Social media can be an invaluable tool for nonprofit organizations. These online sharing sites allow you to disseminate information and promote your organization for free, which is a big plus for most cash-strapped charities.
However, it is becoming more and more difficult to cut through the social media noise without paying for advertisements. Luckily, you can get a pretty good bang for your buck if you do decide to go that route and spend a bit on social media promotions. The available tools allow you to more effectively reach your target audience for less cost than most traditional forms of marketing.
But before you do any of that, there are some tricks to increase your reach without spending anything on ads and prepare your institution for online marketing success.
How to Use Social Media to Your Advantage as a Nonprofit
Regardless of whether you intend to spend money boosting Facebook posts or trying to get more followers on Instagram, you’ll want to ensure that your social media accounts are regularly updated with relevant content and that you have a strategy going forward. Below are some techniques you can use to increase interest in your nonprofit and drive social media engagement.
Determine which platforms make sense for your organization.
There are literally hundreds of social media sites online. You cannot and should not try to manage more than a few different accounts, especially if you are a small nonprofit with a limited staff. Before you do anything else, visit our article, “Small Business Social Media Tips,” for help sorting through the main sites and determining which ones should be the focus of your energies.
Set up a monthly content calendar.
You should have someone dedicated to managing your social media, whether that be a staff member, intern or volunteer. Just be sure to set up a regular schedule of when posts will go out and what the content will be. You can use tools like Hootsuite or Buffer to batch and schedule a bunch of posts in advance, which is much more efficient than trying to do it daily. Someone should be checking the accounts at least once daily though to respond to any comments or inquiries.
Tell stories with plenty of images.
The most effective posts will tend to be those that tell a story about someone who has been helped by your organization, a feature on a star volunteer, the tale of how your nonprofit came to be, and so on. This is where video and slideshows can be invaluable in attracting interest and viewer engagement. Human stories with plenty of photos, particularly featuring faces, are your best marketing tool. A study from Georgia Tech showed that Instagram photos of faces received 38% more engagement (likes) than photos without.
Increase your post shares and attract attention to your page by doing a contest. The possibilities are endless and need not cost much money. For instance, you could offer, “Free admission to our charity ball for the person who shares the best pet photo and tags @SpringfieldASPCA!” or, “Share this video before Dec. 15 and $1 will be donated to the Bloomtown Children’s Hunger Fund on your behalf!”
Jump on trending hashtags.
If you are using Twitter or Instagram, your social media manager should be keeping an eye on trending hashtags and brainstorming ways to use them to your advantage. Some hashtags will be very fleeting, but others you can anticipate, like around certain holidays.
For instance, after Thanksgiving, many people post about how they are #stuffed from #toomuchturkey and have tons of #leftovers. Could you use those hashtags to draw attention to people who don’t have enough to eat? Or if you provide technology to those who can’t afford it, keep an eye on when the next iPhone is set to be released and use trending hashtags like #NewiPhone, #iPhone13, etc. to promote the fact that there are those who can use the old phones people may be discarding. Think about your nonprofit’s mission and how you might tie into topics that people are talking about online.
Create your own hashtags.
This is another important way to increase your social media presence. Many organizations create a hashtag that encapsulates their brand. This could be as simple as your name or acronym, like #OhioFarmersCoalition or #OFC. Or it could be a phrase/tagline like #LiveUnited (for the United Way). Just be sure that it isn’t already being used by another online entity or company.
If you have a big upcoming event, it’s also a good idea to create an event-specific hashtag like #Grafton2020CancerRun. Encourage people to use it when talking and sharing about the event online. You will be able to see what people are posting and saying online before and after the event and it will most likely present you with great content to re-share, amplifying the impact of your event.
On Twitter, you can create a formal poll that calculates votes/submissions as they occur. On other platforms, you may need to simply post a question or a graphic and request feedback in the comments. Share an article and ask for opinions. Do a mix of serious and fun posts. Interactive posts generate more engagement on your page and lead to much better performance of your account over time.
Share news related to your institution.
Use your social media accounts to follow and share breaking news stories relevant to your cause, adding your own perspective or examples of how it may affect your organization. Keep your followers informed of news in your field and show that you are informed, forward-thinking and aware of trends.
These are just a few ideas for improving the performance of your social media efforts. The key is to try a mix of content, see what is generating the most interest and continually refine your strategy.