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Social Media Strategies for Nonprofits

While simply getting your voice out there is a good first step — especially if you’re short on time and resources — you do want to make sure that anything you are posting on social media is worth the effort you’re putting into it. As you consider how to approach your social media activities, take the following fundamental strategic building blocks into account.

Most communications departments, especially in the nonprofit space, can feel stretched for resources, and team members often wear multiple (if not all) hats. According to a 2017 nonprofit trends reports, on average, nonprofits have one full-time communications staff member for every eight employees. The result being that when push comes to shove, social media isn’t a top priority. 

As you divvy out what precious time you do have to dedicate to social media, don’t forget that there is a lot of value that can come from it. A study by the Center for Social Impact Communication at Georgetown University found that social media was respondents’ top source of information about the causes they support. So be as strategic as you can — it is worth it! 

The following list is a good starting point in setting up your social media strategy. If you can aim to touch upon each item in at least some small way, then you’re already on your way to having an effective social media approach.

Set Goals That Align with Your Mission

It all starts with the understanding that a strategy is more than just posting. You may push out a message or two, but are they actually contributing to your overall digital strategy? And taking it one step further, do they align with your organizational mission?

Start by mapping your overall goals to your social goals. For example, if your aim is to become better recognized as an expert in your field, then set brand awareness goals. Doing so will allow you to then apply the direct tactics (and messaging) to promote you as such.

Use the Channels That Your Audiences Prefer

Take away the peer or self-imposed pressure of needing to be active on every single channel. Maybe your target audience isn’t a big fan of LinkedIn or SnapChat, so why invest precious time there that could be better used elsewhere? Your impact will be greater if you can focus on where you audience is active.

Start by researching where your biggest influencers hang out. Are they primarily on Twitter? Which social groups are they a part of? How much engagement are they getting, and where? Based on where your audience is most active, you’ll be able to decide where to invest your time. For example, you may share research content on Facebook to promote your nonprofit, while using Instagram to share team photos to promote your organization’s culture.

Define How You’re Going to Measure Success

You want to make sure that the efforts you are investing in social media are giving you the targeted results that you are looking for. This is where Key Performance Metrics (KPIs) come into play. 

Using your social media goals as a base, map a KPI to each one of them. If your goal is to promote thought leadership on Facebook, your KPI might be reaching 10 likes per month for those posts. If your goal is to increase engagement with your nonprofit’s brand, your KPI might be 75 new newsletter subscriptions per quarter.

Learn From What Others Are Doing

Look at other nonprofits who are similar in structure to yours, or trying to achieve a similar and valuable mission. Having a strong sense of what like-minded groups are doing and saying on social media will go a long way in helping you craft effective content.

Start by seeing what is working well for them, what isn’t, and learn as much as you can about how your common audience is responding to it. While it will be important in keeping you informed, it will also save you time from having to test everything out yourself. For peer organizations, see where and how you can directly interact with their content; this will help you to stay connected greater conversation.

Build Out Your Content

With a good sense of the above (goals, metrics, audience platform preferences, and peer organizations), you are more than ready to start cracking out valuable social content that speaks to your audience and moves the needle forward.

When building content, as much as you can, try to vary both the format (text, images, video) and content types (interviews, reports, blogs). Too much of the same ‘look’ can get old quickly. And of course, research and include relevant hashtags wherever possible.

Set a Schedule and Stick to It

Setting a schedule is going to make all of this so much easier. Sticking to a social media schedule, or editorial calendar, may feel hard to commit to, but it’s going to both make you more efficient, and allow you to post things when your audience is most likely to engage with it.

There are a lot of great tools out there to do this. Some are platform specific (e.g., Tweetdeck), but my favorite ones are those where you can schedule it all out in one place (e.g., Sprout Social). Some tools are free, others are not; see what makes the most sense for you.

Track and Optimize Your Approach

While it may require what feels like an extra investment of time, schedule yourself at least one hour a month to sit down and look at the numbers. You can’t report success, or get better, if you don’t know what happening.

For a base look of how your social platforms are performing, the tools themselves provide a good breadth of data for you to analyze. Do more of what’s working, cut out what’s not, and try new things to become even more effective.

The Big Takeaway

Above all: be as strategic as you can and use the time that you do have to spend on social as wisely and as effectively as you can. If you can check off even one or two of the above items, that’s already a really good start. If you can hit them all, then all I can say is: keep it up, rockstar!

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