It wasn’t too long ago that social media success was saved for large non-profit organizations that, alongside their existing marketing initiatives, had the time and resources to allocate to the endeavor. Smaller non-profits had a decision to make; they could take a chance investing limited resources on social media, or stick with tried-and-true tactics. During the past couple of years, consumer behavior has changed and evolved to exist largely in the digital realm. Organizations big and small are finding success reallocating all of their marketing efforts online. One of the most beneficial digital marketing tactics for non-profits is social media. By properly using social media, organizations can achieve important business objectives like member acquisition and retention, increasing cause awareness and generating donations.
There are 5 main steps in building and implementing a solid social media plan. Following these steps will ensure that valuable resources are used in an efficient and effective manner.
- Outline your social media goals. As with any other marketing initiative, it is important to first identify the purpose and desired outcome of your efforts. Social media goals should relate closely to your overall business objectives. These goals should be measurable, allowing you to determine the effectiveness and success of your efforts. Common social media goals for non-profits include:
- Increasing Donations
- Increasing Membership
- Generating Volunteer Signups
- Newsletter/Mail Signups
- Determine the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of your social media strategy. Identifying this information will help to ensure your efforts are targeted and that time and resources are spent efficiently.
- Who is my audience?” The answer to this question will affect the answers to the following 5 questions. Your audience may be made up of several different segments, such as existing members, potential members, and industry specialists/thought leaders. It is important to ensure your target audience has the capability to accomplish your social media goals.
- “What type of content will resonate with my audience?” This will help craft your voice and overall social persona. For example, will your audience respond to humorous content, or should you take a more serious/educational approach?
- “When is my audience online?” This may depend on several factors like time zone, stage of life, profession, etc. There may only be specific days that your audience is on social media. This information will help determine when you should post to social media channels.
- “Where is my audience engaging online?” You may find that your target audience is solely on Twitter and Pinterest. Knowing this information will allow you to allocate the majority of your time and resources to these two platforms.
- “Why will my target audience want to follow me?” Answering this question will ensure that your social media strategy is crafted to benefit your audience. Whether you will be providing the latest news about the cause, beneficial resources, or ways to get involved, make sure that you are providing value and giving your audience a reason to follow you
- “How will I use the information above to accomplish my goals?” The ‘how’ ties everything together and determines how your social media strategy will be executed. This brings us to Step 3.
- Create a content calendar. For non-profits with limited resources, this step is especially important. A content calendar helps to ensure you’re posting at a regular frequency, your posts are aligned with business objectives, and that you’re posting a good mix of content. A calendar also allows you to visualize lead time for content sourcing and development. Since there are several free social media tools that allow you to pre-schedule content across social channels, a properly developed content calendar can be a huge time saver.
- Create an engagement game plan. Once you become active on social media channels, you should expect feedback and outreach from your followers. It is important to develop an engagement strategy for positive, neutral, and negative feedback. For example, if someone tweets something positive about your brand, will you retweet, reply, or favorite the post? If someone posts something negative, how can you respond in a way that builds trust and advocacy for your brand? Having this plan in place will save time by eliminating any uncertainty or guesswork associated with your response.
- Utilize tools to facilitate social media engagement. Free social media apps like Hootsuite or Buffer are great for post scheduling and community management. Paid apps like Sprout Social also have this functionality, along with reports that provide insights on social media performance and the 5W’s listed above. These apps also have the ability to monitor specific topics, keywords, or hashtags, which can be beneficial for lead generation and content ideas.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to social media. Social media strategy is very much a “rinse and repeat” process. Ensure you are maximizing success through consistently evaluating performance and tweaking strategy based on your evaluation.