This was certainly an interesting year to be a nonprofit social media manager.
Between the political climate, the exhausting news cycle, Facebook data breaches, and more – you may be more than just a little bit ready for a break.
Here are just a handful of headlines bashing social media from the past few weeks alone:
- Instagram Was Bigger Russian Election Tool Than Facebook, Senate Report Says
- Voter Suppression and Racial Targeting: In Facebook’s and Twitter’s Words
- There’s even more evidence that social media increases depression and loneliness
(In the New Year, I’m going to be exploring this overarching theme – can social media still be used for social good? If you don’t want to miss a post, make sure you subscribe to the blog.)
Yet, despite all of the overwhelming and eviscerating press coverage, people are not leaving social media in droves.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at your job, this means that nonprofit social media managers will most likely still have work to do in 2019.
However, we cannot continue to “do social media” like we did it in years past.
We have to conduct ourselves in a brand new way.
So roll your sleeves up, grab that third cup of coffee or champagne, and take a look at my 10 New Year’s Resolutions for nonprofit social media managers.
1) Let’s completely shift our mindset around the way that digital works.
You know the famous JFK quote from his 1961 inaugural speech: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
That quote defines how we as social media managers need to shift our thinking around digital platforms and social media content.
We need to stop thinking about what it can do for US, and we need to start figuring out what we can ADD, contribute, and provide to our online communities.
Building a movement and a community on social media requires strategy, innovation, creativity, and consistency.
With more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. putting out messages, there is no way to compete on volume and noise.
They key is to start with the people in your tribe.
Persistence is vital. You can’t give up because you sent one email and it didn’t get the number of opens that you want.
Or because you posted a few times this year and no one engaged.
Social media success is a marathon, and not a sprint.
The good news is that despite not being easy, the principles are fairly simple to grasp and to embrace.
2) Let’s stop trying to “cut through the clutter.”
I am completely guilty of using this phrase.
The problem is, you can’t.
And you probably shouldn’t try.
The old ways of grabbing (stealing) attention do not work now. We simply have too many options.
You cannot Don Draper yourself to success by yelling at strangers via billboards, purchased email lists, random mailings, and the like – it doesn’t work.
Manipulating people into spending their most precious resource – attention – isn’t effective. And it certainly won’t build long-term relationships with donors, the lifeblood of most nonprofits.
Stop screaming into the void, and creating content designed as click bait.
So what DOES work?
Embrace, acknowledge, and cultivate the people who have raised their hand and said, yes, we want to hear from you.
We want to go on this journey with you.
We are interested. Show us more.
And, if you give this community of people the stuff that they want, they will be more likely to share it with other like-minded people.
This brings me to resolution #3.
3) Let’s resolve to spend the majority of our time this year on building an online community rather than sending out promotions.
Vow to use social media primarily for nonprofit community building, not blind promotion.
How do you build a real community using social media?
- By operating as a trustworthy, go-to source of information.
- By sharing evidence of your impact in compelling ways, i.e. storytelling.
Seth Godin writes that “trust is endangered” and he’s absolutely right.
Especially in today’s culture of “alternative facts” and aversion to truth (even proven truths), nonprofits need to function as a beacon of light.
Give your supporters what they crave – information that they can actually use.
Helpful, useful, relevant information on the topic that they care so much about.
A great example is up on Dennis Fischman’s blog, where he gives an example of “the value of being informed” – “make donors feel smarter, wisers, more in the know when it comes to public issues.”
Remember that people are not going to share your content just because you ask them to, or because you REALLY want them to.
They are going to share it if it reflects them, their values, what they stand for, and what they believe.
We only spread the word when it benefits US.
Your promotions do not benefit us.
How can you create posts, videos, blogs that resonate with your supporters in a way that reflects their worldview and makes them proud to be associated with your organization?
4) And while we’re at it, let’s focus on building a community filled with the RIGHT people.
Too often I see this question: “How can I get more likes on my Facebook Page? Should I have a contest?”
Well, yes, you can have a contest and a giveaway. But what good is building up a community of people who only want an iPad or a free trip?
Don’t worry about building up your numbers.
You have to put in the work of building a COMMUNITY around your nonprofit and your mission.
You have to show impact, tell stories, and bring your donors along a path with you. This is a strength of digital platforms.
After you have earned the attention of your followers and earned their trust, you can ask them for money.
I mean, sure – you can ask them for money at any time!
But it’s won’t yield the kind of results worthy of you, your work, and your donors.
Building a community should come FIRST.
It is simply not effective or efficient to raise money by yelling into the void.
Like Jeff Brooks spells out in this post – just telling people you exist is not fundraising.
Hint: It’s not good marketing either.
5) Let’s earn the right to ask for participation, advocacy, and/or money.
You cannot expect participation off the bat from complete strangers. You have to earn it.
People who have no idea what you do, what you stand for, and what you are trying to accomplish.
This is especially true if you are a small, local or even regional nonprofit, without an international scope and without a huge board of directors filled with celebrities.
The only causes that get complete strangers to act are ones that:
- Have celebrities behind them asking their supporters for money.
- Have causes that are in the news, like gun violence and natural disasters.
But for your small nonprofit? The best time to plan for a successful social media campaign is YESTERDAY.
It’s not too late. You can start today.
Do the work, build the community, gather trust, share valuable information – all using social media platforms.
Then do it over and over again.
If you have consistently shown up for your community month after month providing them with the resources, stories, and info that they want, you have earned the right to ask.
Be sure that you’ve set the stage so that when you ask them to complete an action, to participate, to donate, to sign up – they will be happy and proud to step up.
6) Let’s advocate for our work.
Nonprofit social media managers need to do a better job explaining the nature of the work and advocating for it to their supervisors and their colleagues.
Let’s eliminate the inferiority complex and be assertive about what we need to do our job.
If you need stories, photos, videos – create a strategic plan of action to change the culture at your nonprofit so that it supports the work you are trying to do.
Hold an information session inviting staff, volunteers, and board members to offer ideas and content for your social media accounts.
Explain what works on social media and what doesn’t, and why.
Showcase your Content Calendar at staff meetings and ask for input.
Only by knocking down silos can we get buy-in from others in the organization.
7) Let’s stop worrying about things outside our control.
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes about the Circle of Concern and the Circle of Influence.
The Circle of Concern encompasses all the things we care about from our personal concerns (health, career, relationships, etc.) to our global concerns (social justice, war, recession, etc.).
The Circle of Influence includes the things we have the power to affect. It’s a smaller circle within the other circle.
While not a perfect model, it’s a good place for nonprofit social media managers to start.
Focus your energies as much as you can in the Circle of Influence – over the things that you can control.
8) Let’s all agree to stop using the word “busy”.
The martyrdom mindset has taken over the nonprofit sector, and it’s no wonder – we are always expected to do more with less, to never complain, and to always find new ways to be resourceful and thrifty.
All while saving lives, animals, the environment, culture, and society as we know it. Reasonable.
I’d love for nonprofit social media managers (and everyone in general) to make a pledge to stop glamorizing busy.
We think that if we don’t say we are busy that we will be seen failures.
Think about how we talk about time and attention – we waste it, spend it, save it, maximize it, reclaim it.
Instead of being busy and spinning around like tops, let’s be focused on working on the right things.
Remember, “It’s not always that we need to do more. But rather that we need to focus on less. “ – Nathan W. Morris
Three necessary must-read books for every nonprofit social media manager, to help you focus and stop the damaging cycle of busy:
9) Let’s be more open, transparent, accessible, and HUMAN on social media.
First tip: Stop doing this particular thing that really annoys me: Do not have a NO REPLY email address on your email communications, and don’t disable comments or messages on social media.
This is basically saying “hey we don’t care what you think and we don’t want to hear from you!”
Second tip: Use your email newsletters to actually build a relationship with supporters not just promote to them.
Third tip: Please, show that there are humans behind your social media accounts.
There is no better example of how to be open, transparent, accessible, and HUMAN on social media than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram.
The incoming congresswoman from the Bronx has taken social media by storm via an innovative, but very intuitive, use of Instagram Stories.
She made us all feel like insiders by sharing behind-the-scenes moments of congressional orientation, something that I personally had never seen before or even knew what took place.
She shows her human side, as well humor and honestly that has thus far been unparalleled by mainstream politicians, by making pot mac and cheese, taking questions about politics, and listening to Janelle Monae on a Friday night.
She shows her commitment to accessibility and inclusion by using a closed-captioning tool called Clipomatic so that anyone deaf or hearing impaired can follow along.
From The New York Times article: “What she’s saying is, ‘Hey, develop these skills alongside of me and we will be a community, we’ll be a force,’” Professor Grygiel said. “She’s not just saying, ‘Hey, support me, support me, support me.’”
Listen to that statement – it’s powerful.
“We will be a community.”
“We’ll be a force.”
Now, that is something that a community can be proud of joining.
How can you build a movement using digital platforms, rather than just promoting your stuff?
10) Let’s focus on collaboration instead of competition.
How can we collaborate with others instead of guarding what we perceive to be our little piece of the pie?
How can we continue to stay in our the good graces of those who support us? How can we sustain the trust and affinity from our online community members?
There are three key motivating factors that most people share when taking an action:
- Purpose – Do work that is meaningful and most of all, deserving of their time and energy.
- Growth – Learn things and feel challenged.
- Connection – With others that they respect, admire, and trust.
Let’s focus more on highlighting the other organizations that we work with and showcasing their work to our supporters.
They want to know how we do our work, who we work with, and why.
Stop thinking of your nonprofit partners like competitors!
If you are doing it right, then there is MORE than enough funding to go around.
The always insightful Vu Le talks about this at length in his blog Nonprofit AF: OMG, can we please stop saying “there’s only so much funding to go around”?!
So there you have it, my 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Nonprofit Social Media Managers.
Do you have any that you would add? Leave them in the comments or in the Facebook Group. Here’s to a fantastic 2019!