost. You just have to use it right.


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