'Social Media,Marketing,Non-profits'

Be smart about your non-profit's social media presence

5 OCT 2016 0

We all know the importance of social media these days. How non-profits need to be present, active, and available through as many channels as possible. But, we also know that budgets are tight and schedules are packed enough as it is. When you don't have money to spend on a dedicated social media staff and limited time to dedicate to it yourself, how can you make it work?

Well, you have to be smart about it.

Non-profits can get a lot out of even a small social media presence if they do it right. It all relies on devoting your resources and time where they'll do the most good, staying committed to regular posting, and doing the prep-work necessary to keep it running.

Getting a social media account off the ground

If you're just starting out and don't really have a social media presence (or a handful of half-dead accounts gathering dust on half a dozen different services), it's time to do a little homework. Look at your donor base and figure out where you're audience is likely to hang out. 

Facebook is the current juggernaut of the Canadian social media landscape. That's good because you can reach a lot of people. The downside is you're likely to be drowned out by other voices. This is especially true after recent changes to the way Facebook prioritizes which messages appear on newsfeeds, favoring messages and updates made by close friends and family over updates from organizations. Still, it's hard to argue against Facebook's mass appeal. Even a small budget dedicated to promoted messages can generate traction given it's massive reach. 

Twitter is great for an active, tech-savvy audience. Favored by writers, celebrities, and the tech-sector (as well as teenagers), Twitter's reach isn't as large as Facebook's, but has the potential to reach a very active and engaged audience that love to share posts and interact. But, if you're goal is to reach professionals, don't forget about LinkedIn. While it may seem tragically stodgy compared to other options, it caters to business professionals. If you're looking for donations from larger businesses and organizations, that's the place to reach them.

Feel free to make accounts on several (in fact you should, if only to reserve your organization's name) but be prepared to focus on one or two in particular. Find the service that fits your demographics and style the best and concentrate your efforts there. Now comes the hard part.

Growing your follower count

Okay, let's get this out of the way right now – never buy followers. Just don't. Yes, it is embarrassing when your organization has fewer followers than your teenage son's garage band. Yes, it is tempting to try and boost those numbers and project an air of confidence and popularity, at least just to get started. But trying to take a shortcut will just cost money that could be better spent for few results. As social media expert Chris Dessi found out for himself when he purchased 500k twitter followers in a bid to jump start his stalling career. Those 500 thousand (fake) followers evaporated in the heat of Twitter's automated scrubbing process that deletes bots and dud accounts while his reputation as a "social media expert” suffered a nearly mortal wound. 

As a non-profit, your name means everything. So that means building up followers the old fashion way. Slowly.

Feel free to ask, beg, and bribe all your friends and family into following. There is value in having a small ground swell to your name. Just like high school, popularity breeds popularity – the larger your follower count the more people will take you seriously. Mostly though, you need to be patient and work with what you have.

Engage the followers you do have. Take the time to respond to questions, like positive posts, re-tweet jokes, etc. Take advantage of trends and hot topics and try to find ways to use them (even if just for a tongue-in-cheek joke). Most importantly though, share decent content.

Get on a schedule

This is where the work really comes in. A successful social media presence takes dedication. You need to be regular with your posts and active with your account. The only way to do that is to be disciplined about it. 

Take some time to write up some generic updates or messages for your feed and draw up a schedule. How often you post is a matter of taste. On Facebook and Twitter you should probably aim for an update a day. On LinkedIn you can afford be a little more sporadic. 

You need to consistently update your accounts with small messages to stay relevant and in people's minds. This is what helps people remember you. But, it can't be all fluff. You need to post some more substantial content now and then to get people talking and give people a reason to follow you.

This means creating content - blog posts, photo-galleries, short videos, whatever works best for your organization, cause, and resources. Whatever route you go, this will involve work. More work than you probably think. 

But that's okay, because you're going to get the most out of it!

Schedule a specific time to generate content. If you treat your social media content as "something I'll get around to when I have a few spare hours” it will never get done. Block off some time to write a blog or organize a gallery. If you're getting more ambitious with a video, you'll need to line up the equipment and tools for that. Once you have some materials made up, make a schedule to release them. Pace your larger content drops.

The good thing about quality content is that it can be used more than once. Don't go overboard promoting the same blog post or video over and over, but it is totally fine (and wise) to occasionally re-post something you've made before to help generate interest.

The more you build and maintain your social media presence, the more natural the process feels and the more it will become part of your day-to-day operations. The important thing is setting down the right foundations and sticking with it in the early days to make sure it gets where you need it.

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