Most nonprofits understand that social media offers an increasingly powerful channel for communicating with constituencies, soliciting donations and promoting their cause. Nonprofit social media marketing is growing three times as fast as email. Email lists owned by nonprofits increased 11 percent in the previous year, according to HubSpot’s Social Media Benchmark Study’s 2015 report. Their Facebook and Twitter followers grew 42% and 37%, respectively.
While almost all businesses market through social media, nonprofits have different needs that often call for different strategies. Many, especially small and medium nonprofits, suffer ongoing staff shortages that complicate communications efforts.
Experts offer these recommendations to nonprofits trying to reach audiences and raise donations through social media networks.
Ask questions. Almost three-quarters of nonprofits use social media as a megaphone to announce their events and other activities, instead of seeking out conversation, according to a Case Foundation survey. However, posts ending with a question mark gain twice as many likes, comments and shares as those ending with a period, social media experts say.
“Moving away from this mentality—a simple change in perspective and strategy—could make a big difference in social media results,” writes Kevan Lee at Buffer.
Mix it up. Formulas that advocate sharing particular ratios of promotions, shares, curated content may be inappropriate for nonprofits. Steven Shattuck at HubSpot advocates a three-part system called the “three A’s” for nonprofits:
• Appreciation. One-third of your social updates recognize donors, supporters, volunteers and employees.
• Advocacy. One-third of posts engage with others and share content of other groups or nonprofits that are relevant to your niche.
• Appeals. One-third solicit donations or help
Lack of staff may be the biggest social media marketing challenge for nonprofits. Half of nonprofits have one full-time or part-time person handling social media, according to a 2014 Case Foundation survey. With staff shortages common, it’s important to work as efficiently as possible. An editorial calendar can help plan and organize activities.
Nonprofits, especially small and medium nonprofits, can be more successful by focusing on quality rather than quantity, says fundraising expert Claire Axelrad. Don’t fret over articles that say you must post three times a day on Twitter, five times a day on Facebook and so forth, she advises in Maximize Social Business. Instead, select a few key platforms to post to consistently — but not necessarily abundantly. A comprehensive social media marketing plan that outlines goals, networks and posting frequency, she adds, will help guide your efforts.
Tell stories. Success stories, especially lasting, effective accomplishments convince people to donate to your cause. “Tell stories wherever you can – especially where you know your donors hang out,” Axelrad stresses. “The more you tell, the better donors feel. Especially when you make them the hero of the stories!”
Track your social media mentions. Monitor and analyze your followers. They might offer significant influence in an important area to you or have many followers you can reach out to. A social media listening service helps staff avoid spending time manually monitoring social media.
Bottom Line: Nonprofits can reap substantial benefits through social media marketing, including improved communication and most importantly more donations. Because goals of nonprofits differ from businesses, success calls for different strategies.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.