Amidst a year of social upheaval and increased need, nonprofits had an opportunity to not only live out their missions, but also to approach messaging in a more authentic and thoughtful way.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began, social media strategies adjusted to share more information and resources that alleviated uncertainty. During a summer of racial justice protests, public demand grew for unapologetic stances on potentially controversial social issues.

In 2021, content should continue being authentic, helpful, and courageous. What will change, however, are the methods for best delivering that content to supporters.

Here are five social media trends that nonprofits should incorporate in the new year:

#1. Keep it Bold, Keep it Simple

Use imagery that will “stop the scroll.” Whether an intriguing (and of course, high quality) photograph or eye-pleasing graphic with prominent wording, your post needs to stand out as much as possible in an increasingly over-saturated digital environment.

After someone pauses on your imagery, you have just seconds to pique their curiosity enough to take a next step, be it reading a caption, swiping a carousel, or clicking a link. Online attention spans are constantly shortening, so never assume others will make logical leaps to understand your intended message. Instead, spell things out and keep your “ask” simple.

The ACLU curates their Instagram account with an excellent blend of graphic and photographic images, each with very concise messaging.

#2. Ask More Questions

Trying to elicit responses to a post is nothing new, but questions remain about the best way to do so. Start by considering your own preferences: which content inspires a response from you, and why? Everyone has unique preferences, but a few general principles apply:

  • Yes/no polls are easy and low-commitment.
  • Open-ended questions take effort on the part of the respondent, but can work well if the reasoning behind the question and the plan for sharing responses are both clearly stated.
  • Ask-me-anything (AMA) sessions are effective as long as you have an eager audience.
  • Questions that are somewhat controversial often spark strong feelings and result in more engagement.

When done right, asking questions of your supporters is an excellent way to create conversation and gather vital information that can inform future outreach.

In this example, the Sunrise Movement follows up on a question posed to Instagram followers by sharing responses in a creative way.

#3. Make Content that Moves

Did all of human evolution lead us to Tik Tok? We may never know, but one thing is certain: visual content with movement and sound will always stand out from the crowd. No post can be guaranteed to resonate, but why not increase your chances with elements like video, animation, background songs, and Instagram boomerangs?

Getting started is easy:

  • When taking a photograph to post or share in a story, make it a boomerang instead (even subtle movement is better than none).
  • Video does not need to be complex; even just a photo slideshow with background music or a quick “selfie-style” talking head will work great.
  • When a video does not require detailed captioning, use simple text labeling so viewers still understand what they are seeing without turning on the sound.
  • Stories should always have some dynamic content, be it video, boomerang, music, sticker, countdown, or text animation

Adding movement to visuals may take more effort, but it can instantly improve public perception of your account.

#4. Play More Games

Given the serious nature of the work done by many nonprofits, it can be easy to neglect more light-hearted content. Yet, entertainment (along with education and connection) is one of the main reasons why people use social media.

Aside from uplifting stories and funny memes, consider working in posts that are interactive, including:

  • Polls
  • Contests
  • Quizzes
  • Giveaways

Whenever possible, find a way to leverage these activities into more exposure for your account. For example, consider inviting supporters to enter a giveaway sweepstakes by tagging a few friends on the post. When it comes to announcing results, make some noise with a countdown or a virtual “wheel-spinner” showing who wins.

Contrary to common concern, playing these types of games (alongside your other important work) does not make your organization look insensitive or unfocused. Rather, it models the importance of fun and self-care, and creates positive association with your brand.

In this example, Public Allies offers supporters on Instagram a chance to play two games at once: a self-care bingo challenge and a giveaway for all who participate.

#5. Work Smarter, Not Harder

New year, same basic social media principles:

  • “Pay to play” is more true than ever. Given that the majority of posts will need some advertising budget behind them (even if just $5), consider posting less and boosting more.
  • When it comes to news, timeliness is everything. Set up mechanisms within your organization to allow for rapid response posting. Share from high-quality news sources and be sure to add your own comment in the caption.
  • Stories are overtaking news feeds. Because they are more convenient and often more compelling, stories should be used for the same content that posts are—and more. They may also prove useful for getting supporters to take more immediate action, given that the information disappears after being viewed.
  • Social media marketing is a team effort. If your marketing specialist cannot make it to every event or program site, it is up to others to have their smartphones ready for opportune photos and videos. Make it easy by preparing tips and guidelines ahead of time.

Let’s Collaborate!

Ready to bring your social media up to speed and reach more supporters than ever? Hoan Marketing has your back. Since 2016, I have supported nonprofits in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and beyond, with full-spectrum digital marketing services, including web designsocial media, and email marketing.

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