When you’re a small or medium-sized nonprofit, keeping up with all the latest developments on social media can seem daunting. Fear not!
You don’t have to do it all.
You simply have to do what you do well.
So if your social media experience has evolved into something of a runaway train – a little bit of this and that, and some half-finished projects that never really gained traction (e.g., how many Pinterest boards and pins do you really have? When is the last time you posted on Google+?) – then now is a good time to take a step back and look at your social media campaigns with a fresh perspective.
Ready to revamp? To lay a strong foundation that integrates well with your other communication strategies? To include the calls to action that will make your social media engagement worthwhile?
You don’t have to do everything I suggest. But do try to choose things you can commit to keeping up with. Donors need to be kept actively engaged.
Frequency and consistency of communication will be your keys to success.
Here are 11 things your nonprofit can easily manage.
Create a written social content marketing plan
Before you do anything with social media, you must begin with the act of writing a comprehensive social content marketing plan. I’ve written in the past about how social media without a content marketing plan sucks. And about how social content marketing is your fundraising rocket booster.
If your content doesn’t speak to your constituents they won’t engage. They won’t answer your call to action. They won’t advocate on your behalf or share your content with their friends. As a result, you won’t expand your constituent universe. You won’t build awareness of your cause. And you won’t develop donor-investors. This is time wasting.
So begin at the beginning. With the quality of your content. Social media is a powerful gift-giving tool. And if you want gifts, you must give them. Spend some time thinking about what you’ve got to give. Stories. How-to tips. Recommendations. Whitepapers. Inspiration. Humor. More helping, less selling. Then make a list of all your gifts, and put them into a calendar.
There are all sorts of reasons why you may choose to give these gifts of content. To raise money. Create awareness. Recruit volunteers. Build loyalty. Begin with your goals, choose tactics for each goal and define how you’ll measure success.
Nonprofit Tech for Good has a three-step process with free templates you can download to get you started. They suggest you allocate four to six weeks to write your strategic plan and create your budget and a system for tracking and reporting success.
Determine your communication frequency
If you can’t publish consistently, it may be better to not publish at all. Okay, I don’t really mean that. But… sort of. Absolutely you must publish. You must communicate. But don’t spread yourself so thin that you wind up with one tweet or Facebook post every month or so. It just makes you look missing in action.
Also, don’t become paralyzed by all those articles and/or infographics you read that say you should post three times a day on Twitter, five times a day on Facebook and so forth. Quality has to come before quantity.
Since every communication can’t be an ask for money (I’ve heard it recommended that you send anywhere from three to seven communications for every monetary solicitation, and I tend towards the higher end; more communication is more when you’re trying to make friends and build loyalty), you need to communicate enough to get your asks in. Imagine you want to make one ask per quarters 1, 2 and 3; four asks in the giving-intensive 4th quarter (assuming you operate on a calendar year). Then you might need to calendar in 21 communications in the first nine months of the year, and 28 in the last three months.
People want to hear from you! Research has found that 53% of donors leave an organization because of its lack of effective communication. You can balance messaging across the communication channels you choose to use, including your website, blog and/or e-newsletter. And, of course, you can do more.
Tell more stories
In a survey of 2,833 donors, Software Advice found that when asked what communications they wanted to receive from nonprofits they support, 60% said they wanted impact and success stories. In fact, donors said their decision to give again hinges on your ability to show lasting, effective accomplishments. And stories are your secret weapon; humans are wired to embrace them. Tell stories wherever you can – especially where you know your donors hang out. The more you tell, the better donors feel. Especially when you make them the hero of the stories!
- Include impact stories in your e-newsletter and/or blog (ideally, at least once monthly; for blogs, at least twice monthly). Establish a schedule up front; deliver on it to show how trustworthy you are. This is a great way to establish your credibility and effectiveness and build donor loyalty. Don’t worry about sending too much mail. Remember folks sign up for your newsletter because they want to be kept in the loop. The less you connect with them, the likelier they will feel disappointed and lose interest in your organization. After analyzing email churn rates, the 2014 M+R Benchmarks Study found that unsubscribe rates drop as nonprofits send more emails (within reason). If you send too few stories guess what happens? Supporters don’t remember opting into your email list, so they hit “delete” or tag you as spam when they suddenly receiving what they perceive to be a “random” newsletter. Also, email addresses change and result in hard bounces (17% of Americans create a new email address every 6 months, and 30% of subscribers change email addresses every year).
- Tell impact stories on social media as action develops, allowing supporters to follow along as your project unfolds. Consider having different voices tell the story through different perspectives (client, family member, care worker, donor, etc). Also consider “transmedia storytelling” – the technique of developing a story across multiple media. For example, this is a way to get folks who are Facebook fans to also become Twitter followers — where they can catch up on the rest of the story.
Here are examples of a story about rescue pets being told simultaneously on the organization’s website, Facebook page and Twitter
Use visuals – pictures really are worth 1000 words
Images are powerful. The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. Plus 90% of the content that enters peoples’ brains is non-verbal. You will generate up to 94% more views if you add visuals and graphics to your content. So do this everywhere. On your website. Your blog. Your e-newsletter. Social media. Don’t be stingy.
There are plenty of sites with free stock photos. Tools like Canva and Pablo make it a lot easier than you might imagine to create graphic images. The increased engagement you get will make it well worth your effort. When you are able to visualize a problem you react viscerally. Your gut gets involved. It talks to your heart. Your heart trumps your head. Every time.
I’m a huge booster of blogs. I’d love to see you make your blog the hub of all your content marketing. Blogs drive folks to your site, inform them about your cause and get them actively engaged in what you do. Next to email, they’re the most mature form of social media. They’ve been around the longest, and they’re pretty tried-and-true. As nonprofit leaders Allison Fine and Britt Bravo remind us in Building Better Nonprofit Blogs, they’re an awesome place for ongoing, substantive conversation that builds sustained relationships. And they’re a great place to get started with social media writing. So that’s my first online channel choice for you. In addition to email.
Pick your social networks
This is the hard part. I said at the beginning that you don’t have to do everything and be everywhere. And I used to tell nonprofits that together with your website and email, just one channel was enough. For starters.
I’m beginning to think differently. In my most recent post here I said:
You say you’re too short-staffed to dedicate person power to digital strategy? That’s like saying you’re too short-staffed to exist. Join the crowd. Stop whining, and figure out a way to work around this. You can download a free report from NTEN which includes case studies from a variety of nonprofits who’ve figured this out, and seven steps for digital strategy success.
The truth of the matter is that we exist in a highly networked, technological world. It’s likely that many of your supporters (and would-be supporters) spend a large part of their waking hours online. So it just makes sense to spend time figuring out where your target audiences get their information. Try a short one question survey and ask them! Once you get results, consider how to be more strategic with your resources.
Rather than doing what you’ve always done, do what you should be doing to meet the demands and live up to the expectations of today’s consumers. Even if you’re small. Because if you don’t, you’re going to stay small.
If you use LinkedIn, claimed your Company Page and keep it current
I highly recommend you have a LinkedIn Company Page because that’s where professionals hang out. You know – folks with jobs and money (aka, likely donors and C-level executives who hold corporate and foundation purse strings). Hopefully everyone who adds your nonprofit as a work or volunteer experience will also feature you on their LinkedIn profile, thus extending your reach. LinkedIn Company Pages are often overlooked by nonprofits, but engagement is often higher than Facebook Pages. You can also connect to LinkedIn Nonprofit Groups where you can begin and join discussions that establish your credibility, build awareness and extend your reach. Too many nonprofits think of Facebook and Twitter and forget about LinkedIn –where you can get an amazingly big bank for your buck. So seriously consider this as one of your social channels, even if you can only manage one or two. You can find lots of great ways to leverage the power of LinkedIn here.
Don’t keep your channels to yourself.
Once you’ve settled on the online communications channels you can handle effectively, don’t keep it a secret! Incorporate a “call to follow” in everything you publish. This means prominent share buttons on your website home page, website landing pages, blog, e-newsletter, email signature and thank you emails. Don’t forget a “share by email” button. It’s still the number one way people share blog posts, followed by FB and Twitter.
And don’t just plop the buttons there, expecting folks to know what to do. Tell them! Say the word “follow.” Or try “stay connected.” Not only will this assure that your supporters receive more frequent communications from you, it will also help expand your reach as they share with their networks.
You can also cross promote from one social channel to another.
When it comes to email signatures, how about including a link to your latest blog post using WiseStamp?
At first blush this may seem like a time-saver, but using automated updates is not a good idea. Social media followers want to know they are dealing with a human, not a robot. Plus, if you’re small you can really stand out by taking time to add personal touches to your social media interactions. Refer to people by name. Avoid generic-sounding tweets like “Check out our latest blog;” give a small, specific introduction to your blog’s content and then link to it.
Use a visually compelling avatar consistently on all social networks
This is just good branding. You want your supporters to recognize you across channels so that one message reinforces the next. (The avatar is that tiny picture that represents you or your business on a social media network). Most nonprofits will use a logo.
However, if your CEO is your chief communicator, then their professional profile photo may be a good choice. Make sure you upload the right size image for the social network in question, because uploading an incorrect size can cause the image to blur — or maybe even chop off your head! Most social networks offer editing tools for your avatar.
Stay away from default avatars that make it appear as if no one is home.
Prepare to accept digital payments inside social networks
Facebook added new donate buttons in the wake of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s rolling out slowly, and less than perfect, but you can sign up here to get more information as it becomes available.
NOTE: nonprofits outside the United States will have to wait a little longer for donations inside social networks because there is no international database of legally verified nonprofits that can be used to prevent fraud — the number one obstacle to raising funds online internationally. OnGood is working on such a database through validating nonprofits that use the .NGO and .ONG domains and BRIDGE numbers were recently launched to speed up the process of international validation.
Do you have a 12th way for small to medium-sized nonprofits to stand out, while making social media manageable? Please share in the comments below.