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The Beginner's Guide to Social Media for Nonprofits

One surefire way to boost giving is to keep your prospects engaged and make sure they understand your value and the value of the gift you’re asking them for.

Developing relationships is tough but necessary work, and will involve engaging your constituents with thoughtful, timely, and consistent content. Delivering your message all year round will make it easier for them to make the decision to give when the time comes.

You have to think about the medium and the message. If you’re new to this, start by asking yourself where your target audience hangs out, what social media they use, and what publications they read. As you engage with consistent, valuable content, they’ll start to seek it out and you can begin to dictate which channels you want to use to provide them with it.

The Medium: Where and When to Post

Where are Your Prospects Looking?

The internet is flush with channels ripe for connecting with your prospects. Depending on your content production resources and your target prospect, social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter let you get in front of their line of sight.

Knowing where you should talk to your prospects comes down to finding out where they like to hang out (virtually and otherwise). If your donors are mostly professionals of middle age, you may get the most bang for your buck on LinkedIn. If they tend to be tech-savvy smartphone users, you could also likely stand to reach out to them on Twitter, or even Instagram. Facebook is a safe bet for people of all walks of life.

The point, as social media genius Brian Solis puts it, is that the onus is on you to “discover all relevant communities of interest” and “participate where your presence is advantageous and mandatory.”

One way to take this to the next level is with segmenting. On social media, this can be as simple as using hashtags and @ callouts to ping specific members or groups that you’ve created. This can be an easy way to get your content or opportunities for engagement in front of the right people.

When to Post (and How Often)

The number one rule of thumb is that you should be posting regularly to keep up the momentum of engagement. Most social media sites involve earning followers or subscribers who look to you for regular content. Whether “regular” means once a day or once a week is up to you and your bandwidth for creating content.

Conventional thinking is that how frequently you post on social should be determined by your volume of new content production, which in turn should be determined by your audience’s ability to consume it. But, social media scheduling tools like Meet Edgar are challenging that idea.

The key is to distinguish between your evergreen and trending content. Evergreen content is content that is pretty much always going to be relevant or interesting to your audience, and it’s usually a really good investment to create it.

Trending content, however, is relevant and super interesting right now based on current or hot topic conversations. Getting in on it will ensure that your audience continues to look to you as a thought leader (and, as a side benefit, trending content is a great vehicle for your evergreen content).

When it comes to social media, you want to post all the content you’re producing—both evergreen and trending—but your evergreen content is a much deeper pool because you can repost it forever.

The beautiful thing about social media is that you can reach a huge audience in a moment. The upshot is that it’s just a moment, and not all of your audience will necessarily be looking at it at the same time. That’s why earning reposts from other people is so important, but it’s also why it’s worthwhile for you to repost your own content from time to time. Recycling content is an age-old tenet of content marketing, and you shouldn’t be afraid of it.

Another thing that’s awesome about tools like Meet Edgar is that they help you track your social media performance so you can really hone in on when your posts are the most effective. Does your audience check their messages early morning on the way to work? Do they read up on you on their lunch break? Find out when your audience checks your messages will help you make the most out of your posts.

The Message

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What Should You Post?

Social media is generally great for short, easily digestible posts. That said, if you’ve produced longform content on your blog, taking an excerpt—a quote or key take-away, for example—and sharing it on social media with a link back to your blog can really extend that content’s lifespan.

What you post will also depend on the social media platform you’re posting on. Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook are great for comments, quips, and one-liners that your audience will find interesting or amusing. They’re also great for invitations to engagement opportunities, like polls, contests, event ads, and invitations.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn is a great place to share well-performing articles and longer pieces of content, especially that have a professional undertone. Best practices, statistics, new theories, and methods of doing things are great pieces of content for LinkedIn.

Starting or Participating in Conversations

When you’re figuring out what sort of content to post (and create, for that matter), you have more or less two choices: You can start conversations or participate in them. In some ways, the latter is easier, so we’ll start there.

As I mentioned above, a big part of your social media strategy should be about discovery. It’s up to you to find out where your audience (i.e. your prospects) hang out and what they like to talk about.

Once you’ve done that and you have a sense of the conversations they’re having, you can jump in with content that you know is relevant to their interests and will be read (and depending on the conversation and your contribution, responded to). Participating in conversations is a good way to get a bang for your social media buck if you’re just starting to reach out and engage your prospects with social media.

Once you’ve developed more of a following and have some “thought leadership” cred, you can start dictating the direction of the conversation. Basically, when people come to respect your takes on the issues they care about, they’ll proactively look to you to find out what you think, and then you can introduce new topics.

Creating or Sharing

The most important thing is quality. Your audience should find your content valuable, so don’t just post because it’s in your calendar.

And don’t feel like you need to fill your content and social media calendar with posts specifically about you. Value comes in all kinds of ways, and a great way to add value to your audience is to curate content for them.

When you do post your own original content, use it to remind prospects of what you do and why you’re valuable. As an nonprofit institution, showcase all the good work you do. Highlight the wins and achievements of the people and causes you serve.

Try posting photo montage of an event. Create a chronological infographic of your institutions’s work over the years. Be creative.

Another way to convince prospects to give is to let them know what you’re doing with their contributions. Be transparent about your values and what they’re supporting by giving to you. Create a “#thankstoyou” style hashtag so donors can see new developments and investments on Twitter.

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Multimedia Content is Here to Stay

Text is great, and is likely going to be the bulk of what you produce. But impactful imagery and engaging video goes a really long way, especially on certain platforms like Instagram, Youtube, and character-limiting media giant Twitter. If you are creating your own content, consider branching out into non-text formats for a proven boost in clicks and general engagement.

Engagement

Don’t always be in what Mavsocial refers to as “broadcast mode.” The point of all of this is to keep yourself involved in their lives, and delivering interesting content is the baseline. The way to take it to the next level is to actively engage them in conversation and interactivity.

One way to do this is to listen to them and read their comments. Feedback is a great indicator of what content they like and find engaging, and responding to it is how you show them that you’re paying attention. Especially if you’ve started the conversation, your role following the post is to keep it going—to encourage and facilitate discussion between members of the audience and to engage in it where necessary yourself.

Over to You

Whether you generate your content yourself or act simply as a hub for curated content, your prospects should think of you as a go-to place for interesting things they actually want to read and look at.

Earn their trust and their interest by finding out where they go for interesting content, and then use your social media channels to participate in the conversations there. Use a mix of original and curated content to make it easier to post regularly and stay top-of-mind, and invest in evergreen content that your audience won’t mind seeing on their feeds more than once.