Most nonprofits have some degree of a social media presence, but it isn’t always effective. Organizations can flounder in their attempts to be successful on this playing field, but problems are often surmountable and cost little or nothing to solve.
Assess the situation
Does your management and board have a strategy? Despite the prevalence of social media, some doubts remain within the nonprofit sector about its power and necessity. But you need look no further than the best-known charitable use of social media, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, to see social media isn’t a passing fad. It’s now a significant part of your organization’s face in the community.
The first step in your nonprofit’s strategy should be an assessment of where you currently are: What are your strengths and weaknesses in your social media activities? The most common hurdle may be the perennial one, the lack of resources. Your employees might already be stretched thin. And you might lack the funds to hire a full-time social media manager.
Come up with a plan
Once you know your starting point, the next step is to develop a formal social media plan. A plan that aligns with your nonprofit’s overall strategic plan can increase the likelihood of buy-in throughout the organization.
The plan should start by defining your social media goals. For example, do you hope to drum up more donations? Raise awareness? Recruit volunteers?
These aims should drive your content. To thrive on social media, nonprofits must be both:
-Proactive by sharing information about the organization and its cause — and searching out relevant hashtags where you can contribute to the discussion, and
-Reactive by interacting with users who reach out with questions, comments and tags.
Crucial point: You’ll want to keep the reader interested. Think about the types of material you can share: client or volunteer stories, advice and how-tos, white papers, alerts, calls to action, relevant news, videos and photos. Then develop a tentative schedule for what goes out when. You may have to stray from the schedule from time to time when developments break. But simply having a road map gives your efforts a critical structure.
You also need to think about frequency. Don’t spread yourself thin by joining too many platforms or you may end up posting too infrequently on all of them. Research which platforms are used by your target audience and direct your efforts to them. Trying to reach “the general public” is a recipe for failure. And remember to balance your posts so that it doesn’t seem like every post is a solicitation.
Finally, your plan should specifically delegate responsibility for social media work. If you can’t afford another staffer and others have their hands full, consider hiring a social media intern, outsourcing to a professional firm or finding a qualified volunteer.
Measure the results
You can formulate metrics for each of the goals identified in your plan to find out which platforms and methods are most effective. Discontinue material that performs poorly. The platforms you’re on will usually have the necessary data. You also can survey your online community for feedback, which encourages its continued involvement.
Time will tell
Patience and planning are keys to winning the social media challenge. Success rarely comes overnight. Keep your eye on the long game, and don’t become discouraged if you don’t see results as quickly as you’d like.