How to Market Your Nonprofit through Social Media: The Basics

Social media participation is a crucial tactic for nonprofit organizations as part of their communication and marketing strategy. As a low cost marketing option, a nonprofit organization’s participation on social media platforms can result in greater exposure to a target audience, increased fundraising, and relationship building with audiences. While many nonprofit organizations have limited funds to devote to paid advertisements and additional staff, by developing and implementing a social media strategy, the organization can market to and engage the public effectively without using higher-cost advertising.* This post will address how a nonprofit can establish a social media presence as well as suggested messaging and a few basic tactics for nonprofits using social media.

Before discussing popular social media tactics for nonprofits, it is important to identify the organization’s target audience and develop goals for a social media strategy. Most nonprofits using social media platforms focus at minimum on Facebook and Twitter, and I recommend including these platforms in the plan. While developing a strategy, the organization should understand the difference between “likes” on Facebook or “followers” on Twitter and actively engaged audiences on these platforms. Instead of using social media platforms to broadcast content at the audience, engage in a conversation with them based on their interests and needs.Field Museum Comments For example, this capture of The Field Museum’s Facebook page demonstrates their ability to engage in a conversation with their community by responding to comments and questions under a post. By posting content that is valuable to the audience and warrants a discussion, the organization can engage with their followers and further educate and inspire them to help the organization and their cause.

A nonprofit organization should first establish a presence on several social media platforms to reach a wide audience. As previously stated, Facebook and Twitter are the most popular platforms for nonprofits, as they possess a very large share of the social media marketplace. In fact, a recent article summarizing nonprofits’ use of social media in 2012 stated that adding Twitter to a donation campaign can result in up to ten times more donation money than using Facebook alone. When determining which platforms to use, it is important to keep a few things in mind, as Danielle Brigida, manager of social media at The National Wildlife Federation, mentions in 101 Social Media Tactics for Nonprofits, “Whenever I’m investigating a new tool, I make sure to consider the time, functionality, and the organizational goal I’m addressing.”

Once a nonprofit organization has established accounts on the necessary platforms, they should ensure branding consistency across the platforms. They should use a consistent and concise username in handles and links. AIGA Chicago Facebook HomeFor example, do not use a generic Facebook page link, but rather brand it to the organization’s name, like this one for the AIGA Chicago chapter: Use the organization’s logo and branding in any visual space on these platforms, and include a link to the website. Additionally, include links to the organization’s social media pages on its website. These are very basic first steps that help the organization’s branding across multiple platforms and prepare the pages for content pushes and calls-to-action.

Inspiring an audience to take action should be one of the main goals of a nonprofit organization’s social media strategy, especially since it can be simple to do. Whether the action takes the form of a donation, volunteering, or simply sharing the organization’s method, a nonprofit should use call-to-action tactics.  Below are some basic but important tactics that successful nonprofits are using.

  • Ask for a donation.

This is the most common fundraising tactic on Facebook.

  • “Share” button on donation page.

Adding a “share” button on a donation page encourages donators to share the fundraising link with others on their social media pages, increasing awareness of the cause and encouraging additional donations.

  • Participate in social media donation days.

#GivingTuesday, a social giving campaign that occurs the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, promoted donating to nonprofit organizations through the aforementioned hashtag. Online donations went from a daily average of $62.00 to over $101.00 on #GivingTuesday.

  • Enable “text to donate” and implement a social media campaign.

Being able to text a code word to a phone number and have the donation amount added to a monthly phone bill is easier and takes less time than inputting credit card and billing address information on a website. Advertising the phone number through a multiplatform social media campaign is a simple and effective way to increase awareness of the easy donation method.

  • Provide unique avatar updates to promote a cause.

BostonStrongRibbonAllow followers to update their avatar with a unique graphic that symbolizes the organization’s cause. For example, create a ribbon or similar tool for people to add to their social media avatars. Their updated avatar will encourage those in their networks to learn more about the cause and therefore increase awareness.

  • Share audience stories.

Ask followers to share their stories related to the organization’s cause. It sparks a dialogue with followers and engages them. The organization could even share the especially touching stories with followers to tap into their emotions associated with the cause. These tactics should help boost engagement with the audience.

By establishing a branded presence on several social media platforms and implementing a social media strategy that includes several of the above tactics, nonprofit organizations can increase engagement with their target audiences, boosting awareness and leading to better fundraising results. The next post on nonprofits and social media will examine case studies and research on nonprofits using social media successfully, as well as more advanced tactics for increasing awareness and call-to-action messaging.

*(If your organization needs assistance in developing a strategy outside of these posts, use the POST method to get started: People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology, which is outlined in 101 Social Media Tactics for Nonprofits: A Field Guide.)


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