Home » Nonprofit Social Media Strategy: How to Implement a Plan and Measure Success
Do you engage with your community through social media? Does your organization have a social media strategy in place to maximize your return on investment? Many nonprofits have a social media presence, but few have an actionable strategy in place to direct and measure outcomes. So, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for implementing an achievable nonprofit social media strategy, even if you’re short on time. We’ll cover how to set specific goals, the methods that’ll increase engagement, and measurement tools to track social media success.
Having a social media presence can drive growth and even increase your program’s return on investment. Fundamentally, social media acts as marketing for nonprofit organizations. It can supplement email outreach, fundraising events, and other advertising. By implementing social media effectively, nonprofits can gain exposure, increase fundraising efforts and recruit potential volunteers, and even drive social change. In what ways, specifically, do nonprofits use social media? Here are the top five reasons nonprofits employ social media:
Businesses and nonprofits like social media because of its wide reach, trackable impact, and affordability. No matter how small or large your organization, you can boost donations and engage the next generation of volunteers by developing a sustainable nonprofit social media strategy.
It can be tempting to forgo a social media strategy and post on a more ad-hoc basis, like we do in our personal lives. With limited resources and personnel, it’s no wonder a social media strategy falls by the wayside for many. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone! 67% of nonprofits don’t have a documented social media strategy, and less than half of nonprofits using social media are measuring their results. Yet nonprofits are acknowledging the inevitable role social media plays in supporting volunteer programs.
In fact, 50% of nonprofits believe social media is very valuable and another 35% believe social media is moderately valuable. What’s more, less than 5% of nonprofits surveyed believe that social media has no value to them. We know that social media can greatly benefit businesses and nonprofits alike, but in order for social media efforts to be worthwhile, it’s important to implement a strategy that outlines goals, plans, and success tracking. Without a written nonprofit social media strategy or plan, it can be difficult to understand how social media is impacting your program.
Typically, social media is one component of a more comprehensive nonprofit marketing plan. If your organization already has a marketing strategy in place, put aside some extra time to outline a social media plan for your nonprofit. Below, we’re covering everything you need to know about how to develop a nonprofit social media strategy and measure its success.
Below, we detail social media strategies for nonprofits to help propel your organization’s mission, increase volunteerism and boost donations.
Your nonprofit probably has a central goal that governs its operation, and you’re likely to keep this mission in mind as you plan events, organize corporate partnerships, and draft campaigns. If you want a successful, targeted nonprofit social media strategy, you’ll need to treat your correspondence the same way as your mission statement. Just as your organization’s goals drive your mission statement, specific goals should drive your social media posts. Not sure what those goals are? Here are the top six social media outcomes for nonprofits:
When you’ve figured out what you want to accomplish using social media, you can better direct the types of content you will post. It’s important to note that your goals may shift over the course of the week, month, or year. Regardless of your current strategy, just make sure that you keep your endgame in mind while posting. If you do this, your content will be more targeted and you’ll get better results.
Remember that public-facing media will represent the entirety of your organization, its voice, and its brand. Therefore, it’s best practice to involve staff and stakeholders, representing a variety of voices, to formulate objectives and strategy.
Much like identifying the goal of your post, you should set benchmarks that define a successful campaign. Metrics may include:
A few rules of thumb for measuring progress:
Record your metrics using a spreadsheet, with data entry points such as start date, entry data, number of email subscribers, followers, likes etc. Google Analytics is also a great (and free) tool to measure social media website referrals, which will track and report on how volunteers are finding your website (i.e. through Facebook, Google search).
You can use this spreadsheet template as a guide for developing a nonprofit social media strategy and metrics for measuring your organization’s social media impact.
The internet, social media in particular, is a complicated place. So it’s important to establish a social media policy for nonprofit organizations that advises staff and volunteers on how to use the designated social media channels, and to safeguard against inappropriate behavior online. Organizations may choose to conduct training for staff, interns, and volunteers on social media usage and strategy. Documented policy and guidelines should therefore inform social media training for nonprofits.
Use this non profit social media policy template to guide a set of policies and guidelines that work for your organization’s needs.
There are a lot of social media channels out there. So how do nonprofits choose the right one? Diversifying your social media presence is generally a good idea, however some nonprofits don’t have the time and resources to maintain numerous platforms. To start, choose one or two channels to focus on. If you find you’re managing well, feel free to branch out! Sometimes, organizations will post the same content on multiple channels, to reach a wider audience. This is an efficient way to employ multiple social media accounts without overwhelming staff. Which channel is the right one for your organization? Review these social media tips to help you choose:
Which social media channels do nonprofits tend to prefer? Here are the top 5, according to this study:
Let’s break down the benefits and drawbacks of each of these channels, so that your organization can make a more informed decision. Each platform offers best practices and resources on how to use social media for nonprofits; so, be sure to check out the links provided below for specific ways nonprofits can use these tools to boost their marketing efforts.
98% of nonprofits surveyed use Facebook. Facebook is easy to use and has a broad reach–the platform sees 2 billion active users each month and engages the widest demographic of all top social media platforms out there. The company even provides a dedicated platform just for nonprofits. So, if you’re short on time and can only choose one option, Facebook is a smart bet.
Twitter is popular among under-30s. If you’re trying to engage younger volunteers, Twitter is a great option. In fact, it’s the second most popular platform among nonprofits. They also provide resources specifically for nonprofits. Twitter is a fast-paced platform and content must be kept concise (due to the platform’s 280-character post limit). Twitter is also responsible for its share of viral content; it’s a platform for delivering snappy statements, developing your organization’s “voice,” and supporting efficient interactions with your supporters. Because the “Twittersphere” has a short attention span, we don’t recommend your organization relies solely on Twitter to deliver need-to-know information to your volunteers.
LinkedIn is a professional networking tool trusted by businesses, nonprofits, employees, and professionals alike. It’s effective for business-to-business communication, and is a great choice if your organization is looking to strengthen partnerships with universities, local businesses, their employees, and other nonprofits. LinkedIn is also popular among recent graduates and high-income earners. So if your goal is to attract skilled professional volunteers and interns, take advantage of LinkedIn. Not only can you use LinkedIn to source volunteers, interns and employees, the platform also features a post thread, great for sharing content like links, videos, thought-leadership articles, calls to action, and other valuable resources that will engage a professional audience.
Learn more about LinkedIn for Nonprofits.
Instagram is a Millennial and Gen Z favorite. It’s a visual platform (every post must feature an image) and therefore highly engaging. Instagram is a great tool for announcing initiatives, calling for volunteers, and sharing event photos. If you decide to use Instagram, you will want to dedicate more time creating your posts and choosing the right image, as you’re competing to attract the attention of casual scrollers. Instagram users and businesses alike spend significant energy trying to create a visual aesthetic that will engage and inspire followers.
Instead of thinking about your nonprofit’s “voice” (the words you share), you’ll want to consider your nonprofit’s “image” (the types of pictures and images that represent your organization and engage your desired audience). When used effectively, Instagram can bolster positive brand recognition, loyal followers, and shareable content. So if you’re trying to support youth volunteerism and engage the next generation–and you have the time–include Instagram in your nonprofit social media strategy. Note: Like Facebook, Instagram offers a fundraising tool for nonprofits.
Most marketing and social media professionals use a calendar or schedule to plan their posts ahead of time. Social media is most effective when updated regularly. Creating a schedule will ensure you’re posting often enough and switching up your content to maintain engagement.
60% of nonprofits post on social media between 0 and 3 times per week, and 21% of nonprofits post between 4-10 days per week. To keep your supporters engaged, shoot to post a minimum of once per week.
38% of nonprofits spend 1-2 hours per week managing their social media accounts. Around 30% spend 3-5 hours managing their social media accounts. Nearly half of nonprofits using social media have only one person (staff or volunteer) monitoring social media, which many most organizations are operating on limited bandwidth. Assess your capability and goals, keeping in mind where social media fits in to your overall nonprofit marketing plan.
This social media content calendar template will simplify social media management for nonprofits.
A social media strategy for nonprofits should center around engagement to increase their traffic and volunteerism. Therefore, your content should be varied and interesting, while upholding your nonprofit’s social media goals. What kinds of content should your organization post? Keep reading for plenty of social media ideas for nonprofits:
According to this study, internet users are drawn to visuals, and the social media community responds well to images. You’ll generate 94% more post views by adding compelling visual content, so consider incorporating visual storytelling into your nonprofit’s social media nonprofit strategy.
But you’re not limited to photos. Switch up your visuals to include photos, infographics, videos, and other images to keep your channel interesting. Free design tools like Canva are a great resource for creating infographics, ads, logos and more. Here are some examples of visuals you can share in your next social media post:
Engage supporters by sharing content they can interact with. Most social media platforms have a fun way of creating interactive content, such as:
Additionally, embedded in your posts, and in your profile, link to your organization’s website. Link to different pages on your website, like volunteer sign-up pages, event pages, or your “About Us” page. The more traffic your website sees, the more likely your organization is to show up on the first page of Google’s search results.
When it comes to nonprofits and social media, we understand that it may seem implausible to consistently produce new content several times per week. While a majority of your content should be original (and directly related to your organization’s mission), you may choose to occasionally share, “repost,” or “retweet” content created by others. For instance, you may come across an inspiring news story that you think your supporters need to know about, a photo of an adorable animal, or a post from a community partner that you want to endorse. Most social media platforms have a function to share another user’s content. Just make sure you tag the account, ask permission when appropriate, and link to their profile or page.
One way to create lasting engagement is to develop a nonprofit social media campaign, consisting of a series of related posts over a set amount of time. Sometimes it helps to study other successful nonprofit social media campaigns. These nonprofits are #CrushingIt on social media:
Need more inspiration? Check out these organizations that have developed successful social media campaigns for nonprofits.
According to Chara Odhner of Charity: Water, “social media is designed for two-way conversation and that’s when it’s most powerful.” Your job isn’t finished after you’ve uploaded this week’s post. It’s important to engage back with our followers and fans. It’ll build “brand loyalty” and show that you’re listening to what your supporters have to say. Many volunteers use social media channels to ask questions, express interest and share their opinions. Set aside time in your social media calendar to answer questions and respond to comments. Here are some other ideas that will boost engagement in your online community:
Further, positive feedback and reviews lead to social validation, a psychological phenomenon that businesses use to their advantage. In the business world, people are more likely to purchase a product when it’s accompanied by positive reviews or endorsed by a trusted individual (celebrity, product expert, etc.). The phenomenon can work for nonprofits, too. Social validation fosters trust in your organization. In other words, if others see volunteers having a positive experience with your organization, they’re more likely to support your mission too. You can encourage positive feedback by allowing for comments on your social media channels (comments will be turned on in most platforms’ default settings), asking for feedback, and encouraging friends and fans to share your posts. Remember, positive feedback stems from a positive experience.
The internet can foster understanding, but it can also encourage misinformation and hate. If you receive a positive comment, take the time to thank your supporter by name. Did you receive a negative comment or suggestion? Don’t panic and avoid resorting to defensiveness. People tend to be emboldened by the internet’s sense of anonymity. So take the following steps to deescalate a dissatisfied user:
Social media for nonprofits; it’s worth the effort to grow your program, but we all must do our due diligence to make the internet a safer place.
Once you’ve established a social media presence and recorded some metrics, evaluate your progress. Where are you in achieving your goals? Engagement is an ongoing process that takes time, but you’ll benefit from:
Use this non profit social media analytics template to record key metrics and record your progress.
It’s probably apparent by now, your non-profit social media strategy is an essential component of strategic marketing for nonprofit organizations. So let’s get posting!
Author: Annelise Ferry
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