Nonprofits use social media platforms every single day to connect with constituents, raise awareness for causes, and collect donations.
With engaged followers on one or more of the major social networks, organizations can effectively spread the word about fundraising campaigns, new initiatives, and advocacy work.
However, simply having 1,000 Facebook fans or 200 Twitter followers is not the best indication of social media success.
It’s possible to have thousands of followers who never read your posts or click on your links. (Russian bots, anyone?)
The key is to build a thriving online community of your nonprofit’s ideal fans—the ones who will actively engage with your content, share it with their networks, and respond to your calls to action.
Here are 11 simple ways you can grow your nonprofit social media followers, starting today.
1. Hold contests.
Contests are a great way to get new people to start liking and following your accounts, and it helps to keep your current fans engaged.
Experiment with contests on every social network on which you are active.
Some examples of social media contests include:
- Comment to win – participants leave a comment or answer a question
- Caption contest – either the best caption (you choose) or the one with the most likes wins
- Fill-in-the-blank contest – ask participants to answer a trivia question
- Photo contest – either the best photo (you choose) or the one with the most like wins
- Multiple choice contest
Tips for a successful social media contest:
- Promote it everywhere. Use your website, email list, and other social networks to drum up participation.
- Do not give away prizes completely unrelated to your nonprofit of your locality. For example, if you give away a new iPad, you might drive a lot of engagement and participation, but not necessarily from people who will eventually become donors, volunteers, or lifelong fans.
- Some ideas for contest prizes include tickets to your big charity event, lunch with the board chair, or an annual membership.
- Follow up with entrants who don’t win. Send them a thank you for participating, along with a great story about your organization’s work.
2. Include a visual with every post.
Visuals are high-performers on social media, so be sure to include an eye-catching, colorful image or graphic with each post.
Consider these visual marketing statistics, compiled by HubSpot:
- Content with relevant images rack up 94 percent more views than content without images.
- Compared to other types of content, visual content is more than 40 times more likely to get shared on social media.
- Instagram photos showing faces get 38 percent more likes than photos without faces.
Use free graphic design tools like Canva to add graphics to your blog entries and social media posts.
Resource: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Shareable Nonprofit Social Media Graphics.
3. Share more video.
Video is the most engaging content types that you can post on social media.
Facebook reported that 50 percent of Americans who use the platform on a daily basis watch at least one video every day.
Make sure to upload your video directly into the platform of your choice, rather than posting a link to an outside website (like YouTube).
This way, it will automatically play as people land on it while scrolling through their feeds, grabbing their attention.
Lots of views can lead to increased reach, engagement, and exposure for your nonprofit.
Resource: How to Create Social Media Video on a Shoestring Budget – Tips & Tools
4. Be proactive, not just reactive, in listening to and responding to your online community.
Did you know that 83 percent of your Facebook fans and 71 percent of your Twitter followers expect a response from you the same day they ask a question?
In fact, 32 percent of Twitter users expect you to respond within just 30 minutes.
Give your followers a fantastic user experience on social by being exceptionally responsive – listen to them, and respond accordingly.
See this great example from Hilton Hotels on Twitter:
Use Businesses on Messenger for to interact directly with your Facebook Page fans.
Page admins are now able to reply to public comments with a private message. Everyone can gauge your level of responsiveness by a badge on your Page.
Publicly recognize people who retweet, favorite, and mention your organization on Twitter.
Thank users who comment on Instagram and YouTube.
When you make your online community feel heard and acknowledged, they are more likely to become raving fans and your most loyal social media ambassadors.
Resource: How Social Listening Resulted in One Nonprofit’s Most Successful Email Campaign Ever
5. Change your Page profile photos and cover photos.
Your profile photos and banners are some of your best and most-viewed social real estate.
Use these visual mediums to showcase the impact of your work and the stories of those who benefit from your services.
On Facebook, change up your cover photo at least once per month, and remember to write a great caption.
On Twitter, use your profile picture and banner photo to highlight your great work.
Don’t just stretch out and pixelate a horizontal version of your logo—no one wants to connect with just a logo on social media.
Personalize, humanize, and customize every channel you can with a visual image that speaks volumes.
Make sure you use the right social media image sizes for each platform.
6. Give people a reason to follow you.
Give prospective (and current) fans a reason to follow you on multiple platforms.
Do not simply “set it and forget it” with generic, automated links blasted across all of your social media channels. Tailor your content for each channel’s users.
Use Twitter to share news and advocacy alerts or even something funny!
Use Facebook to tell compelling stories about the people who benefit from your work.
Use Snapchat and Instagram to paint a visual picture and share behind-the-scenes information and tidbits.
Strategically use each social media channel based on its strengths and demographics.
Give your stakeholders a good reason to connect with you on that specific network.
What value are you providing? What are you offering that will entice them to stay tuned in?
Think about the reasons people use each network to formulate a plan to consistently post and share content that resonates with your specific audience, wherever they congregate online.
7. Encourage tagging.
An effective strategy to engage followers is to encourage them to tag other people who may benefit from or enjoy a specific post.
If you post an inspiring quote, write “Tag a friend who needs this today!”
If you share a video about Mother’s Day, encourage your online community to tag a friend or friends who mean a lot to them and with whom they would like to share your message.
Hopefully these new people will be drawn into the fold and join your online social media followers.
A word of caution—make sure to employ this method sparingly and only where it makes sense, or it can look spammy.
8. Use hashtags to get found.
There are two great ways to use hashtags to increase your social media followers:
a) Use popular hashtags strategically and sparingly.
I suggest using one popular one per tweet or Instagram post, such as #OOTD (outfit of the day), #TBT (throw-back Thursday), #fail (self-explanatory), #FOMO (fear of missing out), etc.
There are thousands of hashtags out there—check out Hashtags.org and Hashtagify.me to find ones that are relevant to your audience and your content.
b) Participate in relevant trending topics and current events.
I check my Twitter feed regularly to see what is trending for the day.
If it is something that I think would be of interest to my followers, I share a tweet with that hashtag.
For example, on Monday you could use the trending hashtag #MondayMotivation to share a quote or an inspiring story with your followers.
People searching that particular hashtag may come across your post will hopefully check you out and even follow you.
9. Be entertaining and use humor.
Take a note from the Frederiction SPCA, an animal adoption and protection agency that often shares entertaining memes and photos on their page.
Nonprofits that show a bit of humanity and humor do well on social media.
Make sure that any content you share makes sense for your particular audience and your brand voice.
Do not share cat memes for the sheer sake of sharing cat memes—your audience will get confused and may even unfollow you.
10. Explore paid social.
Leveling up your social media success often involves a budget for many organizations, however on-a-shoestring it may be.
One of the best ways to grow your audience and gain more exposure is to invest a modest amount into paid social advertisements.
When done well, paid social ads can promote your content, increase conversions, and help you reach new people.
Precise audience targeting allows you to focus your ads on warm audiences – people who have visited your website (if you use the Facebook pixel), people subscribed to your email list, and your current fans and followers.
Resource: The Nonprofit Facebook Ad Planner
11. Never, ever buy followers and fans.
Many people assume that purchasing fans and followers is a shortcut to building a huge online community, but this is general bad practice.
Never purchase fans or followers for your nonprofit, or you will be throwing your money away.
Why would you spend money to promote your message to a group of people that either does not exist (fake accounts), or could care less about your organization?
Focus on creating posts and sharing information that will attract the right people – the people that you need to engage, take an action, and cultivate for a deeper relationship along the line.
I’m building an online training course for nonprofit social media managers just like you! Be sure to sign up for my email list to get notified when the doors open!
When used strategically and thoughtfully, social media platforms are a great way for nonprofits to connect with stakeholders, cultivate loyal donors, and expand their reach and audience.
Try out some of these tactics to start building your social media following today!