How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media to Drive Results

Harnessing the Power of Social Media

Social media can be just as powerful a tool for nonprofits as it is for corporations. Though nonprofit organizations typically have leaner budgets and smaller communications teams than large for-profit companies, they can still effectively harness social media to accomplish their goals. In part, this is because nonprofit social media posts tend to compel users to act. In fact, 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media end up taking some kind of action, whether it’s donating, signing up to volunteer or planning a visit. Nonprofits that maximize the power of social media can benefit from increased donations and an improved overall image of the organization.

Understanding Social Media Channels for Nonprofits

Depending on a nonprofit’s mission and audience, certain social channels may be more effective than others, but all major social networks can play a role. Therefore, nonprofits should establish a consistent presence on networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. But it is not enough to simply exist on social media – 93% of nonprofits globally already have a Facebook page. Organizations need to strategize how best to use each channel to reach and engage their audience.

Today, it’s increasingly important to consider ways to reach and engage followers beyond traditional posts. Funraise found in its Global NGO Technology Report that many nonprofits are doing just that – the report found two in three organizations (66%) share Instagram Stories, 54% use Facebook Stories and 42% use the YouTube Live feature. These features can help organizations gain maximum exposure for events, exhibits or other behind-the-scenes content and help humanize the brand.

Social Media Best Practices for Nonprofits

Consider the following recommendations for social media success:

Raise Money through Social Media

Soliciting donations online is critical for nonprofits of all sizes. Fortunately, social media is a great tool for this – the Funraise report found social media was the second-most effective fundraising tool for nonprofits, with 84% considering social media effective for raising money.

One effective tactic for attracting donations is social media advertising, which offers targeting tools and guarantees content will reach users beyond the organization’s current following. For general awareness-building campaigns, Facebook advertising may offer the best results on a small budget. LinkedIn ads are ideal for targeting specific groups of users – for instance, those an organization considers likely to donate. Organizations should also add a donate button to their Facebook and Instagram profiles.

Keep a Regular Posting Cadence

The fact that nonprofits share 1.2 Facebook updates per day on average and over 5.3 Twitter updates demonstrates two key points. First, the daily Facebook posts suggest the importance of establishing a frequent posting schedule so your content will reach followers consistently. Second, the average number of Twitter updates, more than five per day, shows how nonprofits are increasingly engaging in real time with followers on Twitter by replying to questions, retweeting partner organizations and sharing their content.

Nonprofits should analyze audience platform preferences when setting posting frequencies – for example, a children’s museum targeting young parents may gravitate toward posting more often on Twitter and Instagram. This would make sense because 33% of Twitter’s users are between ages 25 and 34 and 44% of Instagram’s users are in the same age group.

Collaborate and Interact for Maximum Success

Opportunities are endless for collaboration and engagement with for-profit businesses and other nonprofits via social media. Nonprofits that effectively tap into other organizations’ social networks can see massive upticks in engagement, donations or volunteer signups.

Recently, the World Wildlife Fund ran a viral campaign called Earth Hour, urging companies and individuals to turn off their lights for an hour to promote awareness of the ongoing environmental crisis and demonstrate humanity’s resolve to take action. Many companies, including our client, Sofidel, participated in the campaign as a vehicle to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and reach a wider following on social media.

Leverage Video to Tell Stories

Nonprofits that find interesting and engaging ways to speak to their audiences on social media can build a loyal following and inspire action. Video content typically garners the highest engagement rates of any type on content, and nonprofits are using the medium to communicate in a more personal and compelling way. There are companies like Gather Voices helping nonprofits produce video content easily and even gather first-person user-generated videos from their fans – a huge social media asset.

When creating videos for social media, consider that users are often scrolling through news feeds with no intention of prolonged focus on one piece of content. Their attention spans are short, so videos should be too – ideally less than a minute. This can be a challenge for nonprofits aiming to educate their audience on complex topics underlying their mission. It may be worth creating a number of short videos with different purposes, such as illustrating the organization’s mission, raising awareness for a cause or celebrating accomplishments.

The Role of Emotion on Social Media

Nonprofits are founded for a cause, not to make money, which helps them earn tax-exempt status. The cause is also key in tapping into audience’s emotions on social media. Organizations like Human Rights Watch can call their audiences to action by channeling people’s compassion for marginalized or mistreated people across the world. Others like Black Voters Matter have effectively used passionate social media appeals to bring supporters out into the streets to fight for racial justice. The Environmental Defense Fund energizes its followers’ love for the planet to drive donations that accelerate the clean energy transition and combat climate change.

As nonprofits use social media with increasing effectiveness and innovation, emotion will be central to moving audiences from awareness to interest to action. A nonprofit’s social media activity should reflect the emotions surrounding its particular mission – for example, historical societies may aim to create a sense of nostalgia, while human rights organizations may look to stir up audience’s sense of fairness and justice.

Social Media Strategy for Nonprofits

Keeping all of the above points in mind, nonprofits can enhance and occasionally revamp their social media strategy as a key part of their marketing program. This may involve choosing new key performance indicators (KPIs), adjusting posting schedules or planning influencer outreach campaigns. An effective nonprofit social strategy reaches a defined audience, educates and engages them and encourages them to take action. It uses emotion to appeal to their virtues and even inspires them to donate. If used effectively, social media can be a key driver in helping nonprofit organizations flourish in the digital age.

Need help crafting your social media strategy? Contact us today to discuss transforming your social media program.

Thomas Jilk is a Senior Account Executive at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London, and Australia. He uses his journalism and marketing skills to tell compelling brand stories for clients.