In the world of nonprofit social media, the landscape is changing so rapidly, and it’s becoming harder and harder to build community in our hyper-connected world.
That breaks down to around half a million tweets and Snapchat photos shared every minute. Whew!
Not only is social media use showing no signs of slowing down, yesterday’s tried-and-true growth drivers are becoming increasingly obsolete, demographic shifts are resetting donor expectations, and the promise of technology to reach new supporters has never been more real.
There is a lot on the plate of the modern nonprofit social media manager.
It’s getting harder to manage the chaos, avoid burnout, and do your work more effectively and efficiently without losing your mind.
To help you get focused, I recommend adopting these five habits in the New Year.
1) Focus on building a community, not just an audience.
Social media is not just about grabbing attention and growing an audience. It’s about building a community.
As nonprofit social media managers, we have to know inside and out who we want in this community, and what they want to hear from us.
This is why so much nonprofit social media content falls flat. No purpose, no reason to exist – just simply promotion.
You may say, well, we want to engage everyone! Everyone with a pulse needs to be a part of our online community!
Let’s get real for a second. Your mission and your message is not going to resonate with everyone.
If you are a small nonprofit dealing with a niche issue or a local problem, you have to face facts that your online community will be a lot smaller than a national organization.
Community building is the focus of my upcoming book, How to Build and Mobilize a Social Media Community for Your Nonprofit in 90 Days – click here to get notified when it’s released!
My best advice is to nail down who your choir is – and preach to it.
If the choir is singing together in harmony, they will bring others in and share your gospel. Leverage your current community members to bring others into the fold.
Unless you are dealing with an issue that is getting national press coverage, it’s incredibly difficult to get traction from complete strangers online.
Every day, go into your communities (let’s stop calling them platforms) and see what’s working. Answer comments and questions. Be present and don’t over automate.
Always be learning about your community and what they are most interested in, what moves them, what drives them, what inspired them.
Create content just for them and more will follow.
2) Set a timer.
How much time do you have to spend on social media? Is this 100% of your job, or just 10%?
The best way to determine how much time social media management is going to take is to clarify how much time you have to devote to it.
The truth is that getting results on social media is much like getting results out of an exercise plan. Consistency and intention are key.
If you have thirty minutes a day to get a quick walk in, that’s better than sitting at your desk all day every day and getting zero activity.
If you can fit in an hour walk once per week, your results will be even better. The same goes for social media.
No matter if you have all day or just an hour a day to focus on social media, you need to create a time management plan to avoid spinning your wheels and wasting time (so easy to do on these platforms that are designed to grab our attention and keep us clicking).
I recommend the popular Pomodoro Technique, where you set a kitchen timer (it doesn’t have to be a tomato timer) for 25 minutes.
If you aren’t constantly monitoring your social media accounts, using the Pomodoro Technique at the beginning of the work day will help you focus and ensure that you have addressed all messages and notifications that came in overnight.
Remember that the work of social media is not just posting and promoting your own stuff and then leaving.
The real work that gets results is the most time-consuming – it’s interacting, building connections, exploring topics, creating content, and tweaking, analyzing, improving.
Once the 25 minutes is up and the timer dings, you are done – no matter what you did or did not accomplish.
You can then set it again at the end of the day, or in the middle of the day. It all depends on how many channels you manage and what else you have going on that day.
Social media management takes discipline and practice, but a time-based strategy like this is absolutely crucial for nonprofit social media managers that have other competing job responsibilities.
3) Take mental health breaks.
The always-on mentality dominates pretty much every industry right now, but is especially true with social media.
Consistent use of social media can be detrimental to our mental health and so taking a step back now and again is essential, even if it doesn’t seem like an option because there’s just too much to do.
This may mean turning off social media notifications when you leave the office. If you absolutely need to respond to something, set aside 10-15 minutes of dedicated time after work to go into the platforms. Then shut it down for the night.
It’s also important to take digital detoxes and vacations, to come up for air.
To give your eyes a break from the screen, here are some great mental health podcasts to listen to:
Holding Space with Dr. Cassidy Freitas aims to demystify mental health and therapy and make it more accessible through storytelling.
Jen Gotch is Okay…Sometimes is a mental health podcast from the founder of Ban.do, chronicling her journey with bipolar and anxiety.
Selfie is a self-care podcast hosted by a psychotherapist and a lifestyle blogger, exploring important themes like sleep, healthy eating, and balancing the body, mind, and spirit.
4) Just say no to perfectionism.
Content is never going to be perfect, and your social media To Do list will never be fully complete.
We have to be ok with done and imperfect, as it’s better than simply not done at all!
I don’t mean allowing lazy mistakes and awful content to take over.
But you shouldn’t be spending hours designing and tweaking one single Instagram post, or spending hours editing a smartphone video that is going to be 30 seconds long.
Attention to detail is great but perfectionism is a killer.
Get that post up. Edit it later if you find a drastic mistake.
Test, see what’s working, and do more of that.
5) Advocate for yourself.
Every job has its busy periods, but constantly feeling like you’re struggling to keep your head above water is not okay.
As Thea Neal wrote in her must-read post “Should you ask your social media manager if they’re okay?”:
We’re expected to be marketers, creators, analysts and customer service people. We’re stressed out.
If you are a team of one and your work responsibilities amount to three full-time jobs, you have to be honest with your supervisor and the Board that this is not sustainable.
Conduct a detailed inventory of your time, listing out as many tasks as possible and how much time it takes to accomplish them.
Don’t be afraid to advocate for your work!
For more on how to get the respect you deserve as a nonprofit social media manager, watch this video:
It’s a busy, noisy, crowded online space.
Sometimes, people can be not-so-nice.
Sometimes, the work feels thankless.
Sometimes, it feels like you are doing it all alone.
You are not alone – come over to Facebook and join the community of nonprofit social media managers, fundraisers, and storytellers, all going through similar things!
Let us know how we can support you.
Here’s to a very happy and healthy New Year!