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Jastine Lumbres
by Jastine Lumbres

How To Conquer Social Media For Your Nonprofit (Part 1)

Social media marketing for the modern nonprofit.

As Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO of Likeable has said, the time of fancy banquets and direct mail campaigns have passed. It has been replaced by online marketing. While there are many tools and strategies to tackle online marketing for your nonprofit, social media still stands as one of the most accessible outlets to interact with your donor base. Unfortunately, however, as a HubSpot survey reported in 2014, most nonprofits don’t have a “documented social media strategy” in place. With a donor base that is increasingly tech-savvy, your nonprofit cannot afford the inevitable waste of resources and lost opportunities for engagement because it does not have a strategy in place. In the first installment of this article, we have outlined a few pointers to help you get started on putting together your social media marketing strategy or make a few adjustments to your already established strategy.

How To Conquer Social Media Marketing For Your Nonprofit (Part 1)

Conduct a "360-degree assesment."

First thing's first, assess your nonprofit’s social media presence from all angles, inside and out. Which platforms did your nonprofit sign up on? How would you describe the level of management and engagement with each platform? Are you going to take on more platforms? Have you been achieving the goals you set for using social media? If you’re still starting out with social media, what platforms were you considering? What do you hope to do with social media?

After making that assessment, evaluate your nonprofit’s resources. This is largely dependent on the size of your nonprofit. See how much money is being spent (or not spent) on your social media campaign. If social media isn’t even on the roster, open up conversation with your board and budgeting team to discuss investing in your nonprofit’s social media campaign. The same goes for the staff who have been tasked with managing social media in your nonprofit; touch base with them to see what’s working, what needs improvement, or what isn’t working. If you don’t have anyone specifically handling social media or if you have only one person managing it, take a look at our next point.

Build a social media team or committee.

Going back to HubSpot’s survey conducted in 2014, nonprofits typically have only one staff member managing their social media presence and working that into your nonprofit’s marketing strategy. Placing that kind of work - from posting, to creating posts, to responding to comments, and the other elements involved - on the shoulders of one person means that something is bound to fall through the cracks. 

It’s always better to have back up. Social media is an interdepartmental effort as it covers everything (fundraising, messaging, marketing, donations, etc.) and as such you should take a look at staff members from different committees as possible candidates for your social media team. At its core, your team should be composed, in one part, of people who like technology and are willing to learn how to expand on their knowledge and use of it. Another part of your team should be composed of people who are creative and attentive to current events and what is trending online. Those who possess a combination of these things would make excellent candidates for your social media team.

Set goals and create plans for those goals.

After putting together your social media dream team (or made some adjustments to your current team as needed), talk shop, starting with what you want to achieve with social media marketing. J.D. Lasica of Socialbrite suggests approaching all administrative levels with this subject. Have conversations with them about where your nonprofit would like to be six months from that moment, a year from then, and so on. This will give your team a valuable starting point in discussing plans for your nonprofit’s social media presence and creating specific goals that will address both the present and the long run.

A few common goals from the experts are outlined by Alicia Johnson from sproutsocial which includes: engaging community, acquiring donors, retaining donors, generating brand awareness, and building thought leadership. Some other typical examples of social media goals, highlighted by Julia Campbell of About.com include: raising money, increasing volunteer sign ups, email sign ups, event participation, and increasing traffic to a nonprofit’s website.

It helps to point out, on the subject of website traffic, that although social media is definitely an online marketing tool to take advantage of, it cannot take the place of your nonprofit website. This is a subject that Joe Garecht of The Fundraising Authority addresses, indicating that your home base should be your website with social media platforms functioning as outposts. Social media, according to Garecht, is meant to drive people to the home base of your website in order to achieve goals such as collecting emails for contact lists, building your donor base, getting more subscribers for your newsletter or blog, and establishing relationships with visitors to your website. Speaking of visitors…

Consider your audience.

We’ve discussed in various articles the exercise of audience and demographic building and we’re sure that you already have a target in mind. That being said, after figuring out your target audience and demographic, look into the kinds of social media platforms they use. Stay up to date by being aware of what social media platforms appeal to them and focus your efforts there. For example, as of 2014 Instagram surpassed Twitter in the number of active users, 70% of which are posting from outside of the U.S., according to TechCrunch. This will be more direct, efficient, and cost-effective than joining multiple platforms just for the sake of it. 

If your nonprofit can spare the resources, putting in some other leg work can only serve to help your social media marketing strategy, such as creating “audience personas.” Referring to Bridgett Colling’s (Director of Content Marketing at See 3 Communications) article audience personas are “representations of your ideal supporters based on a combination of demographic data and information about individual members of your target audience.” Simply put, these personas are hypothetical profiles of the people who make up your target audience.

Prior to this, use analytics to figure out which demographics operate on each platform. For example, according to SproutSocial’s study of their own social media platforms they found that in the demographic of gender Twitter followers were shown to be 56% Male and 44% Female and Facebook followers were shown to be 47% Male and 53% Female. Taking those kinds of analytics into consideration, you can create these audience personas, imaginary figures that allow your nonprofit to view things from your audience’s perspective. Using these personas you can attempt to simulate what their experience is with your nonprofit on social media. 

Build your following.

After doing the work of observing your audience and their interactions with social media, build up your following on your own social media platforms by establishing a relationship with your audience. Grow your following through tagging people (staff, volunteers, sponsors, etc.) in posts and visuals and sharing content from other nonprofits or similar and interested organizations. Make sharing your top priority in social media. You should also include links to all social media in emails (newsletters, blogs, website, etc.) and any other correspondence materials being sent out. You can even host a contest or giveaway to draw in new people to your nonprofit.

Tap into your community of followers. Take surveys and polls, ask for their opinions. Be mindful of the fact that your audience is made up of different kinds of groups with different levels of engagement with your nonprofit. Their engagement is highly dependent upon your own investment and approach to your platforms, such as setting up scheduled posts and creating relevant content, both of which we discuss in further detail in this article.  

Remember, as the saying goes, “quality over quantity.” Having a few followers who are actively engaged in your nonprofit is lightyears better than having a large amount of followers who are not contributing, even in small ways.

Pick your platform(s).

You’ve pretty much built the foundation of your social media strategy up to this point. Now, it’s time to pick your platform! To start, Lisa Furgison of Bplans suggests only signing up on two social media platforms.  You should also be aware of what social media platforms other nonprofits are using. The 2015 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report found that Facebook ranks as the No.1 platform used by nonprofits followed by Twitter and YouTube with 97% of charities using Facebook despite the overall important of emails and their nonprofit website, according to Mobile Cause. 

Each platform has its own interface and its own set of pros and cons. Your nonprofit must strategize according to the social media platforms you intend to use and spend the most time on. Be aware, says the Eleventy Marketing Group, that your nonprofit will have to “provide a customized social experience on each network” and as such will have to “customize…levels of expectation” from platform to platform.

The article “Social Media Strategy for Non-Profits: Best Practices for Beginners” provides a few notes on how nonprofits can benefit from social media, platform to platform. With LinkedIn, the article states, your nonprofit can connect with professionals and work with groups that are related to your organization while enabling you to create your own group where you can connect with people who are interested specifically in your nonprofit. With Twitter, you’re working with a “broadcast medium” where visuals, links, and news can be shared and even engaged with instantaneously as opposed to just “passively consuming information.” Lastly, in the case of Facebook, because of the way it is structured, it is like a “digital ‘word of mouth’ funnel” where any posts that you share or create will be shared with your followers’ personal networks, extending your nonprofit’s reach.

Observe the social media climate.

This point in our strategy is pretty straightforward. Keep your finger on the pulse, so to speak, of social media and its movements. See what kinds of posts are being shared, what kinds of content are given the label “trending,” what gets likes, and the other kinds of things that attracts your audience. Your social media team will have to watch the way trends and popular posts evolve online while considering what kinds of images will encourage engagement and sharing on Instagram, what kinds of Tweets are being read and shared by users, or what kinds of links are being opened, shared, and liked on Facebook. Observe what other and similar nonprofits are doing; see what works for and them and follow suit, taking notes from their example and implementing your own take of it into your social media marketing strategy. 

Set up a frequency schedule.

With all of the work that goes into managing your social media presence, having a frequency schedule is a no-brainer. Creating a consistent and timely posting schedule will increase the effectiveness of posts when they go live, help your nonprofit avoid disjointed or seemingly random content, and, of course, keep everyone on track. Ideally, your nonprofit should be posting at least once a day to every platform, keeping in mind the times of the day when certain platforms are receiving the most traffic, something we will expand on further.

Looking ahead...

At this point, you have laid down the foundational elements of your social media marketing strategy. In the second installment of this article, we will address the next important steps: creating content for your social media platforms, policy-making to ensure proper usage of social media in your nonprofit, how to track your social media presence, and a few notes on engagement.

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Jastine Lumbres

Jastine Lumbres
Jastine is Elevate Click's first content writer. She received her BA in English from UC Riverside and Master's in English degree from Claremont Graduate University. She currently lives in Rosemead, CA with her family.

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