Social media has been one of nonprofits best and most relied-upon tools ever since the first platform came into existence (you may remember that GeoCities was one of the 1st!). Today, there are many social media platforms to choose from, all with various pros and cons. Below are a few best practices on some of the top sites.
Best Practice on Social Channels:
Facebook changed the rules last year for businesses and nonprofits by changing their algorithm to drastically reduce 'free' post reach. Organizations that were reaching over 50% of their fans with each post saw that number drop to 5%-10% and less!
This necessitates adaptation. Even more than ever, engagement is key. The people who comment, like, and share your posts will be much more likely to see your posts, so you need to work even harder to create posts that really engage your fans.
A big part of this is understanding your fan base and knowing what has worked in the past. Facebook offers an outstanding insights section where you can discover key data like the best time to post, the demographics of your fans, which posts had the most impressions, likes, and comments, how your competitors are doing and much more.
Using this information to strategically post for maximum engagement can help you reach your people without paying Facebook for the privilege! However, Facebook Ads have exciting potential, but that's another story...
Twitter is a turbo-charged social media experience, and it's easy to get lost in the rapidly cascading tweet stream. This is why relationship building may be even more important here than in Facebook. In all content marketing, giving more than you get is so crucial, and with twitter, generously re-tweeting and participating in others conversations is the best way to build a strong, engaged following. The more you share and promote your follower's interests, the more likely they are to help you out when you really need it!
Jeff Kline of Accrinet shares a Twitter tip for nonprofits:
"You’re not the Associated Press, so your tweets shouldn’t sound like the headline of a news release. Be conversational and personable on Twitter. "
Google + has been slow to catch on among the general public, and even though everyone with a gmail account has a Google + profile by default, many aren't aware of it or don't really care. However, Google + should be important to you because it's linked to your local Google Maps listing, and all posts are indexed by Google (unlike Facebook)!
Everything you do on Google + has a chance of increasing your website's rankings, and your Maps rankings. This is key, especially if you're in a competitive area and have trouble showing up in searches for your organization.
The people who do understand it's value use Google + consistently, and you should do so too, by posting regularly, using your organization's keywords in posts, connecting with others who use the platform, and participating or creating 'communities' to discuss topics around your organization's mission.
LinkedIn's value to your organization in one word: Networking! LinkedIn is a widely used social networking platform that is geared primarily toward professionals and businesspeople. The opportunity to build relationships with people in a position to help your cause are as plentiful if you spend the time and understand how to use the platform.
What to do: If you don't have a personal profile, set that up. Then set up a 'Company' page for your nonprofit. This will be a space where you can promote what you do. Just like on Facebook, you can invite connections to follow your company. As for status updates, each post will reach 100% of your 1st level connections (who are online viewing the newsfeed). This percentage is quite a bit better than Facebook, so you can see the value of an extensive network.
Another recommendation is to create or join groups on LinkedIn. According to Joe Garecht,
"Using the “Groups” feature, create your own LinkedIn group specifically for the use of your supporters and friends. Post relevant information there, ask questions, and upload pictures and logos. Invite all of your followers to join you there and get involved in the discussion. Starting your own group is a great way to open your LinkedIn network up to a real dialogue with your supporters and friends."
Pinterest is a great place to share the work that you do and the ideas behind it in a fun way. You can create board after board with images of the people, animals, and places you may work with, and the content you create can all be added to Pinterest with links back to your website.
Best of all, here's a pro-tip from Constant Contact:
You can raise money on Pinterest! Pinterest makes it really easy for you to hold an auction or sell a fundraising item on Pinterest. Simply add a “$” with the price amount in the description section of your pin and Pinterest will automatically add a grey banner in the top-left corner of the image that will display the cost. The item will also be added to the “Gifts” tab on the Pinterest homepage.
Pretty powerful stuff! If you haven't created an account it's time to dive in.
You need to be where your people are, and more than ever, they're on Instagram. Instagram is a social platform that operates through your smartphone application, allowing you to take pictures, quickly use Instagram's image editing features, and post to your Instagram feed, along with both Facebook and Twitter if you choose. Like twitter, you can expand your reach with strategic use of hastags.
Images can say so much about your organization, and if you do it right, you can get a lot of love and exposure from your followers. Take pictures of your staff doing what they do every day. Take pictures of your volunteers working hard for the cause. Go behind the scenes to show your personality and what you stand for.
How Often to Post
This really depends on your organization, the timing of events you participate in, and your time! For the most part you shouldn't post 10-20 times a day (as if you had the time!), but if you have an event (see below) or crisis, you may need to update more frequently. Twitter may be an exception, due to the rapid fire nature of the platform.
There are some tools that allow you to post to multiple platforms at once. Hootsuite, for example, allows you to post to Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Foursquare at once for free.
Cautionary note: The drawback to posting out to multiple channels is that every social platform has it's own nuances, and it's own language, really. Images and the way you write can come across as awkward at times, so in many cases it's advisable to take the time to post to each platform individually.
For example, whenever your organization puts on an event, you not only need to promote the event via social media, you should be actively engage with your fans during the course of the event as well. Posting quality images and video as an event proceeds is a really powerful way to promote your organization and pique the interest of your followers.
Beth Kanter gives an excellent overview of the before, during, and after of using social media in your live event marketing. Here's a quick look at what she suggests during an event:
"You definitely want to be “Live Tweeting” during the event and encouraging participants to do the same...In addition, you want to make sure that you are capturing photos and videos during the live event – as these are not only serve to generate buzz during the live event itself, but also to help you capture and document the after story."
The main thing to remember about social media is that it's about developing relationships- not constantly asking for donations with every post. If you need any clarification on anything above, or have any other social media or SEO questions, don't hesitate to contact us!