Is your nonprofit ready to harness the power of social media? Start with strategy!

Accounts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media websites can do wonders for your mission and organization. It’s easy to get started and tempting to post first and think later. Yet, a little planning will go a long way.

In this article, which is the first of several in a series, you’ll learn everything I know about nonprofit social media strategy. I draw on a decade of experience running social media accounts for nonprofits, plus lessons learned in the HubSpot Academy social media certificate course.

What can social media do for my nonprofit?

It’s common sense that every nonprofit (and business) should have a presence on the internet. This presence should start with a website—ideally one that looks nice and is easy to navigate.

A website is generally a one-way marketing tool. Supporters find it when they seek it out. Social media, on the other hand, goes both ways. Not only can supporters seek it out, but you can also proactively advertise to them.

An ideal nonprofit social media account engages supporters in a number of ways, including:

  • Introducing them to your organization for the first time
  • Providing essential contact information, including your website, phone number, open hours, and street address
  • Keeping them up to date with news and events
  • Developing a brand and “voice” with creative writing and design
  • Directing them to other web pages, including your website, other social media accounts, or an email list sign-up form
  • Fundraising campaigns and collecting donations
  • Posting jobs and finding candidates

The list of social media benefits could go on. Suffice to say, there is no good reason your nonprofit shouldn’t have at least one account. Even if you start small, though, it’s best to start with strategy.

Why start with strategy?

Almost every nonprofit has a mission statement, and for good reason: organizations need guiding principles and goals to determine whether or not they are being effective.

The same is true for social media: it starts by asking “why?”

Why is an online platform that allows you to theoretically reach unlimited people all around the world beneficial to your mission?

Another important reason for social media strategy is that most of the websites are run by an algorithm. This means that what you post on any given account won’t necessarily reach followers just because they have “liked” your page and happen to be online at the same time as you. Instead, the algorithm shows users what it predicts they will want to see.

Put simply: the more your supporters engage with your social media posts, the more likely it is that they will see more of your content in the future. Strategy allows you to plan these posts carefully and track which content your followers seem to enjoy most.

The more strategic you are, the more your social media followers will engage with your content, the more likely your followership will grow, and the more likely it is that a follower takes an action to support your mission.

What social media goals should my nonprofit have?

The best guide for developing social media goals are your broader organizational goals, and you know those best. That said, you can start by asking some basic questions, including:

  • Who exactly am I hoping to reach?
  • Which social media channels are they using?
  • Which content will appeal to them?
  • How can I increase my chances of reaching them?
  • How should I speak with them?

In setting goals, consider what social media presence your organization already has. How many followers do you have? How many supporters have found you from social media pages? If you have not been tracking these metrics, it may be useful to start (more on tracking in a bit).

As you finalize the goals, make sure each one meets the “SMART” criteria:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

These qualities are fairly straight-forward, but to be sure that your goals are SMART, ask if each one is:

  • Specific enough that you will know when you have achieved it
  • Measurable enough that you can determine progress as you go along
  • Achievable enough that you aren’t setting yourself up for failure
  • Relevant enough that it significantly supports your nonprofit mission
  • Time-bound enough that it has a clear start and end date

Here is an example of a social media SMART goal:

Between July 1st and August 1st (time-bound), we will receive 20 clicks (measurable and achievable) on a donation link posted to Facebook (specific), in hopes that those clicks lead to actual donations to the organization (relevant).

Is the strategy working?

If the goals in your nonprofit’s social media strategy follow the SMART criteria, you should have no problem figuring out whether or not it is working.

The world of data and analytics is as comprehensive as you want it to be, but it need not be intimidating! Luckily, every major social media channel comes with its own data reporting tools, which you can utilize for free to see how your account is performing.

The most common metrics measured by native social media tools include:

  • Reach: How many unique users have had your posts come across their screens)
  • Impressions: How many times your posts have come across anyone’s screen, including multiple times for the same user
  • Engagement: How many times your posts were clicked, liked, commented on, shared; plus, how many times links included in posts were clicked
  • Follower count: How many people are “subscribed” to your page
  • Mentions: How many times users have mentioned your page, either directly (by using the @ symbol) or indirectly

There are other metrics which you may need to measure yourself, including:

  • Return on investment (ROI): How much money was spent to achieve your social media goals
  • Retention and loyalty: The quality of what supporters are saying to and about your organization on social media

A word of caution: As you dive into data reporting, it can be tempting to look for the biggest numbers and measure success that way. However, while thousands of impressions can be an indicator that your social media strategy is working, it is not evidence!

These “vanity metrics” may look great at first glance, but they don’t necessarily result in your goals being met. Stick to the plan and the numbers will follow.

I have a strategy, so what’s next?

Strategy is half the battle with nonprofit social media. If you have that step finished, a back-patting is in order!

You will need to refine and adjust your strategy periodically (I suggest once per year), based on what is and isn’t working. Fight the urge to be hasty, though. If possible, give your plan time to play itself out, even if it takes longer than you had hoped.

So, what happens in between strategy sessions? The fun stuff!

In future posts, you will learn about other aspects of nonprofit social media, including:

  • Channels
  • Content
  • Reach
  • Moderation

Who can help my nonprofit with social media strategy?

Hoan Marketing can help! Since 2016, I have supported nonprofits with social media strategy, content, advertising, and more.

Serving Milwaukee, Wisconsin and beyond, Hoan offers full-spectrum digital marketing services, including web design, social media, and email marketing.

To schedule your free 30-minute consultation, fill out the contact form or call me at (414) 909-0626‬.