Many people perceive social media as being frivolous, and just another sign of how obsessed our culture has become with ourselves and with technology. However, social media is more than just an outlet for posting selfies or tweeting about the latest celebrity gossip. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are just a few forms of social media that can be useful in raising awareness for a nonprofit organization and encouraging people to support the organization’s cause. UNICEF, The American Red Cross and Charity Water are a few examples of nonprofit organizations that utilize social media to generate awareness and participation in their audience. They provide their followers with relevant information, share personal stories of the people they help and suggest practical ways for followers to support their cause. Social media is so useful because it can unite people who live worlds apart and serves as a channel for communicating and sharing stories that can lead to changing lives. To use social media effectively and gain followers who will support your cause, it is important to follow a few key steps.
Define your strategy. To have a successful social media presence and increase your nonprofit’s exposure, it is important to clearly develop goals and set plans. Think about what you hope to achieve – do you want to generate support, awareness, or funds? Clearly define tactics to get to where you want to be and make your goals specific. For example, if you want to increase the number of followers you have on Twitter, measure how many you would like to gain in a certain amount of time. This could be as simple as saying, “We will have 500 new followers within the next month.” Challenge yourself when setting goals, but also be realistic. Setting unrealistic goals will only discourage you and potentially cause your organization to experience setbacks. In addition, make sure to post with a purpose and only post content that is relevant to your organization’s cause.
Know and cater to your audience. Do you have a very specific audience? Think about who is interested in your cause or who could potentially be interested, and then figure out how to get their attention. This could be through the use of staggering statistics, a play on emotions, or coordinating events like fundraisers and 5Ks. Many nonprofits tackle big issues like finding a cure for cancer, suppyling clean water to villages in third world countries or providing adequate healthcare to those who live in underdeveloped nations. This can seem overwhelming to many who want to get involved, because they may feel like they can’t contribute in an effective way. Provide your audience with practical ways to help – think of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Even if people didn’t donate money, the challenge itself spread rapidly throughout the country and beyond, generating awareness for Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The UNICEF Tap Project got everyday people involved by challenging them to see how long they could go without touching their phone. When someone went on to the designated website, they were directed to set their phone down and see how long they could go without touching it. The longer the phone went untouched, the more money was raised to donate to clean water projects. The individual didn’t have to make a monetary sacrifice; they just had to sacrifice technology.
Post according to your channel. Different social media outlets have different layouts and require users to adapt accordingly. With that said, know how which outlet works best for each unique scenario. For example, Twitter is not the place to post a long status – this type of social media only allows for 140 characters. However, posting a picture with a short message has been found to be very effective. Researchers have found that pairing your Tweet with an image actually doubles the chance that you will get a favorite or a re-tweet. Also make sure to note that just because one outlet is more limiting than another, doesn’t mean it is less effective. Take, for example, Instagram. The app allows only for images and 15-second videos to be posted with unlimited text space. Many might assume that without any other functions, Instagram wouldn’t be a successful way to reach an audience. However, the opposite is true. Researchers found that Instagram has the most user engagement per post. Results of a study conducted by Locowise showed that user engagement per post on Instagram was 2.81% while Facebook was 0.25% and Twitter was only 0.21%.
Tell a personal story. One of the most effective tactics a nonprofit organization can use is to share the story of someone who has been affected by your cause. Sometimes just one personal story can be more effective than overwhelming your audience with an abundance of statistics. A personal story giving insight to the life of a homeless woman, a young child suffering from brain cancer, an orphaned baby in Uganda, or an animal that has been brutally abused will give your audience a unique and realistic perspective of what it is like to be in that very situation. Many people underestimate how empathetic others are; using emotions to connect to your audience is highly effective, and people are often more caring than we assume.
Follow back. If you’re looking for support for your nonprofit, you want to form good relationships with your audience. A great way to do this is by following back the individuals who follow you. Not only does it show that your organization is acknowledging them, but it shows that you are interested in what they have to say and what they have to contribute to the subject. If you choose not to follow back, your organization may be viewed as impersonal, self-centered or smug. Often times people will unfollow accounts that don’t follow them back, so try to avoid losing followers by following back. There’s no harm!
Interact with your followers. Once you’ve followed back, it’s easier to interact with your audience. So easy, in fact, that you can have personal conversations with them! Even if a user doesn’t follow your nonprofit’s account on social media, utilize your ability to search hashtags relating to your organization’s cause and make connections with people who have posted about the same topic, engaging them and informing them of your own organization. When you establish that you are open to interactions, make sure to respond to your followers in a timely manner when they ask questions or have comments – and always be friendly! If you use it the right way, social media could completely transform your nonprofit.