You may already know how important social media is to growing your nonprofit’s web presence and how crucial it can be to building relationships with your supporters.
However, you may not be aware of how to properly use social media to reach your supporters, volunteers, and donors.
Did you know the average nonprofit loses 103 donors to every 100 they gain? Don’t break up with your donors. Using social media effectively will help you retain the supporters you’ve already appealed to while continuing to attract new donors and volunteers. I’m here to help you learn how.
Today, we’ll dive a little deeper into the mechanics of social media, and explore ways in which you can use it to make a genuine, authentic, and inspiring connection with ordinary people every day.
What are my credentials? For starters, I’m a millennial. As more platforms have evolved and come into the market, so too has my use of them, growing from mere ranting and connecting with my friends to carefully strategized approaches aimed at gaining followers and fans. As a musician, an entrepreneur, and an aspiring political writer, learning how to use social media effectively in order to get my message across to the right people has been fundamental in helping to grow my business, band, and general online presence.
Here are some best practices for developing relationships through social media. These aren’t just best practices in theory; I have personally tested and used each of these methods, and seen their effectiveness.
Using these methods, I have seen my follower count, average engagement, and ROI increase dramatically over a relatively short period; by utilizing them effectively, you can too.
1. Be a Participant
Social media was not designed to be an advertisement platform. Rather, social media channels were created to help people connect with one another, right?
So, when you are representing your company on any given social media platform, it is important to remember that you are not there simply to sell your cause or solicit donations.
The focus of your strategy, instead, should be to become part of the community, learn how people interact on that platform, and participate in a natural way.
For example, if you’re on Facebook, make sure you’re not just posting a picture every day and then signing back out. Take a look around! Like a few statuses. Comment on a few posts.
Most importantly, make yourself known on the site not just as a business entity but as an active community member. This will make it easier for regular users of the site to trust you and understand that you respect them and their space, and are not intruding solely for business purposes.
2. Be Kind and Helpful
This is fairly standard advice and applies to the physical world just as much as the digital one. If you are representing your company, remember that everything and anything you say can and will be linked back to you at some point in the future.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, authenticity is a highly prized element in speaking with millennials and other denizens of the internet.
You are using their site and, in much the same way you wouldn’t want to take your shoes off on a friend’s brand new white carpet, you should strive to be respectful of the customs and protocol of the inhabitants of that site.
It can be overwhelming to learn specific guidelines for communicating with people across Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and others, each having their own specific culture, dialect, and in-jokes. So, instead of trying to mold your communication to each platform’s exact standards, focus simply on being kind and being helpful.
Everyone wants to surround themselves with positive people. So when responding to comments or commenting yourself, be as nice as you possibly can be.
By crafting your reputation on a site as being a genuinely kindhearted company, you can further solidify the trust of the people on that site and encourage them to look to you further, of their own volition.
3. Talk to People
As I stated above, social media platforms are not made for advertising; they are for connecting. People join them with the express goal of meeting people, learning about them, and exploring new, unique perspectives. Use that desire to your advantage.
We live in a time in which it is commonplace to build relationships and get to know people from thousands of miles away. It is not enough to simply like someone’s post to encourage them to engage with you, and you should not rely on the natural reach of your posts to bring awareness of your cause to new people.
You must be willing to talk to people, learn about them, and build a relationship with them before you can ask them to support you or donate to your cause.
I get it—talking to people you’ve never met, in some distant place, with no indication that they really care about you seems difficult, perhaps even overwhelming. But don’t stress!
Start with a simple question, something relevant to your cause, but not trying to sell something.
Consider an opening along the lines of, “Hey! Thanks for the follow. What are you passionate about?” Although it may seem invasive to those unused to digital conversations, a question like this piques interest and, for those who will respond, serves as a pleasant surprise to receive a unique question from a company, something most people simply aren’t used to.
Keep asking questions. You can, if you’d like, gently steer the conversation towards your cause, but your main goal should only be to have a pleasant conversation, learn about your new potential donor, and build trust with them.
If they feel as though they’ve made a genuine connection with you, they’ll come to you, and you’ll never have to actually ask them for anything.
4. Use Site-Specific Features Appropriately
This hearkens back to the one question that should always be on your mind, all the time, every day: “who is my audience?”
Every social media platform has many things in common: basic layouts, chat/message functionality, user profiles, company pages, etc.
However, each of those platforms also has its own unique feature-set, tailored to set it apart from its competition in much the same way you’re trying to do for your cause.
For example, Tumblr’s layout is specifically designed for rapid fire scrolling and skimming, and is less focused on commenting.
On Tumblr, each person’s blog serves as a form of self-expression, so changing your content to be more niche may actually be a smart move. Find people’s blogs who participate with nonprofits and look at what they share. There may be a common art theme or aesthetic that you can take advantage of to garner more re-blogs.
Similarly, Instagram is entirely focused on pictures and videos, making it harder to gain traction on things like blog posts. You can use photo editing software to make appealing donation call to action graphics, make an engaging video or post photos of a recent event.
On Instagram, users can’t share pictures to their own followers from someone else’s account, so make sure you’re using appropriate hashtags to help others find your videos. #Nonprofits who use #hashtags effectively are far more likely to get some #serious #gains in their #followers. #Sunset #Donate #Puppies #Inspirational.
Every social media platform has site-specific features like these examples, so be sure to learn about the platforms you’re using before getting started.
Pay attention to what people who are popular on your platform are doing right. Research the most “Twitter-famous” or “Tumblr-famous” people, look for common themes in their posts, and apply them to your own. Going viral is the best thing that could possibly happen for your nonprofit!
Additionally, some sites have recently started to implement features specifically made to help nonprofits raise money. Utilize these features, and learn how to use them in conjunction with the rest of your online presence to help drive people to them.
5. Use the Video Advantage
Video is a tool that is overlooked far too often by nonprofits. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: video is powerful. Video can function as multiple touch points and speed people along towards donating to you.
As many people have noted, video is much better than text or photos when it comes to informing people about your work and inspiring them to engage with you. A good video can inform someone about your cause, share a real and meaningful story, and provide a highly visible and audible call to action all in the span of a single minute.
Video works. But, all too often, nonprofits don’t have the resources or know-how to utilize videos effectively. With the advent of helpful tools like donation cards and the YouTube director app, making videos for your nonprofit is easier than ever.
Making videos can catalyze your online growth in a number of different ways. YouTube, Facebook, and many other video platforms contribute naturally to your SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, by being indexed by Google and other search engines and increasing traffic to your site, bumping up your ranking on relevant keywords and increasing your domain authority.
Content creation is crucial to proper SEO, and an easy way to increase your overall traffic. Since SEO is one of the best ways for new people to find your site, it should not be ignored.
Video also has a natural advantage over most other types of media when it comes down to the way most social media platforms work. Videos are prioritized over pictures or text on platforms like Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter, and so are more likely to be seen by more people.
In fact, 4x as many consumers say they would rather learn about a product by watching a video, instead of reading about it. Don’t miss out! Start utilizing video today to cash in on all of its natural advantages.
6. Be Consistent
This advice applies to every social media platform that your organization is active on, and is relatively straightforward. Posting consistently will not only help new supporters find your cause, but will also help keep the supporters you already have from getting bored or forgetting about you.
I recommend trying to post every single day, but your goal should at least be to post 3 times a week across all of your social media accounts.
Fresh, exciting content will increase your engagement, and will allow social media’s natural exponential growth to take over and grow your reach.
And there you have it. By following these steps you can massively improve the reach and efficacy of your social media work.
Utilizing video, having good conversations with people, building relationships with your supporters and posting consistently will attract new supporters to your cause and increase the success of donation asks.
You’ll start to see the returns quickly, so don’t delay! Get working on your social media presence today!
This helpful post comes to us from Ethan Kotel. Ethan is a Denver-based musician, writer, activist, and the Digital Marketing Specialist for mGive, a world leader in text-to-give technology.
He is a member of a hard-alt/art rock band called The Hollow and co-founder of WTFAmerica, a local political advocacy group. You can most often find him playing or writing music, angrily ranting about political systems, or snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains. Follow Ethan’s work at thehollow.com and at ethankotel.bandcamp.com.