We’re far enough into the twenty-first century now that every nonprofit organization knows they ought to be on social media. It offers unprecedented opportunities to expand your outreach, encourage donations, get volunteers, organize events, spread awareness, and share your story.
And you can do all of that for free. If you know what you’re doing.
And that’s the tough part. You probably have a decent foundation in using one or two social media platforms – but those might not be the best ones for your organization’s needs. Even if they are, do you need to be on others? And how do you learn? Getting to know the in’s and out’s of a new platform can feel like a full-time job – and you’ve already got one of those.
But the benefits of getting it right are too much to pass up. Back in 2014, the ALS Association nearly tripled its annual funding when the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral. If you stay on top of the trends and focus your efforts on the right platforms, opportunities abound.
With that, here are our 7 tips for social media marketing to really kick your nonprofit into high gear.
1. Figure out your target audience
You’ve probably already done this, but if you haven’t, now’s the time: decide who you want to talk to. We always recommend putting together a donor profile – an imagined person who is the ideal recipient for your organization’s messaging. The more info you can put together about the people who donate to your nonprofit, the better you can tailor your message to appeal to them. That means not just basic demographic information (age, education, family), but also psychographic information (interests, opinions, preferences).
Things to think about:
- How old is your audience?
- What do they do for a living?
- Have they donated to other organizations in the past?
- Why do they donate to your organization?
- What are their opinions and interests?
- What kind of online content appeals to them?
- When do they check social media?
The better you understand the people who share your concerns and who are likely to give to your organization, the less you need to worry about starting from the ground floor when you make the case that your organization’s cause is important.
2. Choose the platforms that reach them
Now that you know something about who you’re trying to reach, figure out which social media platforms they visit the most. Don’t just join every platform you can; a well-cultivated presence on just one or two social media sites works better – and is more manageable – than shallow efforts at all of them.
For instance, if your organization loves to tell human-interest stories about your community and your impact, Instagram carousels are the ideal place to capture those intimate narratives. But if you’re about fast growth and mobilizing volunteers and organizers, a more rapid-response platform like Twitter or Facebook is likely a better investment. And, of course, if you’re interested in developing a deep culture around your organization’s mission, TikTok and YouTube are still leaders in making moments – and organizers – go viral. Picking the right platform depends on what kind of content you want to share and what audience you’re trying to reach.
- What do your typical donors look like, demographically? Are they older? Younger? Middle-aged?
- What motivates them to give to nonprofits?
- What kind of content do they interact with online?
- Are you planning to run a hashtag campaign?
The more you can figure out these details ahead of time, the better equipped you’ll be to adapt to the platforms you choose.
3. Set a strategy
This may sound intimidating at first, but don’t worry – you’re not building the Roman Empire, you’re just putting together a social media plan. Set some achievable goals, give yourself a deadline, then figure out how to measure what you’ve accomplished.
The name of the game here is to have goals that are SMART:
If your goals are too abstract, it’ll feel like you can’t achieve them. And if you can’t measure them, you’ll never know when they’re done. For example, don’t say you want to grow your total number of followers on Facebook: say you’ll get 200 new followers by the end of the month. SMART goals give you discrete goalposts and concrete ways to measure your progress, so you can keep track of your wins – big and small.
Also, remember to put together goals for different timelines. What can you achieve this week? What about this month? Or this year? Put together a few different timelines so you can look at your small- and big-picture goals simultaneously.
Maybe you only gained 10 followers this week, but the people who do follow you are commenting more and sharing your posts more often. That’s a success! Setting appropriate long- and short-term goals will help you recognize those wins when they come.
4. Schedule those posts
Okay, so you’ve figured out which platforms you’re going to use and who you’re trying to reach. Now put together a social media schedule: decide when and how often you’re going to post this powerful, engaging content.
Remember when we asked what time your typical donor is online checking their social media? Well, this is why. Certain times of day are better for posting than others.
Remember that joke you posted last week after dinner – one of your best, really, the kind of zinger you come up with maybe once a month at best. It only got 12 likes! But that random cat meme you posted at 1 p.m. the next day got 37 likes, 12 comments, and one of those little hug emojis.
That’s because when you post actually matters. On Facebook, for example, you’ll generally get more engagement on weekdays in the late morning and early afternoon, when most people are at their computers sneaking a peek at Facebook.
But there’s also going to be a lot of trial and error. Try posting at different times to see when your audience is most likely to engage. Track your results so you can learn what times work best. Remember: measurable goals!
5. Get ‘em talking
There’s more to social media marketing than just racking up the likes. You want to get people commenting on your posts and talking with each other. And you especially want to get people sharing your content with their friends and followers – that way other people can come across your organization organically.
One strategy is to pose a question – solicit feedback from your followers so they don’t just scroll right by your post. It might feel hokey at first, but trust us, it works – and if you stay true to your own voice while you’re doing it, it won’t seem artificial.
The more often people interact with your post, the more the algorithms will boost your brand in your followers’ feeds. When they like what they see, they see what they like. Nowadays, it’s about letting your audience do the work for you.
But remember: don’t just sit back and let your audience have all the fun. Once people are commenting, make sure you genuinely respond to them, especially when they have a question, compliment, or complaint. About 40% of consumers expect organizations, nonprofits included, to respond to their questions and queries on social media within an hour, so you need to stay on top of your responses.
6. Make it gorgeous
You’ve heard a picture’s worth a thousand words, right? Well videos are worth even more! Any kind of visual content will help your posts stand out – whether it’s photos, gifs, illustrations, infographics, etc. But video content is king because it grabs our attention quickly and it creates a human connection with your organization.
That’s why YouTube is the single most-used social media platform in the U.S. and TikTok, which is also entirely video-based, is growing by leaps and bounds. 70% of TikTok users report they feel a deeper connection with people they interact with on the platform. And while it has a reputation for popularity among younger people, 53% of its users are 30 years old or older.
Now that average people are walking around with the technology to record 4K video right in their pocket, there’s no excuse not to devote some time to figuring out how you can incorporate video marketing into your social media strategy.
For now, if you’re still just sticking to photographs, remember: real-life photos of people usually get higher engagement. Think about it: when you find old vacation photos, which ones do you spend the most time looking at? Do you delight in discussing the flying buttresses on that old cathedral? No. You laugh at the tacky shirt your brother was wearing; you remember talking to that old woman at the museum – the one who knew all about medieval oil paintings.
In short, photos of people drive more engagement, and videos of people do even better. So figure out how to incorporate people into your content.
And on that note…
7. Tell your story
When you’re trying to persuade people, it’s tempting to break out the facts and figures. And don’t get us wrong, a few well-presented numbers can do a lot. But the real way to win someone over is to tell them a story.
For instance, in 2020 when Big Sea partnered with Champions for Children, a Tampa Bay nonprofit that provides support services for families in need, we focused on crafting a clear campaign narrative that would be consistent across multiple channels. We focused on the impact the pandemic had on already vulnerable families in the area. Unifying and clarifying the organization’s story led to a 115% increase in revenue and a 145% increase in unique donors.
That’s why it’s important to give concrete examples of the people and communities your nonprofit has helped. Introduce your founders and members and talk about what motivated them to get involved in the first place. Everyone has a story to tell. When you figure out how to tell the right stories about your organization and its mission, you’ll get others excited – and they’ll want to become part of that story themselves.
One last tip for good measure: start today! Look at any of your organization’s content, scroll back a few years, and you’ll find they didn’t have all the pieces in place when they began. With these tips, you can start getting your content out there, even if you’re not completely ready yet. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, especially when you’re first starting out – the more you work at it, the better you’ll get.
The Most Popular Social Media Platforms in 2022
And in case you’re still cruising social media channels, here’s a brief snapshot of which platforms might work best for your nonprofit. Here are some of the basics to keep in mind when you’re picking platforms:
You can’t beat a classic. With nearly 3 billion users worldwide and 240 million users in the United States, it sometimes feels like everyone’s on Facebook. Seven out of 10 U.S. adults use it – more than just about any other social media platform (they’re coming for you, YouTube).
In recent years, Facebook has gotten a reputation for skewing older, though the primary demographic is still between the ages of 25 and 35. That said, though, the platform’s teenage user base has been decreasing, and about 50% of people over 65 use Facebook, which is way more than you’ll find on TikTok or Snapchat.
While it’s owned by the same parent company as Facebook, Instagram skews younger: 62% of users are between the ages of 18 and 34 – a range that includes both Gen Z’ers and younger Millennials. It’s also one of the only platforms that’s split almost 50/50 along the gender binary. Instagram won’t turn your URLs into clickable links, which means you’ll need some creative workarounds if your primary goal is to drive traffic to your website.
Unlike Instagram, Twitter leans heavily toward male-identifying users, who account for 70% of tweeters. Only about one in five U.S. adults use Twitter – much fewer than some of the other platforms we’ve looked at. Twitter’s users also report higher levels of formal education and tend to lean more toward the Democratic Party in political affiliation.
Earlier, we mentioned the importance of video – which is one of the reasons why TikTok has exploded in the past few years. Between 2018 and 2020, TikTok’s user base in the U.S. grew by almost 800%. The lightning-fast, swipe-based app is particularly huge with the youngest demographics: nearly 50% of their active users are between the ages of 10 and 29.
Don’t forget about the O.G. of O.V.P.s (Online Video Platforms). You might not think of it as social media, but don’t forget about YouTube. It’s just as dependent on interactivity as the others; it’s driven by posts, likes, shares, comments, and followers/subscribers.
Over 80% of U.S. adults watch YouTube – that’s more than use any other social media platform – and among millennials it accounts for more than two-thirds of all online video watched across all devices. That’s a lot of people watching a lot of content, and many nonprofits have begun to take notice: 57% of people who watch nonprofit videos on YouTube go on to make a donation, and nearly 70% view similar videos within a month.
Build the perfect team
Social media is a rapidly evolving ecosystem – new species are popping up all the time. It’s opened up unprecedented opportunities for nonprofits to get their message out into the world. But good golly, there’s a lot of new tech to maneuver. It’s hard to level-up your specializations when you’ve got, you know, a mission to complete.
That’s why it’s important to work with partners who understand your organization’s needs – folks who can help tell your story and engage the audiences you need to reach. Contact us to learn more about our expertise in nonprofit digital marketing, and to find out how we can help you tackle social media – and get results doing it.