Social Media for Nonprofits: Developing Your Strategy
Your online presence is the virtual meeting ground for your community. Through your various social media profiles, you are able to share photos regularly with users, interact with your subscribers, and spread awareness of your brand. Each platform offers its own methods of connecting with wide ranges of people, and each platform has its own niche communities.
In this increasingly digital age, we have all been presented with the opportunity to create a consistent picture in the minds of viewers as to who we are and what we do. It has truly never been easier to share the work of your mission with the world, which is a huge goal for many nonprofits. The wider your reach is, the more you can create projects that ultimately change the world for the better.
Nonprofit communication is an extremely useful method of staying in tune with your donors or supporters. Social media for nonprofits is an extensive tool, so having a plan to maximize its features can help you make the most of it.
- Why is Social Media Strategic for Nonprofits?
- The Basics of Building a Social Media Strategy
- Pick the Correct Channels
- Create Valuable Content
- Track Your Success
- Helpful Tools
- Find Inspiration
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Why is Social Media Strategic for Nonprofits?
Social media helps nonprofits accomplish a lot of different goals at once. With a great content strategy, you can:
Raise awareness about your nonprofit and its mission
Connect with your current donors, potential donors, and members
Publicize events and gain more volunteers
Interact with other nonprofits
What Does it Take?
To keep your social media active and engaging, any good content strategy for nonprofits should have:
Communication goals. These can be as simple as the number of posts you make each day, or the percentage increase in membership engagement you would like to see by the end of some time interval. (More on this later!)
High-quality content, like photos, blog posts, and videos, which you share with users on a regular basis.
The time commitment to interact with your followers. That means replying to comments, featuring content from followers, and interacting with other nonprofits.
Salma is ready to dive into social media for nonprofits!
Your nonprofit’s communication strategy can benefit a lot from social media, but if not done properly, it can end up being a misuse of resources. Take a look at the sections below to learn how you can maximize your social media presence, and make having one worthwhile.
The Basics of Building a Social Media Strategy
As you plan for the long haul of your nonprofit marketing plan, follow these important steps to ensure that you have the basics covered. We here at Springly speak often about taking the time to plan, plan, plan! When you rush into a project, whether with nonprofit email or social media, you cannot avoid missing important points and opportunities. While it can be tempting to skip some of the lengthier or tedious tasks, it is important to do things with purpose. That way you do not have to make up for any errors or gaps later on.
Try not to cut corners, and use this list as a preliminary guide. If you check all of these boxes, you will be on the right track to generating engagement across all of your various platforms.
Define Your Target Audience
Who is your ideal supporter? In other words, who is most likely to become an avid follower of your cause? With some careful research you can gain insights into who is already showing interest in your nonprofit, as well as who is inclined to. Analyze your existing customer base to find similarities in their professions, their hobbies, their age ranges and locations. You may choose to conduct interviews with long-standing supporters to understand the reasons for their continued involvement. Not only should you find out what they love about your organization, and look for overlapping testimonies, but try to pinpoint your target audience’s age, location, profession, hobbies, and other interests.
This helps many nonprofits in two ways. Firstly, it allows you to get valuable feedback on all the work you are already doing. You can see what is working in real time, and you can get answers to specific questions about your supporters’ user experience. Secondly, it allows you to have an understanding of what kind of content will likely perform the best.
Online communications can sometimes feel impersonal, so all the information you collect can ultimately help you manage your online communications with more ease. During this period, your purpose should be to gather as much data as possible on the people who are the most likely to generate an interest in your unique cause. This allows you to ensure that your messages are targeted enough. If they are not, they might not have an effect on anyone. By trying to appeal to everyone with your posts, you will actually appeal to no one.
Once you know who your target audience is, the next step is to define a few social media goals. Choose two or three goals that are easily measured and set the metrics. Focus on finding a happy medium between setting goals that are too ambitious and those that are too simple.
When you have predetermined goals in place, your future actions are more straightforward. There are certain actions to take to achieve each goal, and they become the bullet points on your to-do lists. That means you always know what to do next.
Make sure your goals are concrete, and not arbitrary. In addition, set specific targets for each profile on various platforms. Steer clear of generalized objectives, such as "increase our online traffic." Instead, opt to pinpoint exactly how much traffic you are looking for.
Set goals like "create a Facebook page that generates 100 likes by the end of ___." This way, you know exactly what your goals are with each step you take, allowing you to walk with purpose. This also keeps your entire team aligned on your vision!
Pro Tip: Do not forget to make your goals SMART. In order to be effective, every goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Remember, tangible goals equal tangible actions!
Plan in Advance
Here at Springly we live and die by our content calendar. A comprehensive calendar is a useful tool we use to plan social media interactions and other internal and external content. If you want to create one for your organization, you may be wondering what exactly should be included. At a minimum, ensure your calendars contains:
What content you are planning
Where you plan to share that content
When you are going to post the content
Who is responsible for posting the content (for organizations with larger content teams)
As you create your calendar, remember to plan posts at least 3 weeks in advance in order to have time to prepare, write, and validate the content. You will be glad to have more time to breathe and prepare the next series of posts without rushing. Note that it might be useful to use color coding to help you understand key aspects of the calendar at a glance. More specifically, the times and dates that you intend to post.
It is good to spread your posts out over a span of different times to reach the widest variety of people, and also to land in favor of the algorithms. Various platforms allow you to plan your posts ahead of time in a built-in queue (we’re looking at you Facebook!). Once you set your calendar, it will be easy to go through and plug in all the posts in order to add them to the schedule.
Ensuring that your posts are pre-loaded takes a lot of the stress out of social media management. It also gives you more time to focus on the important stuff, like event planning or staff administration. It creates a structured approach that you track over time, allowing you to map out future plans for your social media growth.
Create a Social Media Policy
Your social media policy should be a clear guide about how to approach self-conduct on any of your social media channels. Developing a social media policy can serve as an outline for anyone who is creating content for your site. Not only does it provide guidance around tonality, the policy offers important guidance on passwords and platform access and the overall chain of command of the content team. All the members of your organization should understand and follow these guidelines.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, it protects your organization’s image, and increases your brand consistency. When people associate a certain style of communication with your name, they are more likely to remember you. When you pair that with specifically chosen pictures, posts, and comments, it creates more comfortability between you and your audiences.
Pro Tip: Remember that consistency is vital when it comes to social media. For example, if your environmental organization posts a list of the five most environmentally harmful things about travel today, sharing photos of your board drinking bottled water as they are about to board a plan to an off-site board strategy meeting is not the best idea! Yes, that is an extreme example but hopefully it will drive home the point that while you can adjust your messaging as you go, people often notice things that are not consistent.
It also ensures that no one will speak to your audience in ways that either misrepresent or create a poor reputation for your brand. While it is unlikely that anyone would ever do this on purpose, it can accidentally happen if we do not re-read something thoroughly enough. Be sure you utilize plenty of resource websites for nonprofits as you build your style guide.
Pick the Correct Channels
Set aside time to review your goal with your target audience in mind. That means avoid wasting time trying to land in a market where you will not actually find your audience! For example, if your supporters are not on TikTok you do not need to worry about making TikToks (even if it is extremely popular). Sometimes, organizations believe they must make content for every popular platform in order to have a full content strategy, and this is simply not true.
Emily is taking notes on all these social media tips!
The social media platforms you choose should be the most likely options for reaching your goals, so choose carefully. Each platform has its own communities and communication styles, and if your social media policies do not mesh well with their trends, it might be best to steer clear. For example, if you do not create a lot of videos, you may not need a YouTube profile.
Start with one or two channels before you move on to the rest. This way you can get the hang of creating content, regularly tuning in, tracking your progress, and reaching your goals before you stress yourself out creating content right and left. It also makes your strategies much simpler because you can really narrow it down to what works on a particular platform.
Pro Tip: If you deeply value the ability to interact with other organizations and participate in global conversations, Twitter might be a great option. Retweets allow you to agree publicly with the sentiments of another nonprofit, or influencers. LinkedIn is also wonderful for this, and there are plenty of forums filled with opinions from professionals in the industry.
Create Valuable Content
When you bring value to the reader, they are more likely to visit your content in the future and will begin to view you, and your organization, as a thought leader. To create content, it is usually best to put a small team together. Take a look at your stats on pre-existing channels and seek out which content performs the best. What receives the most reactions, comments, or shares? This is the kind of content you should keep making, but in new and creative ways.
Remember to prioritize quality over quantity, and stay in line with your organization’s purpose. All content should aim to provide value over all else. You can educate them on some topic close to your goals, find little ways to warm their hearts, or just speak to them in a friendly and relatable way. Try different types of content and run tests to see what works and what does not. Then iterate on what does work to make it even better.
While value may be the primary goal, do not forget to create powerful graphic designs for your nonprofit. When you combine form and function, your posts are not only worth the time your audience devotes to reading them, they are even more likely to stay engaged throughout the process.
Track Your Success
Similar to tracking how your ads are performing, analyzing the performance of your content on social media for nonprofits can help you to understand the specifics about what works and what does not. Each platform provides data about the social interactions on your content, allowing you to determine whether you are meeting your media goals.
You also will take into account the amount of times each post was shared. Plus, when you review all the different comments, you can connect with people directly in response to their thoughts, whether they are positive or negative.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are metrics tools intended to evaluate the progress that is made towards specific results. A KPI is something that you clearly define, and it serves as a measurable value. This value directly exemplifies how effectively your plans are being executed on a technical basis. Only formulate specific and concise KPIs, and ensure that they relate to a specific business outcome based on the performance of certain tasks e.g., 1,000 page likes.
Additional examples of KPIs for your organization to track are year-over-year growth, your email opening rates, or your website page views. Knowing which metrics to track is not an exact science, so try it out in a few different ways to see how it fits in with your organization. Without them, you do not have any concrete information on whether or not your actions are conducive to your desired results. Sure, you can look at your follower count or your interaction rates and call it a day. However, when you utilize the specifics, you have more control over the time frames in which you are able to meet a variety of different goals.
We know that marketing in general, and social media in particular, is a big job for any organization. Given that most nonprofits tend to have very small teams (or even a team of one) working in this space, we want to offer some insight on some tools that can help you along the way.
Your captions are an important part of every post. StoryLab is an AI that can help you to create super relevant captions for your social media posts. All you have to do is type it in, and this interesting tool does some internet searching to bring you the best caption for the situation. You can try it out for free on their website, with no credit card necessary.
The AI pulls from relevant tags, keywords, or popular trends, and determines the best caption to put your post on everyone’s newsfeed. Who knew the future was this convenient!
Pro Tip: Avoid the strong pull to simply use the caption recommendation "as-is." Use the recommendation as a source of inspiration but ensure you always write your own content!
Canva is a graphic design platform that allows users to create all different types of professional images for your organization.
If you are looking to create flyers, social media posts, infographics or other visuals to create a solid visual brand for your nonprofit, Canva can certainly help.
Eva is loving all these helpful tools!
Rather than sharing links on social media that are full of random letters and numbers, use Bitly to shorten your URL link for you! Not only does it allow you to post the full link, Bitly can also track how many clicks your link gets. To monitor your traffic, be sure to sign up for an account.
If your social media presence spans across several channels, it can become time consuming to manage them all in their respective apps. Being organized sets you up for success in advance. Hootsuite allows you to manage the posting for all of your accounts in one easy-to-navigate place making organization a much easier task.
Sure, it is not a physical tool, but it is one of the most powerful. If you are enjoying yourself as you create cool content for your nonprofit, the audience will feel it. Have fun with it! Hold a good sense of humor, let unfavorable moments roll right off you, and keep things simple. It is sure to be contagious.
While copying is bad, being inspired is good and necessary. There is nothing wrong with taking inspiration from others, so long as you do not steal their work. Analyzing other social media for nonprofit accounts can help you to develop your own plans as you strategize. Always brush up on what organizations are doing and pay close attention to what works. When you see that a post has more traction than others, scroll around and try to see what got people fired up. Channeling that energy into your own work can make it that much more powerful.
Especially if you have a small budget, you are going to want to find inspiration everywhere. When your mind is full of fresh ideas, you are excited about creating new content. As a closing thought, let’s take a look at just an example, with a bit about why they are so powerful.
Making wishes come true is a pretty expensive endeavor. Make-A-Wish grants wishes for children with critical illnesses, no matter how wild. To fund this, the organization relies on regularly showcasing the ways they have impacted the lives of children, and it works. They produce creative and emotional videos of very high quality, allowing them to educate their audience on what donations are funding.
These campaigns have been so effective, they were able to raise more than ten million dollars in 2020.
As an organization that seeks to connect nonprofits in more than 170 countries, they regularly post colorful photos to their Instagram from the different countries they are building connections in (or where their partners are located). They stand especially for climate action, gender equality, and sustainable solutions and utilize Instagram to offer "highlights" for each focus area. This is a great example of utilizing the specific features of a platform to show your audience how you feel.
St. Jude Children’s research hospital has an active facebook page (with a donate button and an active shop). Not only does the organization post regularly, they have an active following with comments, shares, and typically hundreds of likes per post. We also give them a gold star for inclusivity as some posts are in other languages!
Source: St. Jude
The Humane Society of the United States
Another Facebook master, The Humane Society of the United States uses photos and videos to engage their audience. The post below also shows an awareness of their target audience. The call to action is to tweet; however, they are posting on facebook so they made sure to follow up with a comment to give their audience an alternative call to action (in the event they do not have a Twitter account).
Environmental Defense Fund
If you are looking for inspiration while building out your LinkedIn profile, be sure to check out the Environmental Defense Fund’s page. Not only is the organization’s posting cadence fairly consistent, the posts are a mix of employees, partners, fellowship candidates, and other stakeholder organizations.
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💡How do nonprofits use social media?
While there are many different uses, many nonprofits use social media to raise awareness on their cause, gain new members or donors, or even promote advocacy and expertise! Be sure to start your social media journey with a clear set of objectives that you want to accomplish across the various platforms. Find out more.
🔑 Which social media platform is best for nonprofit organizations?
It largely depends on the organization and the target audience. For example, if your target audience is mostly millennials, Instagram or Twitter is a great place to reach them. Find out more.
📝 What should nonprofits post on social media?
Anything that fits your goals! A good place to start is by posting company updates, donation requests, and photos from events. Find out more.