By Ryan McBurney
Sep 18, 2013

Social Media for Nonprofits - Top 10 Best Practices

Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn allow nonprofits to empower its audience, grow awareness for its cause and/or services, improve fundraising efforts and strengthens online relationships… all in a cost-effective manner. However, success in social media marketing takes a serious commitment. While it’s certainly an economical marketing tactic, it takes time to properly authenticate and communicate to your social media audience. To make sure your efforts are as effective as possible, and that your time is being properly utilized, follow these rules to put your Nonprofit in the best position to succeed:


1. Develop a strategy and stick to it: Strategy and consistency, combined together, are the key elements to a nonprofit’s social media success. Before social profiles are created, develop a social strategy around your audience and unique goals. Build a process that allows your content and engagement efforts to stay consistent with that strategy. Your social strategy should focus on tactics such as relevant social channels, content topics, social voice, and engagement techniques.

2. Establish rules and expectations: When your social media strategy is developed, it is essential to create a social media policy document for your internal team. This document should clearly state your nonprofit’s purpose for social media, privacy policy, acceptable topics and language, social media voice, and account owners. Social media is extremely transparent and your nonprofit needs to do everything it can to stick to these guidelines.

3. Visuals matter: Social media is becoming more and more visual. This is especially true for Facebook and Google+. For this reason it is important to pay close attention to the various creative assets that make up your social profiles. All profile pictures, cover photos, tabs, etc., should be consistent to your nonprofit so that users can begin to become familiar with your organization and its content.

4. Optimize Your Profiles: Properly input information to the back end data portions of your profiles so that new followers can learn more about your nonprofit and its services. The back-end information should include consistent messaging and important keywords. This is also helpful for search, as social channels boast strong search power.

5. Create content ahead of time: Similar to your strategy, your content needs to be well thought-out and developed before it is published to your profiles. We advise nonprofits to write out content weeks in advance and put content into a posting schedule. This allows you and your team to get a high-level view of your content strategy, review for edits and improvements, and prevent mistakes before any content piece is live.

6. Manage your content properly: Once content is developed and approved, we recommend using a social content management platform (like Hootsuite) to schedule your content appropriately. These platforms will automatically post content when you schedule it in, and they allow you to focus more on engagement and tactical improvements. This technique also helps to prevent mistakes.

7. Be patient and considerate: Success (massive audience growth) doesn’t happen overnight. The key is to diligently post relevant and interesting content that moves a conversation forward, while encouraging engagement and creating a two-way dialog with your audience.

8. Be adaptable: The initial few months of any social media is a learning experience. Use your initial content to learn what works well with your targeted audience, and adapt your content strategy accordingly. Study the actions of your fans and followers to know what content they want, when they want it and the form in which they want it.

9. Be flexible: As mentioned above, social media is all about engaging in valuable, relevant conversations with your audience and building positive relationships. To spur these conversations, be prepared to respond to anyone who has commented on a post or mentioned your organization within a 24-hour period of time. As these conversations are transparent on social media, timely responses show your fans that you are listening and open to conversation.

10. Track and Understand: Establish the metrics that are important to your goals. If you’re looking to build awareness, look at the metrics around impressions; If you’re looking to build relationships, look at metrics around fan/follower growth; If you’re looking to drive traffic to your website, look at referral traffic and clicks; So on and so forth. Once established, track your social media metrics once a month to understand the effects of your efforts. If you do not see the returns you want, these metrics will help you adapt your tactics accordingly.

Once your presence is established, it’s important to consistently monitor and strengthen your communication. Part II of this series will focus on exactly this, as we will share our communication and content creation tips for non profits.

Also, if you’re interested in learning more about the work we have done for nonprofits, you can see our portfolio page here.

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