Steps to a Successful Nonprofit Social Media Strategy

Don't Go It Alone! Break Down Organizational Silos

••• Jose Luis Pelaez/ Iconica/Getty Images

Nonprofits use a wide range of social media tools (video, audio, digital text, photos, games) to share their content socially.

However, in the rush to get on the social media bandwagons, many nonprofits ignore the strategy and planning required to achieve success.

Here are 11 steps that your organization can take to create a strategy and plan for your social media efforts. A little planning goes a long way!

1.  Create a Social Media Committee.

The day-to-day work of social media cannot be done in a silo. In order to form a dynamic and working Social Media Committee, think about the people involved with your organization who:

  • Like communicating with stakeholders;
  • Like technology (they do not have to be tech-savvy);
  • Are creative;
  • Have their finger on the pulse of the latest news;
  • Are well-connected and enthusiastic.

The key is to get this group of people thinking through a social media lens.

2. Plan.

Start by defining your goals and objectives. How will you know success? What can you measure that is directly attributable to social media? 

Metrics can include:

  • Increased email sign ups
  • Increased event participation
  • New volunteer sign ups
  • Increased website traffic

If you only want to use social media to raise money, you should probably reevaluate that strategy. Check out the Facebook Ladder of Engagement to see how nonprofits can use Facebook (and other social networks) as a rung in the fundraising ladder.

3.  Get organized.

Create a Social Media Measurement spreadsheet. Choose a start date, and record any data that you want to track, in accordance with your metrics (step 2).

Suggestions include: Likes, Followers, Blog readers, Email subscribers.

Sign up for a free Google Analytics account to measure social media website referrals – where your website visitors are coming from.

4.  Create policies.

The Social Media Committee, along with an attorney or HR person, can be in charge of drafting these policies. Samples of government and nonprofit social media policies can be found here.

Questions to ask when creating a Social Media Policy:

  • Make a plan for crisis communications. What happens in the event of a PR crisis? 
  • Be smart about training employees on what they should and should not share online.
  • Empower and educate staff rather than punish them.
  • Who are the administrators of the page? Who will take charge when this person is on vacation/out? Who has the passwords and login information?

5.  Choose Channels.

I find that too many organizations do this step first, with no planning. How will you know which channel to choose without knowing your audience and where they are? How will you know where to participate until you know who is going to be administering and maintaining the accounts?

Things to consider:

  • Where are your supporters?
  • Where do they congregate?
  • Ask or survey your supporters and constituency.

Don’t get caught up in shiny new object syndrome. Vine and Snapchat may be awesome, but that doesn’t mean they will be worthwhile for your nonprofit.

6.  Listen.

Participate in these channels to get a feel for their culture. Follow/Like other similar organizations. Each network has its own culture, its own feel and its own language.

Listen to what people are saying – what moves them? What are they sharing and retweeting?

Listen to what other organizations are posting – is it falling flat? Going viral? Get ideas and see what you can emulate/adapt.

7.  Work smarter.

Explore various Social Media Dashboards & Scheduling Tools (HootSuite, TweetDeck, Buffer, PostPlanner). Remember, it is always most effective to login and monitor each site individually.

Authenticity vs. Automation is the never-ending battle! You want to save time, but you also want to make sure you are participating in real time, sharing other’s posts and tweets and acknowledging those who share your content.

8.  Create great content.

Creating great content that your online community wants to share with others is the key to success on social media.

Start a simple Editorial Calendar.  The Calendar is a tool for planning, scheduling and managing publication of content across all channels.

9.  Plan on getting visual.

It’s a visual world and we all need to get on board. Dan Zarella of Likeable Media found that tweets including uploaded photos were 94% more likely to get retweeted!

THE REALITY: You need a constant stream of compelling images, photos, videos, and infographics.

You cannot stretch your logo across your Facebook Page and have that resonate with potential donors.

10.  Measure and improve.

The importance of this step cannot be overstated. Measure results slowly, but make sure you know what success looks like.

Use the following tools:.

  • Facebook – Instant Post Insights
  • Twitter – ReTweets, mentions
  • Website analytics and traffic – Google Analytics
  • Blog traffic
  • Email newsletter signups

See what works. Do more of that.

11.  Celebrate successes!

Celebrate milestones and thank your online community for helping you get there! 

  • Post if you reach 100 Facebook fans.
  • Acknowledge everyone who  helped you get there.
  • Pat yourself on the back – social media is hard!
  • It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Julia Campbell works with nonprofits and businesses to improve their social media results.