Social Media and Nonprofits: Friend or Foe?

Nonprofits today are under more pressure than ever to have a strong presence on social media. But smaller organizations might question how much of their limited time and resources should be devoted to social media management. After all, building a substantial following can be difficult given the high volume of competing content, and staying on top of the rapidly changing trends can pose a challenge for busy nonprofits without dedicated marketing or communications professionals. 

However, most nonprofit professionals agree that the benefits of using social media far outweigh the costs. These platforms help organizations connect with stakeholders, raise awareness, and collect donations. An engaged following can offer a cost-effective way to spread the word about new initiatives, success stories, and fundraising campaigns. Carefully planning your approach to social media can help you get the most out of the time and resources you invest. Here are a few tips to help you develop an effective social media strategy:

  1. Set Clear Goals and Objectives

While social media followers are an indicator of a nonprofit’s potential reach, a large following is not the only measure of success. Smart nonprofits have clear objectives in mind (for example, attracting new donors or bringing in more visitors) and strategically use social media to achieve them. Your organization’s particular goals and audiences will shape the choices you make about where, when, and what to post. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t is an ongoing process—and it’s all part of the fun of managing a nonprofit’s social media accounts.

  1. Choose Actionable Metrics

Many metrics purport to measure social media activity. Not all of them are worth your time, however: many are so-called “vanity metrics” that may look impressive but do not clearly relate to your organization’s progress. Choosing “actionable metrics” that provide information related to your goals is one of the most important aspects of social media management. Popular metrics to consider include:

  • Engagement: The number of times a user interacts with content. Engagement can be measured by the number of likes, comments, or shares that a piece of content garners. Each platform will have different ways to engage, so make sure you are tracking these metrics, whatever they may be, per platform.
  • Reach: The number of unique people who are shown content on a social media platform. Measuring reach and comparing it to engagement (likes, shares, follows, etc.) can help an organization determine how effective its content marketing plan or advertising is.
  • Click-through rate: The number of people who click on content out of the total number of times that content has been shown.
  • Cost per mille (CPM): In paid marketing, the cost per 1,000 impressions (or instances of a user seeing the content, promoted content, or ad).
  1. Know Your Audience

Take the time to research your target audience, including their demographics, interests, and behaviors. Tailor your content to resonate with the people most likely to support your cause, and prioritize platforms where they are most active. You might choose to survey various stakeholders to gain an understanding of their social media preferences. And remember to use your metrics to improve your reach over time.  

  1. Create a Content Calendar

Plan your content in advance and maintain a consistent posting schedule. While most platforms recommend posting between 2-5 times per week, keep in mind that it’s better to post consistently at a rate your organization can maintain than posting frequently for a short time and then becoming inconsistent. And always prioritize the quality of your content over the quantity of posts. Posting irrelevant or low-quality content can turn off your audience.

  1. Focus on Visuals

Visual content tends to perform better than written content on social media. Videos are becoming an increasingly popular communication tool on nearly every platform. While YouTube supports longer videos, TikTok works well for short, informal clips of 15–60 seconds, often accompanied by catchy music. And Facebook and Instagram have options for providing stories and live streaming events like fundraising campaigns. Videos are also a great way to share testimonials and insights from leaders, staff, volunteers, and clients.

       6. Get Inspired by Other Nonprofits

One of the best ways to stay on top of social media trends is to follow other nonprofits and take note of what’s popular on different platforms. Look at organizations of different sizes and check out the accounts of nonprofits that are similar to yours. Over time, you’ll get a feel for what works and what doesn’t, and you’ll find yourself coming up with creative ways to make your own organization stand out from the crowd. 

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