Authors: Amanda Markos and Chrissy Hammond
Not-for-profit organizations today need innovative practices to spread core messages to potential donors, while keeping costs in check and reaching as wide an audience as possible. With its continued growth and success, businesses and organizations are now incorporating social media into their long-term marketing initiatives.
Not-for-profits are using social media to broadcast their story and mission, increase awareness and share success stories to a large scale community at a minimal cost.
The number of social media users in today’s environment makes maximizing these platforms critical for drumming up support for your not-for-profit. According to a 2013 survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 73 percent of online adults belong to social media sites. By maintaining a dynamic social media presence, not-for-profit organizations have the potential of reaching their community and their donors on a daily basis. Pew found that of Facebook users, 63 percent check the site once a day. Almost 50 percent of Twitter users and 57 percent of Instagram users are daily site visitors.
Many not-for-profit organizations have already acknowledged the need to be visible on social media but are unsure where to start. The Case Foundation and Social Media for Nonprofits recently polled 480 organizations about their online presence and found that 97 percent were on Facebook. Using the social media audience to its full potential, however, requires more than simply having a Facebook page. Other social channels such as Twitter and Instagram are proving to be just as beneficial.
Though not all pay-offs will be as large as highlighted in the case study, there are ways to harness the power of social media to assist in reaching your goals. While you may not have the resources needed to be active on all social media sites, you can start by selecting a few to focus on and do well rather than trying to master all of them right away. Below, we’ve highlighted five steps your not-for-profit organization can use to improve and capitalize on its social media presence.
Social media marketing allows not-for-profits and the public to interact in new ways. Unlike
traditional forms of marketing such as email campaigns and direct mail, social media allows for dynamic conversations to take place. Not-for-profits can initiate public discussions and conversations through open-ended comments, calls for questions or requests for feedback through its social media pages.
Through various web resources—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs, etc.—not-for-profits can showcase their human side. One example is to use social media to follow-up with the people who attended an event you hosted to help solidify the connections you made there. In addition to any formal recognition your organization may provide, thank the people who donated to your organization. Recognize volunteers and other community members who help make your operations run more smoothly. In keeping with this accessible theme, language, content and messaging on social media should also take on a more conversational tone than is typically used in more formal types of marketing.
Social media tools can provide a number of data-gathering opportunities to help measure your return on investment (ROI). In addition, demographic information about Facebook and Twitter followers can help inform your not-for-profit about the types of events or activities that may interest core supporters. Analytics from social media may also indicate what topics, issues or events are of interest to your supporters, which can assist your organization’s efforts in determining the types of educational programs or publications it releases.
There are many online social monitoring platforms that can provide you with important metrics to track your social engagement, including HootSuite, Sprout Social, TweetDeck and more. You can use these analytics to better understand your audience and which social posts perform best.
The Case Foundation and Social Media for Nonprofits’ study found that although nearly all not-for-profits had an online social media presence, only 53 percent of respondents followed social media best practices of posting relevant thought leadership articles and blogs. Most stated they used social media as another way to promote the organization’s accomplishments or events.
Though event and self-promotion is an inevitable piece of your social media content, you should also use social media to demonstrate your organization’s expertise in its core subject areas. Post about compelling studies or developments in your field as well. Visual aids can go a long way in establishing interest, so be sure to use photos or other illustrative media to help portray your organization’s messages.
In a Chronicle of Philanthropy article regarding the organization’s social media success, Chelsea Tafarella, the social media manager for the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, stated that her organization uses the feedback they receive on its programs as another way of spreading its core message (see Illustration 1).
Share positive comments and feedback your organization receives to help spread the message of the benefits of your services. In doing so, you have the opportunity to promote your success stories not only to your immediate social network but also to the networks of your social media followers and their followers and so on.
Even if you have limited staff working on social media, you can still be active and present online if you stick to a schedule. To minimize the time and energy spent trying to build a social media presence, divvy up the posting responsibility among your team. Additionally, employees charged with social media should keep an eye out for articles of interest or ideas on what to post about and put them aside for future use to help simplify the process.
Organizations without a designated staff member for social media should create a social media strategy that includes training on how and what to post, as well as some of these best practices for social media use. Then identify key volunteers who are active on social media and passionate about helping the organization. Provide these individuals with admin rights to post on the organization’s social profile. Many social channels, including Facebook, allow an organization to elect “admins” for posting content only. This admin role does not allow the volunteer to modify the organization’s profile or content.
Volunteer social advocacy has proven to be successful for many not-for-profits. It allows the volunteers working behind-the-scenes to share recent content while reinforcing the organization’s mission and goals. By finding and empowering loyal volunteers that are social savvy, any organization can begin to build their own internal army of advocates.
Social media marketing can be an overwhelming task for any organization, but with the proper tools and utilizing best practices, it doesn’t have to be. In an ever changing technology-driven world, one thing is clear: social media isn’t going anywhere. With a small investment of time and resources each day, it can have a big impact on your not-for-profit’s goal to promote and build brand awareness, without compromising the mission of your organization. For more information on how social media can bring benefits to your bottom line, please contact us here.
Chrissy Hammond is a Marketing Specialist at CBIZ Tofias. She is based in the Boston office and can be reached at 617.761.0580 or CHammond@cbiztofias.com.
Amanda Markos is a National Marketing Manager, Social Media at CBIZ, Inc. She is based in the San Diego office and can be reached at 858.795.2253 or AMarkos@cbiz.com.