Before we begin, I wanted to let you know that I’ll be opening the doors to my signature training program, Social Media for Social Good Academy, in just a few weeks. I only run this program once each year, so don’t miss out. Get on the waitlist at socialgoodacademy.com and I’ll send you all the details when it’s up and running. Sound good? See you there!
Part 2: Where Should You Be On Social Media?
Welcome to Part 2 of a special three-part series where I’ll review the current social media landscape as we enter 2023, important trends to consider, and the steps nonprofits can take to thrive, not just survive, in this culture of constant change. Look for part 1 wherever you are listening to this!
In this episode, I’ll share the steps that your nonprofit can take to make sense of the trends, and how to decide which ones to jump on, and which ones to ignore (for the time-being anyway).
Question 1: How do we decide which social media platforms we should explore, adapt, and use? And which ones to table for the time being?
The good news – you do not have to be everywhere! You should be present where your target audience – donors, supporters, members, constituents – spends time, as well as what you like to use and can commit to consistently updating.
Here is a quick framework that we use in Social Media for Social Good Academy.
Split a piece of paper or a digital doc into two columns. In the first column, list all the platforms that you currently use, and 1-2 that you want to add into the mix or explore.
In the second column, write down 2-3 ways that each of the listed social media platforms can help your nonprofit achieve your goals and engage your target audience. (If you haven’t yet identified goals, objectives, and target audiences, we do this inside the Academy, so be sure to join the next cohort when it opens.)
If you don’t think the platform is a good fit, just write N/A or Not Now.
For each platform that you think may be a good fit for your nonprofit, answer the following questions:
|Is your target audience on this platform?
|Can you add value on this platform through consistent sharing of unique, helpful content designed for your audience?
|Can you consistently create and share content that is designed for this specific platform; content that is not simply automated?
|Do you have the internal capacity and resources to respond to comments and questions, actively participate and not just “post and run”?
|Do you have the time to learn the unique language and best practices of a new platform?
|Can you analyze your work on this platform through analytics and insights, in order to improve?
If you did not answer yes for at least 3 of the 6 questions, your organization may not be ready to use this particular social media platform effectively.
Don’t be afraid to break up with social media platforms that aren’t working!
The reason you need to spend so much time carefully evaluating platforms is because, well, getting traction and building engagement on social media is a lot of work!
You need to create and iterate a strategy for each individual platform. It’s no longer effective to have a simple marketing strategy, or even a digital strategy, or even a general social media strategy.
When creating content for each social media platform, think of each as a separate country, with a distinct language, culture, etiquette, and inhabitants.
For example, you wouldn’t buy a guidebook for Germany if you were taking a trip to South Africa.
Each platform has unique properties and strengths that can augment what you are currently doing in marketing, or hinder you.
Questions to consider when determining the strengths of each social media platform:
What content works best?
On my website I have a generalized Social Media Matrix that provides a primer on each platform, but remember that your audience may be different from the general public.
Then, examine your nonprofit’s analytics and insights to see what kinds of content – photos, videos, graphics, live streams – have worked best in the last few weeks.
Who is there?
What are the overall demographics of this platform?
More specifically, who are you talking to here?
You will also want to take a look at your nonprofit’s analytics and insights to get a bigger picture of your audience, their ages, their locations, and their interests.
What kind of “voice” works best on this platform?
Casual, friendly, authoritative, professional, fun?
What are the quirks of the platform?
I don’t know why Instagram users are fine with 30 hashtags on posts, but Facebook users don’t like them. (Even though Facebook keeps trying to make them happen…)
It’s all part of the unique culture of each platform and the communities there.
How are real people – NOT marketers – using the platforms?
For example – YouTube is the #2 search engine, owned by the #1 search engine.
People do not go to YouTube to connect with friends and family.
They go there to find out how to do things, to learn about topics, to listen to music, to DISCOVER new stuff!
Another example of a social media platform that is more about discovery than connection – Pinterest. Pinterest is aspirational – it works more like a vision board of all the things we want to buy, see, and do.
Instagram and TikTok are a combination – we do still connect with friends and family, but we also use it to be entertained, see what influencers are up to, and follow celebrities.
Look at overall industry trends to figure out what’s working now on each of the platforms you are going to examine.
BUT also, keep an eye on your own analytics and insights. Your audience may be slightly different!
The key is to choose a place where you can authentically and consistently connect with your audience and they can connect with you. Look at the example from a previous podcast guest, Itse Hesse, founder of Black Girl Collective. Itse chose Instagram to build her nonprofit community because she knew how to use it, she was comfortable there, and she knew that her audience spent time there.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Be consistent with the platforms rather than jumping around every few weeks. Your audience needs to be able to see you show up on a regular basis and come to depend on you for valuable information.
Remember that social media was not created for donor acquisition – originally it blossomed in popularity because it built communities and connected people across all geographies.
Carefully evaluate where you need to be vs. where you want to be, and always go where your audience spends time.
Question 2: What kind of posts will we share? What content will we create?
When building your social media content strategy and calendar, ask these questions:
- Why do your stakeholders support you? Can you list 5 reasons, in their words? (If you don’t know, this is a great opportunity to email or get on the phone with donors, audience members, and others to ask them their opinions.)
- What information can you give your audience that will make them think?
- What education can you provide that will help them trust you?
- What are the knowledge gaps around your cause that you can address?
- What stories can you share that will inspire them?
- What gets them “passionately inspired or pissed off”?
- Think like a journalist – what is the hook?
- Relate what you do to current events and topics that people are already discussing/debating.
- Think beyond your organization.
- Think about the bigger cause itself.
Think about what your audience really needs and wants to hear from you – what would add value to their busy lives?
You may be thinking, Julia, I work for a small nonprofit and I am a department of one. How can I create all of this content on a shoestring budget?
Jay Acunzo of the Unthinkable podcast says that creativity is about resourcefulness not resources. Scrappy content is king!
Content creator and influencer Gary V encourages us to stop stressing about perfect content calendars and just document what we are doing.
Think about what is popular right now. Short-form off the cuff video! A recent HubSpot marketing report dubbed short-form video as the most popular and effective social media content format this year. So it makes sense that 30% of marketers plan to invest more in short-form video than any other type of social media strategy.
Short-form video content is any type of video content that’s less than 60 seconds, though some marketers agree short-form video content can be as long as three minutes. Short-form videos are meant to be bite-sized, easily digestible pieces of content that are easy for viewers to scroll through and view several at a time. Think YouTube shorts, Instagram Reels, TikTok
Another important piece of the social media content puzzle is storytelling. I wrote an entire book on storytelling in the digital age, and I have tons of free content on my website on this topic.
What I will say about storytelling is that inspiration is in, and manipulative, unethical storytelling is out.
Look at the Sarah McLachlan example. Remember those heartbreaking ASPCA commercials? You know the ones—Sarah McLachlan’s song, “Angel,” starts playing and you immediately want to flip the channel because otherwise you might burst into tears while photos of hurt animals flash across the screen. You kind of feel bad when you do flip the channel, but don’t worry—you’re not alone. In an interview with Redbook, Sarah McLachlan said that she can’t even handle them.
The commercial originally aired in 2007, and managed to raise $30 million in the first two years of its release, according to The New York Times. However, they have since spawned memes and parody ads because guess what – people, your donors included, don’t want to feel awful when they see your content.
This is why I can’t stand the “for the price of just one coffee” type messaging. What if we didn’t need to feel guilty? What if I can have my latte and also make a meaningful donation?
This is why the charity:water storytelling model has worked so well. They make giving joyous. They make their stories so inspiring that people want to share with their friends and family.
In terms of picking platforms and creating content, it’s really not about the medium- it’s about the message. No matter how sexy and shiny the social media platform or mobile app, if you can’t convey a) what you stand for and 2) why I should join you, then it will not work. Passion matters so much more than a perfect marketing plan.
Get my Nonprofit Social Media Content Planner at www.nonprofitcontentplanner.com to fully flesh out your content plan and calendar.
Question 3: What are our future plans?
Thinking about the long game is just as important as reacting to the short term.
I encourage you to spend as much time listening as you do posting.
At the end of the day, nonprofit social media managers need to spend more time listening, experimenting, and tweaking.
Having a resource like the Social Media Matrix on hand is a good start.
In terms of keeping track of all the changes and new information in the space, I recommend choosing one or two social media experts to follow and sticking with them.
You do NOT have to read every single blog and watch every YouTube tutorial!
You do NOT have to be an expert in all the features, the trends, and the shiny new objects.
Ask yourself two questions when exploring a new tool:
“Is the audience that I want to attract and engage with on this platform?”
“How will THIS specific platform or tool help me accomplish my marketing goals?”
For the smallest of nonprofits, setting up shop on two or fewer platforms may be best in the long run.
My advice is to master one platform, tailor the content, measure and improve, then move to another.
The platforms you use function as the roads, bridges, and highways to get you to your destination – your marketing goal.
It’s important that you make confident, informed decisions around the social media platforms you choose, as well as the ones that you DO NOT choose. You will no doubt be forced to say “no thanks; not at this time” to many, many tempting and alluring platforms.
Remember that saying “no for right now” does not mean no forever, but the ability to jettison some platforms and prioritize others will prevent overwhelm and supercharge your focus and productivity.
There is no one size fits all in the digital space (not that there ever was, but even less so now).
This is why it is crucial to get very clear on your capacity and what you can realistically add to your already-full plate.
This is an integral part of the work of a savvy, work-smarter-not-harder nonprofit social media manager.
What about moving people to your email list?
Much ado has been made about email being dead. Yes, boring, spammy, uninteresting email is certainly dead. If it ever lived in the first place!
The kind of email communications I’m talking about are brief, sent out frequently but not so much that they fatigue your audience, and convey your accomplishments and your impact. Short, sweet, to the point.
Email is not designed for YOU. It should be designed and written for your audience – and in the case of nonprofits, email audiences tend to be donors or prospects.
Use email to keep them in the loop with you, to show them what you are building together, not to just spam them incessantly with fundraising appeals and event invitations.
You control the content of your website, email, and blog. You do NOT control anything at all on social media sites.
Focus on movement building, community building – not numbers of followers or reach.
Your #1 goal should be to instill a sense of shared identity with your donors.
- Would they miss hearing from you if you were gone?
- Would they wear your t-shirt, bumper sticker?
- Would they fight to keep your doors open?
- Charities should give people a chance to show that they are part of the solution – many older people feel they could do more. Giving is a safe and relevant way for them to help. They want to be useful and be seen as useful. Your copy should ensure the donor feels part of a wider group so offer a sense of collective identity.
Don’t worry what others are doing – unless you want to learn from them. Stop comparing yourself to charity:water, the ASPCA, Greenpeace, you name it. If I only compared myself to Beyonce, Oprah Winfrey, and Seth Godin, I would end up stopping before I even start!
Effective permission marketing works because, as Godin says, it is anticipated, personal and relevant.
Stop trying to “cut through the clutter.” SPOILER – You can’t. And that’s not even the point. The problem is the snake oil that we were sold. When social media first showed up in our lives, it made us realize that anyone with an internet connection has the potential to reach a massive audience at low cost and high gain—BUT that potential gave many people the impression that they deserve such an audience.
What are you doing to earn your audience’s attention?
Think more about how you are showing up. Don’t get distracted. Look at what’s working for you currently, and make measured decisions based on facts and data, on where to focus your attention.
In part 3 of this special series, I’ll detail the exact 4-part framework you need to level up your social media strategy this year, and answer questions about Social Media for Social Good Academy. Don’t forget to get on the early interest list at socialgoodacademy.com and I’ll see you soon with a brand new episode. Thanks for listening!
Right now I am inviting you to sign up to get notified when I open the doors to Social Media for Social Good Academy. Inside the Academy, I help you build an action plan and workable strategy to up level your social media marketing. You can get on the list at www.socialgoodacademy.com and I’ll send over the details very soon. Until next time, keep changing the world, you nonprofit unicorn!