According to a study run in 2019, 79% of the US population is currently using some form of social media. As this number continues to increase, it becomes more and more essential for all businesses and organizations to have some type of presence online. For organizations with more limited budgets such as nonprofits, social media also offers an outlet to reach an incredibly vast audience in a quick and cost-effective way. Executing a carefully-planned social media strategy is crucial for any business or nonprofit to thrive, as it allows brands to form strong connections with potential customers, supporters, volunteers, and/or donors.
This is why we wanted to offer some valuable advice to nonprofits or other organizations either just starting out with social media marketing, or those that would like to refine their current social media practices. Here’s four basic guidelines that helped us along the way!
1. Determine Your Strategy & Goals
While it might be easy to create new social media posts on a whim, you won’t necessarily be able to measure anything or find the real value in social media marketing without a solid strategy. The first step to any successful social media strategy is to start with actionable and achievable goals. Creating a strategy and intentional goals consistent with your mission will not only allow you to measure the progress of your social media efforts over time, but will also ensure that the content you create is purposeful.
As an example, one of the goals we included in our social media strategy this year was to increase general awareness of our nonprofit partnership offerings. One of the efforts we took when pursuing this goal was implementing at least 3-4 posts each month that either cater to our nonprofit partners or the services we provide to them. This goal is achievable and also aligns with and supports our mission of expanding funding for nonprofit organizations.
example of a post catered to our nonprofit partners
Other popular social media goals can include increasing brand awareness, generating donations/leads, growing your audience/following, or even just increasing engagement on your posts.
In addition to creating purposeful and achievable goals, you also want to define which KPIs (also known as key performance indicators) you want to use to measure your goals. Going back to our previous example, one important KPI for our goal of generating awareness of our nonprofit partnership offerings could be new leads generated. We have a page on our website where prospective nonprofit partners can register, so any new registrations (aka leads) would be something we want to measure against this goal. For more information on KPIs, check out this helpful Sprout Social article regarding KPIs to look at specific to social media efforts.
After you come up with an overall plan and goals for what you’d like to accomplish, you should then dive deeper into how that correlates with your content strategy.
2. Get to Know Your Audience
So you have your overall plan laid out including goals, but what should you be posting about? What content makes sense to create?
In order to curate engaging content, you first need to define who your audience is: their interests, needs, income, motivations, age/gender, etc. Your target audience is the specific group of people that you want to reach with your marketing messaging and mission. For nonprofits, this might be potential donors, volunteers, or just supporters in general that resonate with your organization’s efforts. These should also be the people you need support from in order to reach your goals. If you can figure out exactly who you’re aiming to reach out to, you can create the right content to connect and engage with those people (and eventually covert them from a just a visitor to a donor/supporter/volunteer).
Within your target audience, you can create different Buyer Personas (or 'stakeholder personas' in the case of a nonprofit) to help define the types of people that are interested in your organization. According to Hubspot, “Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us all -- in marketing, sales, product, and services -- internalize the ideal customer we're trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans.” Utilizing buyer personas will help your organization tailor all content and messaging to the right people, allowing for more engagement with your posts and potentially more supporters. To start researching and creating buyer personas for your organization, Hubspot has helpful templates you can check out by clicking here. We have also included a brief example of what a buyer persona might look like below.
Determining your buyer personas might involve reaching out to your current community of supporters, running surveys or focus groups, analyzing your social media & website metrics, and/or taking a closer look at your offerings as an organization. Check out this Creative Science article for more detailed information on the steps to craft a target audience.
3. Pick The Right Channels
After researching and defining your audience, your next step would be figuring out where they are spending time on the internet. If you’re a nonprofit with a fairly low budget for marketing, you also want to consider which channels will allow you to see the most ROI in terms of investing your time and efforts. Facebook, for example, is one of the most used social media platforms in the US. According to Statista, there are currently 221 million monthly active Facebook users in the United States. That number is over half, or about 67%, of the total population in the US. A well-established platform such as Facebook would be a great place to start if you’re a nonprofit trying to garner an online presence.
Along with choosing some of the more-established platforms, you also want to take a look at the different demographics that use each platform and if they fit in with your target audience. Facebook, for example, tends to be used by a variety of different age groups (see graph below).
In contrast to Facebook, Instagram and other platforms tend to have quite a large discrepancy among the age groups of users. Those within younger demographics tend to gravitate towards Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, as compared to older generations. Among other demographics and according to Pew Research Center, around half of college graduates and those who live in high-income households tend to use LinkedIn.
Keeping this information in mind is crucial to determining where your ideal customers or supporters spend the most time, and will help guide you in any future marketing-related decisions.
4. Plan Ahead
One of the last tips we want to mention is to try your best to plan ahead. Planning out social media posts in advance is especially important for nonprofits, as you often don’t have an abundance of time in your favor. This tactic will not only save you time, but will keep you organized and consistent in your overall brand messaging. It ensures that all of your efforts in strategizing and getting to know your audience will be well worth it.
But how far in advance should I be planning?
For most organizations, we’d recommend programming social media posts into a calendar at least one month in advance. We even like to do our brainstorming two months in advance, and then programming/scheduling one month in advance. This process will give you the proper time to perfectly craft each of your posts, and ensure that they align with the correct messaging for your brand. It also reduces the issue of potential writer’s block or lack of creativity (don’t worry- we all have those days).
In terms of the tools needed to plan ahead and schedule your posts, there are many free and paid services available. We personally use Hubspot, which is a paid software that allows us to plan, schedule, and measure our social media efforts (among many other things). Some other social media management and planning tools include Hootsuite, Buffer, and SocialOomph. If you aren't quite ready to use a software to plan out your social media, you can also easily create content calendars on Google Sheets or Excel. There are many free social media content calendar templates available to download online, including this one from Hubspot.
Regardless of whether you’re a for-profit company or not, any organization can benefit from a thoughtful and purposeful social media strategy. It allows you to build your brand, connect with your audience, generate new leads/interest, and most importantly establish an overall presence online.
We are constantly integrating the above tips not only within our company, but throughout our 300+ nonprofit partnerships. Our Nonprofit Coordinators work with our partners to determine the mission of each organization, set goals for fundraising and promotional opportunities, and create effective marketing materials to relay their messages. To learn more about how we help to expand funding for nonprofit organizations across the US, click the button below.